Friday, May 23, 2014

Shark Valley

The last weekend in March we decided to check out Shark Valley down in the Everglades National Park.  We were super excited to finally have daddy with us on one of our adventures!  We always have more fun with daddy.

We had several friends mention how awesome Shark Valley was, so we decided to check it out.  Located in the eastern part of the Everglades, Shark Valley is a 14 mile roundtrip trail to an observatory tower with incredible 360 degree elevated views of the Everglades.  Most people rent bikes or take the tram tour available, but since we knew Daxton would not do well on a 1.5 hour tram tour, we opted to walked a couple miles in and out.  We lucked out with awesome overcast weather.  There is not a lot of shade coverage and temperatures can get quite hot, so we were thankful for the clouds and cooler temps.  It also made for some AWESOME gator sightings!
Since Shark Valley is a protected National Park, alligators roamed freely, several times crossing the trail in front of us or laying near the walkway.  It was pretty crazy to see them in their natural habitat and be so close to them. 

There was no way Daxton was going to take his eyes off of the gators!

What I found most disturbing was how well these massive creatures could camouflage themselves.  One second they were resting on the grass in full view and then the next they had slipped into the water making it near impossible for us to see them.  But we knew they were still there!

There were some pretty cool trails for us to explore, all of which Daxton wanted to run not walk.  It was great to have Dallas there to take turns running after him and making sure he didn't get too close to the water!

I'm still in awe of how different everything is down here, especially the diverse vegetation.  
Just some of the beauty that surrounded us...

Our main concern was holding Daxton back from touching all the gators!  Every time we saw one (and we saw A LOT) he would start waving his little hand and saying Hi.  He then would try to run towards it to give it a snuggle.  Needless to say, we have some retraining to do!

We found several babies...and their protective mothers...

This is about as close as we wanted to get...

The highlight of my day will always be getting to watch these two interact.  They are seriously two peas in a pod and I love them both so much.  It's funny to see how similar father and son are!

So many baby alligators!

There were a few trails that cut into the backwoods of the Everglades.  I have to admit they freaked me out a bit.  You could tell that several of the areas become covered with water during the rainy season, which means perfect habitats for gators and snakes.  I was eager to get out of there, which Dallas teased me a bit about.
Yes, those little bridges were the only thing keeping us from falling into the gator swamps...

Just a few more pictures of the beautiful wetlands...

On our way back, we found a large next of baby gators and of course, their mother waiting close by.  Such an awesome experience!

Daxton was in heaven.
Not only did he get to chase gators all day in the Everglades, but he got to chase them with his best buddy; his daddy.

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