Tag Archives: everglades

Sunset Bike Ride in Shark Valley, Everglades National Park

It’s true that a picture is worth a thousand words. Some experiences require more than words summed up in a photo to express the true impact of that place, that moment, or that memory.

shark valley everglades national park the beach review blog bike ride

My bike ride on the Shark Valley loop is one of those experiences. I love documenting my travels, and I planned to document this adventure like any other. However, it turns out that I need to work on my shooting-while-bike-riding skills, so many of the photos (as you will see) have a hint of blur to them.

For the second half of this bike ride, I put my camera away and just let the moment consume me. I allowed myself to be fully present, and while I may not have photos to show for it, the beauty I witnessed that day will forever be etched in my mind.

So what is Shark Valley? 

shark valley everglades national park the beach review blog bike ride

Shark Valley is located in Everglades National Park in South Florida. The access point for this loop is where the Shark Valley visitor’s center is. Here, you can rent bicycles for the fifteen-mile paved path, or you can go on a leisurely tram tour that takes you through the Everglades. From mid-December to April, tram tours leave on the hour, every hour from 9am to 4pm, and from May to mid-December tram tours leave at 9:30 am, 11:00 am, 2:00 pm, and 4:00 pm.

My Shark Valley Experience

I had long lost cell service, when my fiancé and I arrived at the Shark Valley loop off of the Tamiami Trail. We arrived just after 6pm to find the gates to the main park closed, as expected. Outside of the gates, there is room for about four to six cars to comfortably park so bicyclists can bike in before or after the park hours.

We  went late because we didn’t want to contend with the tram tours on the path, and we looked forward to a sunset ride through the Everglades.

We brought our own bikes. I have a cruiser, which was perfectly fine for this ride because the path is paved, wide, and smooth.

shark valley everglades national park the beach review blog bike ride

My fiancé and I have made it a life goal to visit each of the US National Parks together. This is the first one we crossed off the list!

Tip: If you are considering biking this path after park hours, I recommend doing this ride with a buddy. It is a long ride and there is no cell reception. Once you are seven miles out in the middle of the Everglades, you are out there with no safety net. Make sure you are prepared. 

To the Observation Tower

The Shark Valley trail is a fifteen-mile loop. Each mile is painted in the middle of the path, allowing you to know how far you have gone. Half-way through the loop, is the observation tower, and we were on our way.

The Road

Right out of the gates, we were greeted by one of the local residents.

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Yes, that black spot in the center of this picture is an alligator! It was about four to six feet long, and completely ambivalent to our presence. Just to be safe, we stayed as far left on the path as possible, and left it alone.

This was the closest that we got to an alligator the whole ride, but seeing this gator at the beginning of the journey was a stark reminder to always be aware of my surroundings. In Florida, it is always wise to assume that there is a gator in any type of fresh water, whether it is a retention pond, a canal, a lake, or of course, the Everglades.

We saw many more gators throughout the rest of the trip. We saw little baby gators and a some huge mamas and papas.

There are a few benches along the loop, but after seeing so many gators, I thought it best to keep the wheels of my bike moving until we got to higher ground.

shark valley everglades national park the beach review blog bike ride
Endless golden plains.
Life Persists
Life persists.

shark valley everglades national park the beach review blog bike ride

There were dragonflies everywhere. The gentle zip of their wings hummed across the grasslands. The curious ones would fly parallel to my bike to check me out. Others rested with effortless balance atop their own stalk of grass, awaiting the sunset show.

shark valley everglades national park the beach review blog bike ride

You can barely see it, but this is the first glimpse of the observation tower way off in the distance. At this point, we had been biking for almost an hour non-stop, so it was a welcome sight.

We saw a handful of wading birds during this whole trip which I found surprising because I expected to see a lot more. We did see a lot of large ravens, especially near the observation tower. They seemed out of place yet to belong.

Watch the above time-lapse video to see the first half of my bike ride on the Shark Valley Loop trail. This video covers about seven miles of trail, and ends atop the observation tower with a special surprise in store.

I filmed the video with my iPhone attached to a selfie stick wrapped to my bike with a hair tie, so while it may not be the best quality, it still captures the spirit of Shark Valley. Enjoy!

At the Observation Tower

shark valley everglades national park the beach review blog bike ride

This is the observation tower. It is forty-five feet high, and was designed by famed architect Edward M. Ghezzi. I think it looks like something you would find at Tomorrowland in Disney World. (Sorry for the awful picture, but you can’t write about the Shark Valley Loop without showing the observation tower!)

shark valley everglades national park the beach review blog bike ride
Looking back at the bike path we just rode in on.

We reached the observation tower just before sunset, and the views of the watercolor sky over the Everglades are unforgettable.

shark valley everglades national park the beach review blog bike ride
Much to my disappointment, these stairs go to nowhere.
shark valley everglades national park the beach review blog bike ride
A beautiful storm off in the distance.

Continue reading Sunset Bike Ride in Shark Valley, Everglades National Park

What the Frack!?! Fracking in Florida to Continue, Possibly Grow

Yesterday, the Florida House approved HB 1205, which approves the continuation of fracking in Florida. The purpose of the bill is to provide regulations on fracking, and there will be a moratorium until tests and agencies have instituted rules.

Another bill up for a vote is HB 1209. If this bill is approved, then frackers will not have to publicly disclose which hazardous chemicals are being used in the process.

What is fracking?

Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is a process where one drills deep down into the earth, and then the earth is injected with harsh chemicals and other liquids at a high pressure in order to extract the natural gas through a well.

Fracking involves drilling many, many holes into the earth, injecting the earth with poison, and then having receptacles to hold the toxic waste water. In order to access these sites, pipelines and roads will have to be constructed.

Risks of fracking include compromising drinking water and causing earthquakes.

Where is this happening?

In Florida, right here, right now. In the Western Everglades, one oil company- Collier Resources- owns 800,000 acres, monopolizing the industry in Florida. According to the South Florida Wildlands Association, not only does Collier Resources own the oil rights to their private land, but also rights in such places as Big Cypress National Preserve, Corkscrew Regional Ecosystem Watershed, Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge, Dinner Island Wildlife Management Area and the Picayune Strand State Forest. While offshore drilling is still off-limits in Florida, Collier Resources also owns sizeable oil rights under the Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge – should that prohibition ever get lifted.

What does this have to do with me?

Fracking in the fragile ecosystems of Florida is dangerous to anyone who drinks water. Florida has a very porous geology, and it is not clearly known what the longterm impacts of pumping harsh chemicals could be, or how quickly these chemicals will be saturated, or if they can be contained once they are released. There are over 600 chemicals used in fracking, including known carcinogens, many of which need to be properly disposed at a hazmat site. Are there hazmat sites in the Everglades? Should we build one in a fragile and already jeopardized environment? NO.

Generally, it takes 2-8 million gallons of water to frack a single well, if not more. Where is this water coming from? The Everglades itself? California, another fracking state, used 70 million gallons of water in 2014 alone for fracking. They are currently going through one of their worst droughts in history.

Fracking goes beneath the aquifers. In Florida, we are lucky to have fresh water resources like our natural springs. These springs provide some of the clearest and purest water in the world. Why put this water at risk? When we are already dealing with sea water levels rising that may impact our fresh water supply, why also jeopardize our water from below too?

If fracking is bad, why do people still do this?

As quoted by the Tallahassee Democrat, “I like the outdoors,” said Rep. Neil Combee, R-Polk City. “I like conservation. But let me tell you another thing — I like electricity. I like lights and air-conditioning and television. I like gasoline to put in my truck to come up here to visit with all my friends, all of you in here.”

Yes, everyone likes electricity and modern transportation. But when we have cleaner options now readily available and increasingly more affordable, why are we sinking our money and our mentality into tech that puts us at risk? Why are we not building solar fields, or passing bills regarding other renewable, sustainable energy sources?

The answer, as you have probably guessed is big. oil. money. Oil money in a lot of ways built this country, and it has been a wealth long sought after by many, an attainable form of the American dream. But this American dream has long since turned into an American nightmare.

But when does physical money begin to trump environmental costs? Does the human factor not even deter these companies?

Just so everyone is clear- life on earth cannot exist without water.

Thinking that oil is the only way to power this country is an antiquated way of thinking. We know better, and we as the people, and we, as the elected officials who are supposed to represent the people- they are us- need to stop pretending like we don’t know better.

How is a country supposed to grow, when we continue to act immature, when we continue to put our fingers in our ears and go “la la la” while the facts are speaking loudly and clearly.

What can I do?

You can contact your local official TODAY, right here, right now, and let them know what you think about fracking. These people were elected into their position, and are public servants. They wanted to connect with their communities, and they fought to represent you, so let them!

Find your State Senator here and make the call now:

https://www.flsenate.gov/Senators

You can also contact these key swing votes on the fracking issue:

Senator Jeremy Ring (850) 487-5029 ring.jeremy.web@flsenate.gov
Senator Anitere Flores (850) 487-5037 flores.anitere.web@flsenate.gov
Senator Geraldine F. Thompson (850) 487-501 thompson.geraldine.web@flsenate.gov
Senator Joseph Abruzzo (850) 487-5025 abruzzo.joseph.web@flsenate.gov
Senator Jeff Brandes (850) 487-5022 brandes.jeff.web@flsenate.gov
Senator Miguel Diaz de la Portilla (850) 487-5040 portilla.miguel.web@flsenate.gov
Senator Tom Lee (850) 487-5024 lee.tom.web@flsenate.gov
Senator David Simmons (850) 487-5010 simmons.david.web@flsenate.gov

Also, please share this post with anyone you think will want to get involved!

Let’s protect our future. Let’s protect our home. Let’s protect our children, and tell those motherfrackers to frack off!

See other places that have banned fracking.

Protect Florida: Vote Yes on Amendment 1

On November 4th, 2014, Florida voters will head to the polls to cast their votes in order to decide the future of the state. Amendment 1, the Florida Water and Land Conservation Initiative, is an important initiative voters will decide on. If you like clean water, then we recommend voting yes.

Amendment 1 is our last chance to protect Florida’s fragile ecosystems. With climate change becoming more of a threat with each passing day, and the recent revelation that vertebrate populations have declined by more than 50% in just the last forty years, saving our planet and its plants and animals is something we can no longer wait for someone else to do. We the people must stand together, and by simply marking a ballot, we can choose to allocate more than $10 billion dollars to environmental conservation and water protection over the next 20 years, without any increase in taxes. Doing otherwise would be an irreparable act of negligence.

Since 2009, the Legislature has cut funding for land and water protection by 95%! Because our government seemingly does not find clean water all that important, citizens took matters into their own hands to get Amendment 1 on the ballot. Florida’s Water and Land Legacy was established, and within a year and a half, they received more than 700,000 certified signatures that allowed Amendment 1 to be placed on the November 4, 2014 ballot.

So what exactly will this Amendment do? According to the FAQS on the Amendment’s website, the Amendment will guarantee the following:

  • Restore, manage, and acquire lands necessary to protect Florida’s drinking water sources and protect the water quality in our rivers, lakes and streams;
  • Protect our beaches and shores;
  • Protect and restore the Everglades and other degraded natural systems and waterways;
  • Manage fish and wildlife habitat, protect forests and wetlands, and restore conservation lands that are an important part of Florida’s economy and quality of life;
  • Provide funding to manage existing state and local natural areas, parks, and trails for water supply, habitat and recreation.

The money that will allow this to happen will come from Florida’s excise tax on documents, or documentary stamp tax. This is an already established tax generated by documents necessary during the sale of real estate, and Amendment 1 will see to it that 33% of the funds raised by this tax will be used only for conservation purposes. This money will help Florida’s fragile ecosystems, and will combat both land and water pollution, helping to ensure clean and plentiful drinking water for this generation and those to come.

If this Amendment does not pass, the future of Florida and its inhabitants will be at stake. The future of clean drinking water, of our beaches, and of tourism will be uncertain. Will our children know the beauty of the Everglades, will they know of manatees and Key deer, will they be able to traverse trails and play in parks? Let’s answer these questions ourselves, with action, with our voices.

We can no longer rely on our legislators or representatives to do right by us and by the environment. We must do the checking and balancing.

It is up to us to protect our state, our ecosystem, and all of the inhabitants within it, whether they walk on two legs, four legs, or none. We must take action, and the easiest way to do that is to Vote Yes on Amendment 1 on November 4th, 2014.

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Read the Amendment in its entirety below: Continue reading Protect Florida: Vote Yes on Amendment 1