Rested and recovered at our final family stop on the Gulf Coast of Florida, we set off south following John’s directions through Marco Island towards Everglade City. We took the detour into Everglade City expecting gators and a plethora of other wildlife. We enjoyed lunch at the Gulf Coast Visitors Center with a exceptional number of birds, both flying and of the snow (grey-haired) variety.
The Big Cypress Swamp Welcome Center was a treat, it’s boardwalk extended over the water allowing us to see manatee. From the visitors center we continued deeper into the preserve hoping to reach a campsite by nightfall.
A primitive campsite just 2 miles off the road sounded like a decent place to camp in this land of wet ground, gators and birds. Quickly we realized why Floridians love their screened in yards as we faced the onslaught of mosquitoes and gnats. Finally the head nets we had been carrying for months came out of the bag. Unfortunately we could not eat through the nets…
After our buggy welcome into the everglade ecosystem made an attempt to avoid any slow-downs or stops for fear of the voracious mosquitoes and their other biting friends.
A few hours on the saddle and we had arrived at the eastern Big Cypress Oasis Visitor’s Center. AS we looked for a place to rest our trusty, over-laden bikes we ran into the trail kickoff party for the Florida Long Trail. Being the only visitors not arriving in a motorized coach we were peppered with questions, met a Florida local (yes they exist), and then offered food. ZPacks was present as the only manufacturer and entertained our bike touring/hiking related questions and expanded on the issues facing the industry with the recent acquisition of the Cuben patent by Dyneema.
Our hours of misery on a crushed limestone canal access road travelling at a maximum of 3mph was accompanied by a backdrop of incredible colors and cloud formations. Eventually we crossed the canal to the hard paved road where we follow the non-continuous road to our warmshowers host, Paradise Farm B&B. In hindsight, our troubles would have been non-existent had we budgeted time more appropriately. Meh. Such is the adventure and safely we arrived to meet Ernest.