As soon as Brad and Maddy learned they were flying to Florida to spend their Spring Break with us, we started hearing pleas to take them to Holiday Park in the Everglades, Home of the Gator Boys. They love the Gator Boys! We’d never heard of them until now.
Up and out the door early for the 2 hour drive along Alligator Alley to Holiday Park, the kids were very patient even though this was the moment they’d been waiting for. We drove through morning fog so dense in some places we could only see a few yards ahead of us.We crossed Big Cypress Swamp, the Miccosukee Indian Reservation and the “River of Grass” with only a few sightings of gators and waterfowl. It was too early even for the wildlife to be up.
When we arrived I immediately got us registered for an airboat ride. We didn’t have too long to wait before Captain Kirk of the Seminole Wind helped us board. I’m unsure how many passengers the boat held, it was much bigger than the smaller more intimate airboat Don and I had ridden previously. Being first in line we were lucky, we had the coveted front row seats. Captain Kirk, a Seminole Indian, was very knowledgeable about the plants, fish, birds and gators. He gave us lessons in edible grass roots and bulbs should we become lost in the glades. He showed us which trees to camp under so as to avoid flooding. He even taught us how to use the sap from a reed stem to stop a wound from bleeding and how to make both gauze and a bandage from that very same reed.
March is prime mating season for the Florida alligator, with this in mind we thought for sure we’d see a lot of gator activity while on board the airboat but our limit was a mere three. Exciting none the less.
Holiday Park offers a short informative gator presentation in an area they term “The Pit”. The pit is a temporary home for captured and/or rescued alligators. Although I don’t believe that troublesome gators can be rehabilitated, they can be used to teach the general public about them. I’m certain the men who climb into the pit with all these gators have nerves (or something) made of steel because of the dangerous stunts they perform using them.
After the program portion, a smaller gator whose mouth has been banded, is brought out for folks to hold if they choose to do so. Brad and Maddy were both anxious to get their hands on the gator,we could see that from the smiles on their faces.
For our return trip I suggested we take Tamiami Trail back through the very small town of Ochopee. Ochopee is the home of the Skunk Ape Research Headquarters. I thought the kids would get a kick out of this quirky, kitschy old time Florida attraction. Tamiami Trail is also the better road to take through the Everglades for gator viewing. A canal runs close to the road for its entire length, there’s a couple of pull-offs spots as well. Having traveled this route before, we knew it would be a thrill for Maddy and Brad. They saw so many alligators that they lost count. Sometimes we spotted as many as 3 or 4 together. The bird watching was excellent too. It was my first time seeing a live Wood Stork.
As for the Skunk Ape Museum, let’s just say it was a good photo op. The Skunk Ape is to the swamp what the Yeti is to the Himalayan’s. Some people know them as Sasquatch or Bigfoot. It was a hoot and I’m glad we checked it out.
Ochopee is also known for the smallest postoffice in the continental United States. It wasn’t open when we stopped as the sign on the door stated the post mistress was on her break. We opted not to wait for her return but we did take a few photos.
We had hoped to stop for dinner somewhere along the way. Someplace that served local fare as Bradley has been wanting to sample gator tail but pickings are few and far between in the swamp. We ended up at a Cracker Barrel in Naples instead. Maybe next time Brad.
After a very long day of gator hunting we were all ready for an early bedtime.
The original plan was to return to the beach today but we had all overslept. We knew we’d never find a parking space at that hour. We played 18 holes of putt-putt golf instead. This was fine with Brad who gave grandpa a run for his money. Brad had two hole-in-one’s to Don’s one. Grandpa still beat him by two putts though, 51 to Brad’s 53. Maddy however, will never be a golf pro. The part that made her happiest was when the game was over. She was a good sport about it though.
Don told Brad that since he’d made the first hole-in-one, tradition said he had to buy the rest of us drinks at the 19th hole. Brad said malts sounded good. We stopped at Sun Harvest Citrus where each of us ordered something different and tropical then sampled each others choices. Not a bad way to finish a round of golf.
We’ll finish today with a movie at Seminole Campground’s outdoor theater. Tonight’s show is Gravity. They’ll be a campfire and fresh popped popcorn. It’ll be fun!
Here’s lookin’ at you kid……………….