Wednesday was a day of rest and resupply for us so we took a trip north to visit the Seminole Reservation. The Museum is located about 12 miles north of exit 49 from the tollway portion of I-75. The museum is quite interesting and we felt that it was worth the hour's drive for what we learned there.
After our museum stop we drove into Naples to do some shopping and visit Super Wal-Mart. It is about fifty miles from where we live to Naples. We are about 30 miles from West Miami, but more to the shopping areas.
Just for those of you who may be up in the north country, the weather was warm and muggy with light clouds and sun. The low temperature was 66 degrees and the day's high was 77.
On Dec. 16, our day was spent mostly in preparation for our parts of the interpretive programs here at Shark Valley. We were each asked to select a subject and prepare for presentations to the public on some feature of the park which is not presently done in the "table talk" programs here at the park. To the NPS, a table talk is on in which a member of staff sets up a folding table in an area with high visitor traffic and gives short talks and answers questions about almost any subject that applies to the particular park. They are quite informal and free ranging.
Pam has chosen to do her talks on commonly found birds, for the novice birder. For me, ever since I cared for some babies at Black Bayou NWR I have been facinated by the alligator family and so I will talk on the arrival and care of baby alligators. We spent several ours out taking pictures for use in our talks as well as just studying our subject creatures. Part of the preperation for these talks is to know where visitors can likely see each one and to just spend time in watching what they do and how they act. We also did research in the library at the area HQ. It was a busy day and it passed quickly. We start our talks next week.
On Monday we completed the last of our formal training for our winter position at the office in Shark Valley. That was mostly a matter of radio procedures and daily operations. Just a little on paperwork but as volunteers we really don't have much of that. In the afternoon, Pam & I, along with one of the new seasonal rangers, made a trip to the park HQ down at the Pine Island area, a bit more than an hour's drive from here. We took stuff there, picked stuff up and did some forms that this park requires for us to live on site.
It was interesting in some ways as this park seems to have far more rules and such for volunteers and even a contract that you must sign for your RV pad. At this point I would have to say that the while the park staff have been nice, they do not really understand or appreciate the RV volunteer. We seldom take positions that ask for more than three days per week and for this we did make an exception and go to four days, or 32 hours each. There are times that we do wonder if we made a big mistake in doing so?
At this point we plan to try and keep a positive attitude and see what happens. There are things which we really enjoy about this position so the key will be that the good must outweigh the negative things. One item of news was that we also learned that the "Boogity Express" has now left this park due to conditions where they were volunteering. That note is mostly for Escapees members as Larry is a regular on their RV forum.
We performed our second day of "work" here at Shark Valley yesterday. We went in an 1 pm and were roving rangers for a couple of hours. As such our job was to stroll about in the areas near the visitor center, especially those which have a high concentration of alligators our sunning themselves. Our main job there is to keep visitors at a healthy 10 feet distance from each of the gators and to answer questions for them about the gators and the birds as well.
In the evening we also helped with a night program that was given for the members of the Everglades National Park Trust, a group which raised large sums of money for use in the park for projects and visitor programs. We helped to give this group of about 65 people an evening tour, watching the sunset part way and then a nice visit to the observation tower at night with a lunch served there. Our job was to help in setting up and then to assist the rangers in answering questions about the park and the wildlife here. We returned home about 9 pm, tired but with a good feeling of satisfaction. Each member of the trust donated at leas $50 in order to attend and most wrote much larger checks before they left. It turned out to be a very nice group of folks who were also verry appreciative of the staff and especially we volunteers who helped in putting things on.
I thought that I would end today's entry with a picture of our new neighbor from just a hundred yards or so away. He is a second alligator who seems to have just moved into the pond in the campground, living at this end nearest to our RV site. He seemed to be a friendly fellow as he was lying out in the sun yesterday.(Notice his smile!) He was just a little shy though as he hissed when I didn't notice him right away as I walked near the lake! He is probably between three and four feet in length and is believed to be about five or six years old. Just a youngster!
Our first ten days at this park have been very busy ones. We had two days to get settled in and then we began to train for our winter jobs here.
Since we will be working with the inturpretive ranger staff and doing most of the things which they do, our supervisor asked us to attend the same class which all seasonal rangers go through. The class was pretty wide ranging and lasted about six hours per day for six days. Since this park is so very large, travel times were up to 2 1/2 hours as we had a class in each visitor area of the park. From Shark Valley to Flamingo is 88 miles.
This was a great experience and it was by far the most training that we have had for any of the volunteer positions that we have taken part in. It has been a very busy time but we have learned so much that we feel it will prove to have been well worth the effort.
We have arrived in our winter home for the next few months! We arrived here on November 29 and we began training for seasonal rangers on December 2. The training has been very intense but also informative. We have learned so much about the Everglades that we now realize that we have learned almost nothing of what there is to learn. What an amazing place that this has turned out to be!
Our first morning in the park and I thought that I would post a wrap-up for our trip from Texas to the tip of Florida. We traveled a total of 1,438 miles, from near Dallas, TX to about 30 miles west of Miami, FL. Since I had traveled some miles before our first fuel stop, and we also traveled another 35 or so after the last one, my fuel figures are just slightly off for the total trip, but they should be accurate enough to give a realistic idea of what we spent.
We purchased a total 175.3 gallons of gasoline for the motorhome and recorded a total of 1378 and averaged 7.86 mpg. This was done while traveling at a steady speed of 60 mph for nearly all of the trip and the route was mostly over interstate highways. It was no doubt effected by the fact that we stopped at Escapee and Passport America RV parks which typically lead to at least 10 miles of secondary road travels and in one case more than 50 (Rainbow Plantation). I suspect that fact probably accounts for the slightly lowered mpg as I typically get 8 or slightly better.
The total cost for fuel was $340, having paid a high of $2.089/gallon in Lafayette, LA and a low of $1.759 in Loxley, AL. We departed Texas on Nov. 17 and arrived here on Nov. 29, having spent 12 nights in RV parks along the route. The total cost of RV sites was $193.43 or $16.12/night. We did no dry camping along the way. Perhaps this information may be of some interest to a few people.
As one who grew up in Kansas, hearing all of my life about how flat Kansas is, I have been traveling the country comparing my home state to that of all others. What I have seen has tended to confirm my long held opinion that only the very western part of Kansas is all that flat, and as a state it isn't even close to being the most flat. Our travels to Florida have not only confirmed this belief, but I can tell you with no hesitation that we have now found the state which is flat. The clear winner of that title is Florida! Having now traveled (not all on this trip) most major routes around Florida, I will tell everyone that the highest altitude that we have corssed was less than 200 feet! The main body of Florida would appear to be one very large sandbar, with altitudes ranging from sea level to about 100'. Florida's highest point is Britton Hill, located in the unincorporated town of Lakewood, Florida in north Walton County.
Now I don't want to hear any more about flat Kansas, until you explain to me why Florida is not the flat state!