[freedomtowernight_edited.jpg] 26th Parallel: Trail Across the Glades (UPDATE)

Monday, April 21, 2008

Trail Across the Glades (UPDATE)

This is my first real idea for a post in a week, since I last posted. Spring is the busiest time for me, both personally and at work, and I think these long breaks without any posts are going to be the norm for a while. Almost hate to say this, but I really didn't miss the blog all that much. Don't worry, oh loyal readers, I'm not going to shut this place down just yet.

I caught the Escape to Dreamland documentary on WLRN last night. Escape documents the history of Tamiami Trail as we approach the 80th anniversary of the road's opening. Glenn Garvin has a lengthy review of the documentary at the Herald site.

Sure, the Trail wouldn't be as interesting or colorful if it wasn't for the unique places and characters that dot it. I've always wanted to stop in at the Skunk Ape Research Headquarters in Ochopee (after dropping off a letter just down the road at the world's smallest post office - or so they claim) just for the hell of it and buy a quirky t-shirt, followed by dinner at Joanie's Blue Crab Cafe. And sure, some of the motivations of the people behind the building of the road were less than ethical.

Still, I felt the documentary focused a bit too much on the quirky and shady history aspect, and just a wee bit too little on its main asset: the natural beauty. Nevertheless, it was an interesting documentary that generally captured the essence of the Trail's charm and beauty.

I'm fortunate enough to get to travel the Trail about once a month on business. I could take Alligator Alley to Naples, I suppose, but talk about a horrifically boring drive. Besides, you can get to Naples almost as fast on the Trail, providing you don't get stuck behind a long row of trucks.

Growing up in South Florida, I used to see the Trail as many other locals do: a boring, dangerous two-lane road that you wouldn't dare get stranded on at any time of the day. Nowhere to stop, no real destination/attraction until you reached Naples or the turn-off to Marco Island. I believe it was Cigar Mike that lamented in a recent post at Babalu about the lack of locals visiting the Everglades. I guess it's part of what I described above and part "backyard" syndrome. Anyway, the Everglades is a place that has to grow on you to really appreciate it. It wasn't until recently that I began to understand the charm and downright beauty of the Everglades. I think the fact that the Everglades doesn't really have that "wow" factor at first glance is a good thing, it makes one appreciate it that much more in the end.

Driving those lonely drives up and down the Trail, I have grown to love the way the landscape changes as you go from the sawgrass of the Miccosukee Reservation to the cypress and pines of the Big Cypress Preserve, then back to sawgrass as you approach Ochopee, Everglades City and Port of the Islands. Subtle, but magical. My favorite part of the Trail has to be the part between Ochopee and Marco Island, where the road passes within about 5 miles of the Gulf. The landscape is low and marshy, and the late afternoon light flickering off the randomly solitaire strands of Royal Palms absolutely mesmerizing.

If you've never taken the Loop Road from Monroe Station to the western fringe of the Miccosukee Village, please do so (but only in winter when the road is dry).

Clyde Butcher was right all along. The Glades is a wonder to be seen and felt, and there's no better way to see it than along the Tamiami Trail.

Make sure you slow down for those Skunk Apes.

UPDATE: Courtesy of Srcohiba, here are some great pics of the Trail and the Everglades. Thanks Sr!

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2 Comments:

Blogger Srcohiba said...

Robert, feel free to use my pics.

I did a photo essay of the Tamiami Trail.

Here's the link

http://www.flickr.com/photos/pancier/sets/72157602983187606/

10:13 AM, April 22, 2008  
Blogger Holly said...

I agree. Tamiami Trail has so much more to see and is so much more interesting than Alligator Alley.

3:37 PM, April 28, 2008  

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