Tag Archives: get outside

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!)

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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

6 Reasons to do a Beach Cleanup Before Summer’s Over

For most of the US, summer is winding down. Soon, the kids will be back at school and the heat and waves of summer 2015 will be a precious memory.

But for those of you who are still planning beach vacations, who are venturing south for the winter, or who are lucky to live near the beach full time, here are six reasons why you should participate in a beach cleanup before summer is officially over (or really whenever you can)!

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Help protect sea turtle hatchlings and other marine life

Sea turtle season doesn’t end until October, so there are still plenty of hatchlings waiting to emerge and find their way to the ocean. We know that their journey is already hard enough, so let’s make sure that their path to the ocean is as easy as possible. Despite sea turtle nests being marked off and protected, I always find a lot of trash around the nests. Not only does this litter pose a threat to the hatchlings, but it also threatens any shore birds that search the sand for their food. The tide brings in a lot of garbage, let’s make sure it doesn’t go back out!

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Make great friends and memories

Whether you get a group of your friends together to go cleanup your favorite beach spot, or join one of the many great organizations that coordinates beach cleanups each month, you can make positive memories with friends old and new. If protecting the ocean and the environment is something you are passionate about, get outside of your comfort zone and join a group cleanup. It is a great way to meet other people who share your passions. I have met some of the nicest and friendliest people attending cleanups. People are always stoked to meet someone else who actively shares their passion for the environment!

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Beach cleanups are great exercise

Carrying buckets of garbage in the sand is an excellent workout that is sure to get your heart pumping and your body sweating. If you don’t have a grabber, which I highly recommend if you plan on frequently doing beach cleanups, you will be doing a lot of squats to pick up garbage. Most organized beach cleanups last about two hours, a great amount of time for a workout out in the fresh, salty air. It’s a fantastic way to start the day!

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You can be the change

It’s easy to get caught up in our busy lives and get stuck behind our computer’s keyboard. If you want to see a difference in the world, be the difference. It’s as simple as that. Participating in a beach cleanup is a rewarding experience, and if you have never done one, I am sure you will be shocked by the amount of garbage you will find.

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Beach cleanups are a great time for introspection

Whether you are cleaning up the beach on your own or with a group, a beach cleanup is a great time to analyze your own choices when it comes to both consumption and disposal. When you actually see first hand the amount of garbage carelessly left behind, it may lead you to reexamine your own choices. Being conscious of our own consumption, and what happens to our own garbage can lead us to make changes that lower our own footprint.

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You can raise awareness

Raising awareness about the plight of the fragile shore ecosystems is important. Many people thoughtlessly extinguish their cigarette butts in the sand, and leave them behind, probably thinking it’s just me, no biggie. But when many people adopt this mentality, that is when the beaches become, for lack of a better word, gross. I think it’s a great idea to photograph garbage as you cleanup. Take pictures of the amount of cigarette butts you find, or the weirdest item you find. Then share, share, share! Share across all your social media platforms! People by nature are very visual creatures, so actually showing instead of telling is a fantastic way to raise awareness to the issue of beach litter. Maybe, just maybe, someone will think twice before leaving behind a styrofoam cup, or not disposing of fishing line properly because of an image or experience you share.

Beach cleanups are a ton of fun, and even though summer is almost over, many groups organize beach cleanups year round. Whenever you get the opportunity, I strongly urge you to spend a morning or afternoon doing a beach cleanup!

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Check out some of these South Florida organizations to see when they are doing their next beach cleanup:

Surfrider Foundation Chapters worldwide

Sea Angels South Florida, monthly cleanups

Stoked on Salt South Florida

The Beach Review Action Committee South Florida

Also check out local meet-ups on Meetup.com.

Be sure to mark your calendar for Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup on September 19th, 2015!

If you run an organization that facilitates beach cleanups, feel free to comment with a link to your website!

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