Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.

Henry David Thoreau

How about a little dirt road drive?

Tuesday January 29, 2012
Site 16, Midway Campground
Big Cyprus National Preserve



Monroe Station Loop Road


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As those of you who have been reading this blog regularly know, I don’t care too much for driving or even riding in motorized vehicles.   I know…. you are thinking, then why am I full timing in an RV?  Well I love being PARKED and living in Winnona.  Plus you do what you have to do to go where you want to go.


And today that means I go for a drive on the Monroe Station Loop road.  This is a 24 mile dirt road from the intersection of  Monroe Station and the Tamiami Trail to near the Shark Valley Center further south on the Tamiami.

Luckily it seems to be graded fairly frequently and isn’t too much of a washboard.   Ruby was fine with it other than the dirt which of course we can’t wash off at the campground.

The first section of the drive is through an area that has had a controlled burn.  These are necessary to keep the preserve in its natural state now that we no longer let nature take care of all that with lightning.  It’s simply amazing that within 2 days of the burn green is coming back through the burned ground. 


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In a short time we come to the LAST CHANCE TURN AROUND.


Sounds pretty ominous doesn’t it?   Judging from the size of the turn around area I think this is for fools who think they can bring their RVs down here.   Think better of it is my advice.


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Reptiles are right beside the road as you can see.  We pull past this one but that is my door in the lower left hand corner.   They are enjoying the sun and probably tolerating the traffic.


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The road side views get better and better.  We see some folks on bikes which would be a much better way to view this road except for the dust stirred up by the cars.   Not too many cars when we start out.


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Danger ahead for those readers who do not like snakes.  But before you skip the next five pictures,  let me encourage you to take a look at these really beautiful animals from the safety of being behind your computer screen.   However, if you just can’t do it, skip down to the large word FINISHED and move right along.

This short little fellow was crossing the road so we stopped to see who he was.  That red in the bottom left is the side of the car from which I was taking this picture.  You can see me in the mirror in the upper left.


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I zoom in.

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I checked out the pattern on his back.

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Close up.

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Even closer.  He’s really handsome I think with beautiful markings.  But a camera zoom is as close as I want to be to this Water Moccasin.   So on we drive.

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All along the road, there are numerous culverts/bridges to allow the water to flow back and forth.  The gators like warming up their bellies here.

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We see this Florida Soft shelled turtle.  Shouldn’t his name be pig nose or hog nose??


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I’m in love with the cypress swamps.


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Cypress is deciduous.  One tree seems to have a jump on spring here with its ferny new growth.  I guess he doesn’t know that mid-winter isn’t for another couple of days and that means we are only HALF WAY to spring.  Oh well maybe things are different for Florida Cypress.


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Near the end of the Loop road we pass into Everglades National Park.

Shortly we come on the education center where we are told they do multi-day programs mainly for 5th graders.  Sure wish they would do these sorts of environmental bonding and education things for teenagers who are soon to be voting, polluting adults.


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For the general public they have a short nature trail so we stretch our legs on the Tree Snail Hammock Trail.  Has  a nice ring to it don’t you think?   Try saying it 3 times in a row as fast as you can.



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It’s a short sweet trail on which we sadly did not see any Tree Snails or any Panthers.  

We hope the absence of the snails does not indicate that someone has taken them off the trees.
During the dry season these Lingus Tree Snails fasten to smooth barked trees with a leather tight seal.  If the snail is pried off the trunk, the seal gets broken and the snail will die.

Here’s what they look like so you’ll know.


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We are warned before we go through the gate that this is Panther Country.  So if you’ve ever wanted to know what to do should you meet face to face, here are the tips.  They are not the same as what to do if you see a bear.

Click the picture if you need to make it larger to read it.

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We do see one dangerous critter that we weren’t expecting.
Do you see it too??

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Before spending SO much time in Florida, we had never seen or heard of the Gumbo Limbo tree.  Isn’t the bark great looking?
The tree is comically known as the “tourist tree” because its bark is red like the skins of sunburned tourists who visit its native ranges from South eastern US down to Brazil.
It is the traditional wood used to manufacture carousel horses in the US.


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Another thing we learned here at the education center, is that drainage of the Big Cypress area for land development speculation and plans for a major airport led to the establishment of Big Cypress Preserve.   However the laws that establish preserves permit some recreational activities that are prohibited in most national parks  such as hunting, oil and natural gas exploration, and off road vehicle use.   A few private homes and cabins are also scattered among the prairies, pines, marshes and cypress stands.   Can’t say that I approve of any of this other than controlled hunting to eliminate invasive species such as pythons and wild boar.

Our dirt road loop has turned into pavement just before the education center and now curves back to US-41, the Tamiami Trail which as its name implies runs between Tampa and Miami.  At this point we are about 30 miles west of Miami and very close to the Everglades Shark Valley Visitor Center.   We go on over to check out the biking and the information center.
But I’ll save what we learn for the Shark Valley Biking blog post.


OK here are a couple of teasers

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  1. I couldn't make out the dangerous critter. Do I really want to know? All the tourists checking out the gaters reminds me of Yellowstone park with all the Lookie Lou's checking out the wildlife. Stay safe out there!

  2. A fantastic blog and pictures, Sherry. I would really enjoy a drive like that.

  3. I loved the tour today. The snakes always make "my toes curl" but they were interesting to look at behind the comfort of my laptop screen.

  4. I couldn't see the critter either. You'll have to give us a hint, I guess!

    Great snake photos. I like the looks of them too with all their markings.

    Spring in Florida comes a bit earlier than the rest of the country. Birds are already nesting and as you saw on my blog, they are mating.

    We never went all the way on the road. The first time it was closed and the other times, we never made it. I guess that's on the to do list for March when we're there.

    I'm enjoying your trip to the Everglades.....I know you're not actually staying in the glades, but it's all the same...swamp and gators!

    Great pics.

  5. SO on your last post you were knee deep in a swamp with all those gators and snakes and smiling. Then you're too afraid to get out of the car to photograph that water moccasin. Was that because you can swim faster than you can run?

    Great post, you have so much fun and we love it that you share your joy of nature. :c)

  6. That is one Fat snake. Love the cypress in the swamps standing on their long legs.

  7. The only dangerous "critter" I think I saw was poison oak. Was there some other critter?

  8. I can't find the dangerous creature either. You'll have to solve that mystery for us. :)

  9. The panther warning sheet was missing a last comment: in a book I was reading about hiking in the mountains had the same warnings and 'what to do" scenarios, but they ended it with "Good luck". I thought that was hysterical, but sure was glad I never came face to face with one :-).

  10. Miss that loop, but have added it to our list!! Yep, that's a Water Moccasin. The water snake I photographed had blotches, not strips. Great photos!!!

  11. Whew -- good thing you gave a spoiler alert for Gail! I actually find snakes quite fascinating. . . as long as there's a BIG distance between us, and ,yes, preferably the safe distance of my computer screen.

  12. I didn't see the dangerous creature... I do NOT like water moccasins ... no way no how.. you kill me ... enjoyed the hike today ... I have done small hikes with the posted panther tips... somehow I wasn't afraid. I took pictures of the signs also with my iPhone camera just in case I needed to refer to it if I met one on the trail...

    beautiful shots! love the bird feet...

  13. I just cannot enjoy up close and personal with snakes:) Looks like the kind of drive you want to complete before dark.

  14. Fantastic post and great picture of that Cottonmouth- a good sized one.

  15. I'm thinking the 'critter' is poison ivy (or is it poison oak?) - one of those... Great picture of the snake...love the colors. The Gumbo Limbo tree is definitely unique. Too bad you didn't see an actual snail - quite pretty it looks like.

  16. Wow that Cottonmouth was sure fat. Your hike looked like alot of fun, and beautiful scenery.

  17. Awesome post.....I feel like I was riding and walking right along with you! I did recognize the snake...our biggest pup was bitten on the tongue by a water moccasin.....5 days in intensive care, 2 viles of anti-venom, and several 1000 dollars later we got to bring him home. He was one sick pup!
    Glad I found your blog.....looking forward to more! Until next time, enjoy!


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