(I was going to call this post “The Everglades – Part I,” but then I realized that I had spent time and taken these pictures in not only in Everglades National Park, but also Big Cypress National Preserve and various other parks. And…now I have looked it up, and it seems that the Everglades is an enormous area well beyond just Everglades National Park. And I’m not entirely sure that, based on my crack research skills (read: looked it up on Wikipedia), Big Cypress is technically part of the Everglades overall. It is, however, very swampy. I’m keeping the “Swamp” title. Just easier that way).

After leaving the Keys and island life, the sudden shock of being thrown into the giant cities of southern Florida was a bit jarring. So, I solved the problem by immediately heading toward the giant swamp that is the Everglades and its surrounding areas. It’s not an island, but it is certainly isolated.

I quickly realized I was not in the Islands any longer. If it wasn’t obvious because of the landscape around me (which quickly becomes a swamp when you leave the Miami area), the roadkill was a dead giveaway.

Dead Alligator in the Middle of the RoadI drove past this guy once, and wondered if I had really seen a dead alligator in the road. So I drove by again. And took a picture. Definitely an alligator. Or, more accurately, a former alligator.

I was driving U.S. 41 through the Everglades. U.S. 41 through the Everglades is a two lane road, surrounded on either side by water and woods, and usually both at the same time, often with very little space between where the road ends and the water/woods begins. Fun fact: Choppy and I live about three blocks from U.S. 41 in Terre Haute. It looks nothing like this where we live.

At some point after entering the swamp, I came upon a welcome center for Big Cypress National Preserve. I stopped, and quickly realized that the waters surrounding U.S. 41 were alligator-infested when I went out on a boardwalk into the swamp, and saw many, many alligators.

Lurking AlligatorJust outside the Big Cypress National Preserve Welcome Center. I have to say, this is definitely not the most welcoming sight. Nor were the many, many other alligators who were also hanging out at the Welcome Center.

After letting Choppy out to relieve herself – a quick jaunt that involved me letting her venture approximately two feet into the mowed grass, thanks to having seen many, many alligators chilling not twenty feet away in the water and worrying that one might venture somewhere near us – we got back in the car to go “enjoy” the swamp – I use the quotation marks because really, how enjoyable is a swamp? Particularly one with no apparent lack of alligators?

Giant Insects - they Have ThoseA dead giant grasshopper in the Welcome Center parking lot. He would be far more terrifying if there weren’t giant alligators a mere twenty feet away. And if the grasshopper was still alive.

About a mile after leaving the Welcome Center, I heard the unmistakeable sound of Choppy getting sick in the passenger seat of the car. I looked at her in time to see her puke all over the seat, her leash, my small cooler and the backpack where I keep some of her things.

Surrounding the car and the road? A swamp that looked exactly like the swamp where I had just seen a large number of very large alligators. I looked at Choppy, I looked at the puke, and decided that Choppy could sit there until I found a nice, large parking lot, in which I would park well away from any swampy looking area and hope that this would provide ample opportunity to see any coming alligator threat while I cleaned up after Choppy.

And then, Choppy started making the puking sound again. Throwing all common sense aside, I pulled the car to the (very small) shoulder of the road, ran around to the other side, scanned for any immediate alligator threat and, seeing none, grabbed Choppy’s collar and held her next to the car while she threw up again. I then made a perfunctory effort to clean up Choppy’s seat using some old fast food napkins that were immediately at hand, and made Choppy get back in.

About another mile down the road, I saw an alligator attempting to cross the road in a location that appeared to be exactly the same as the place we had just left.

Had Choppy looked like she needed to puke at this point, there was no way we would be stopping again.

Eventually, I found a large parking lot to pull into and clean up the mess properly, where I could take care of the mess without worry that either Choppy or I would fall victim to an alligator. We stayed in Naples that night, then ventured back into the Everglades the next day. Below are some more pictures from our first day in the swamp; tomorrow I will post more pictures from what was, quite possibly, the most terrifyingly awesome road I have ever driven. And, once I get it done, there will also be a video of our trip down the most terrifyingly awesome road, in which you see why Choppy would survive approximately two minutes were she to escape into the Everglades.

Appropriate Car ParkingThe parking lot where I cleaned up Choppy’s mess. As you can see, I knew better than to park near the edge of it. Particularly that part to the left, where the random lake is. Obviously, alligator-infested.

Another Alligator WarningA sign warning of the presence of alligators in the lake near the above-pictured parking lot. The two things I find most amusing about this sign: (1) The image of the hand with food that will, presumably, be used to feed the alligators, and (2) the additional “no swimming” picture below the warning sign. Seriously, who has to be told these things?

No Kidding, No SwimmingAnother no swimming sign. Seriously, people. If you are dumb enough to swim in this alligator-infested lake, you deserve whatever happens after that.