We returned to the northern part of the Everglades to go cycling on the 15 mile trail at Shark Valley, have some more stone crabs at Everglades City and go for an airboat ride. It was an ambitious plan given the one and a half hour drive each way, but sounded like a fun day.
My niece had told me about a “Tamiami Trail Triathlon” that she was planning on completing and I headed to the visitor center to find out more about it. The Triathlon encourages individuals and families to get out of their cars and explore areas of the Everglades within easy access of the Tamiami Trail (U.S. Highway 41 which runs east west from Miami to Everglades City). Participants bike the 15 mile loop road from the Shark Valley Visitor Center, hike a 3 mile loop road from the Oasis Visitor Center, and canoe or kayak a 3.5 mile route from the Gulf Coast Visitor Center in Everglades City.
We picked up the a triathlon brochure, which includes information on the location of all three. After completing each activity, you must answer the question for that leg of the triathlon found in the brochure and present at the visitor center where the ranger will add their initials and the date as proof that you’ve completed that leg. Once all three events have been finished and the questions answered, you present the brochure at one of the three visitor centers and receive a beautiful Tamiami Trail Triathlon decal with the Everglades as background. What a great idea to engage people to experience the Everglades closer up.
We got on the trail and immediately saw more alligators by the side of the road. All of these creatures were sleeping and seemingly not bothered by people walking and cycling next to them. The trail goes through a sawgrass prairie with many birds along the way. At the mid-point there is an observation tower that gives you a 360 degree view of the Park (and many alligators).
By the time we got to the airboat operator it was late afternoon, and the light was beautiful. We chose a small airboat which accommodates a maximum of six persons, as we figured these would be more enjoyable than the larger airboats. The airboat ride was really wonderful; we spotted alligators, more birds and also had a nice encounter with some raccoons. Even the drive back was to our campground was enjoyable.