After our excursion to Dry Tortugas, we headed to the Everglades. It isn't often we make it to this part of the country, and we were definitely going to make the most of it. Ellie had arrived to be part of this adventure and it was especially fun to be all together.
It was definitely different than any other place we have visited.
Since we had driven a couple hours to get there, Tate could not wait to explore the visitor's center. It was nice and open with little that he could destroy.
We meandered around outside while waiting for a boat tour and were able to see this nest with baby Osprey...
And a bunch of surfacing Manatees along the pier. I had really wanted to see a Manatee. This little nose made me so very happy.
The girls worked on their junior ranger packets while Tate checked out the ceiling light in the rental car. It was early and already quite warm, by Oregon standards anyway.
Armed with three crazy children and a backpack of snacks, we boarded this catamaran unsure of what we were in for.
There were two guides, or rather one guide and one wildlife spotter who happened to be from Guyana. Evidently they have a lot of crocodiles there which is why he could spot tiny little creatures hidden in the deepest reaches of vegetation. Honestly, half of the crocodiles he pointed out I struggled to locate in a still boat with someone pointing out what I was looking for. How he could see baby crocodiles less than 10 inches long that are largely camouflaged on a branch and behind a mass of other branches is quite beyond me.
So many mangrove trees. It's interesting to see how they send out shoots to spread into the water, creating a mat of tangled shoots that keeps extending out across the water. Really fascinating.
Early on in the tour we saw this anhinga. I always love watching how birds move and this guy was no exception.
My crazy family. Aren't they adorable? If I were ten years younger I'd add 4-5 more to the mix. Or not.
By the end of the tour the girls were getting a tad bit ridiculous. I wouldn't have it any other way.
Fortunately this was the off-season and the boat was mostly empty.
This guy (or girl, how can you tell???) was the crowning glory of the trip. We were hoping to see an alligator and this one was not far from our boat. Fortunately we were informed that these alligators don't eat anything larger than their head so we were going to be safe even if we fell frantic and flailing into the water.
At one point in the tour we were taught about the Manchineel tree - which honestly sounds like the most grotesquely violent plant ever. Leaves that drip acid capable of dissolving your flesh, little green "apples" that burn your esophagus away, causing blindness if one's eyes come in contact with the smoke from a burning tree... it's like nature gone wrong (if that's possible).
Supposedly the point of leaving these trees along the channel was for "education," but looking back through my pictures I can't actually recall which tree it was. Now I'm just freaked out enough to never hike through the everglades. Ever.
For some reason, this elevation sign was really funny to me. We left the everglades toward the next National Park feeling gratified by seeing manatees and freaked out by the poison death tree. The variety in the world never ceases to amaze me.