The cypress trees in Sweetwater Strand are some of the most beautiful, yet eerie things I’ve seen.
We needed something to do in-between our morning and evening activities without being drained by the heat. It’s hot in Florida in May. We headed south on 41 from The Big Cypress Bend Boardwalk to take Loop Road and spend the afternoon on a driving tour. This is 27 miles of scenic swamp. It’s outback – meaning if you want to be alone, you’ve come to the right place. Aren’t those camping symbols on the map? Yikes! This is alligator country. There are those who would go where I would not lay my head.
We drove quite a ways seeing only a thick wall of trees on both sides of the road. As time passed I started to wonder where “scenic” was. It was pretty, but would a 27 mile wall of trees be considered a “show your visitors” kind of pretty? Then an opening appeared. The cover picture for this post was taken of the cypress trees at Sweetwater Strand. It must have been named by an alligator wanting to draw something in for lunch. It was both beautiful and scary that sweet water. I got out of the car on guard. It was quiet. I looked around underfoot. No sign of gators. The cypress reflections were mesmerizing calling like a siren to a sailor. An alligator laid quietly in wait. I didn’t see it right away. They’ve got a good method for getting food which makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up. An Egret plunged it’s head into the water to catch a fish. Success! The epiphytic bromeliads hung from the trees, the air plants with blooming red flowers. I found this blog of Nick G. Botner, a professional photographer who slogged around this location on the same day we were there wading right into the green, alligator infested water but in the morning light. I think it was a good idea he didn’t tell his mother what he was doing.
We drove up to some vultures sitting on one of the bridges. There must be a lot of pickings for them. They posed nicely for their picture. In one of the open areas we saw a really long gator with it’s reflection in the water. There were multiple gators in that area. It was a day at the beach in the sunshine for them. We ran across houses that were surrounded by fences. One had a sign that said, “Stay Away!” It wasn’t very welcoming out in the middle of no where and I don’t think alligators can read. All I could think of was this is not a place to take a nap in the backyard. It’s a land very different from home. It’s a gritty and dirty kind of beautiful, both magical and frightening. There were a variety of birds I’ve never seen. Untame. Wild. I’ve heard the Florida Everglades called “The Amazon of North America.” The Amazon – where the bugs are big! Even so, I’d like to go to the Amazon.
We made our way along this road feeling lucky to see these sights. The woman at the tourist information stop said this road was closed for a year and just reopened. They were putting in new bridges and culverts. Right at the end of this 27 mile road we ran into the construction. They were finishing up and we got to go through with a very short wait. As we waited, we talked to the young guy who was a flagman. Not too many customers out this way. There are animals roaming in the field occasionally next to where we sat. A storm was brewing to the north. He was worried about getting hit by lightening. We watched the clouds roll in our direction. On our way back, there was a huge downpour. I was glad to be in the car. I wonder if he got wet.
To find Loop Road exit at Monroe Station. Monroe Station sounds like it would be something more than it is, but there’s an outhouse and a map. To get on the Loop Road take the small, narrow gravel road to the right. It looks like a place you shouldn’t enter, but this is the right place.