Friday, 22 March:
The day started early and everyone seemed to be in good spirits. The quote
of the day comes from Dave, commenting on the proliferation of honors student
bumper stickers; and the bumper sticker reads "My son is a model prisoner
at Lucasville Prison."
Day Eight - Heading north again (or "model prisoners")
It was sunny and warm as we left the Long Pine Key campground at Everglades
National Park at 0900. Around 0915, we were stopped at the visitors center
to be tourists and buy stuff. Many bought books that can be read and re-read,
to expand our knowledge of the region, and to allow us to recall this wonderful
experience. Tammy spotted a yellow-bellied sapsucker, which I observed for
about 10 minutes. It foraged through the tree from top to bottom in a spiraling
motion, an action that I had just recently read about. I felt privileged
to watch this bird feed and to understand why it did so in this particular
manner. On the road again. As we leave the park, I can't help but wonder
what a visit to this vast swamp will yield, say 10 years from now. We stopped
to take photos in front of the park sign, then it was back in the bus and
Once out of the park, agricultural activity
immediately consumed the landscape. I know how we all like our supermarkets
full of anything one can possibly eat, and these fields are simply supplying
a demand, but, personally, I viewed these fields as ugly. I say that because
I know the extent of the role they play in the killing of the Everglade.
We watch as large trucks irrigate the fields, losing up to 80% of the water
they pump to evaporation. My thoughts are interrupted as we make yet another
tourist stop. This one is at a large fruit stand called `Robert Is
Here,' which left me with more baggage and less money, but I think that's
what being a tourist is all about. Isn't it? While there, we see a large
bird house full of purple martins. This is really cool, because their numbers
have been drastically reduced due to extensive use of pesticides. As we
leave `Robert Is Here,' I can't help but wonder, who is Robert, and was
he really there?
After a few more routine stops, we finally settle into what appears to be
the trip back home. Although we know it's snowing back home, I have a feeling
that everyone is longing for their own bed and a shower, including me. By
1115, half of the crew is fast asleep and the other half is singing, or
at least trying to. Still, I find it soothing and begin to join those who
sleep. Bump in the road. Big bump, I'm awake now. How long was I out? Agh,
only 10 minutes.
We pass by a huge phosphate mine, similar to the limestone quarries of Ohio.
As we talk about the comet we saw last night, we spot an osprey and a red-shouldered
hawk within a mile of each other. Can ya believe it? It's time for lunch
already and we are only about half an hour north of Dade County. A clan
of boat-tailed grackles joins us for lunch - some coming within a foot to
get the morsels we throw. Note: in the world of the grackle, the female,
unquestionably, wears the pants. I catch wind of something tricky the girls
are up to, but they won't let me in on the deal. Hmmmm! I wonder what it
Well, it's 1:00 p.m. (1300), and we're on the road again. How about some
more bad news, or just some reality, you choose the label. Earlier, we saw
pine forests that had been wiped out by
hurricane Andrew, at least a natural tragedy. Now, on both sides of
the bus we see a different kind of forest disaster. A forest too thick to
walk through, a forest filled with exotic trees - trees introduced from
another country: melaleuca, Australian pine, and Brazilian
pepper. Although the pine doesn't seem too bad, the others are nothing
short of a menace. They take over completely, choking out all native species;
are not suitable for most wildlife in the region; and, on top of all that,
don't even burn well.
Next, we see sugar cane, acres and acres of it. We see a field being burned
off, part of the harvesting technique, along with several sugar processing
plants. And yes, the fields are irrigated with Lake Okeechobee water that
once naturally flowed through the Everglades. By reducing this natural flow
of fresh water, some areas become too rich in salt, thus unable to support
plants or wildlife. Also of great threat is the rapid population growth
of south Florida, creating an ever increasing demand for, you guessed it,
Coming into Pahokee, at the southern tip of Lake Okeechobee, we see poverty
that reminds one of some third world country. The ditches are lined with
garbage, mostly old tires and other car parts. Yea! We just saw a banana
tree. We stopped at a dam at Port Mayaca, and there were about 50 people
fishing. I spoke with one person from Dayton, Ohio. He was fishing for crappy;
he showed me one and I took its picture. Some of the group gathered small
shells and rocks from the shore. Back on the bus. As everyone is settling
in for the ride to the next camp, I spot a bald eagle perched in a dead
pine tree. I couldn't believe it at first, but finally managed to utter
a statement in time to allow a couple of the others to witness it also.
The smell of fresh picked oranges filled the air. Dave spotted an armadillo
near the side of the road and stopped. Dr. J tried to cut him off at the
pass so we could get an up close look, but the little fella knew the terrain
better than Dr. J and escaped our curiosity. I learned that armadillos have
no teeth, and are the only living mammal, besides man, that can get leprosy.
We pulled into Highlands Hammock State Park at 1700; it looks like a real
nice park. After setting up camp, the group went for a walk, while I stayed
behind to gather firewood and catch up on my notes. I
climbed up a pine tree to get a nice shot of the setting sun. I could
have stayed there until dark, but the group came back and was anxious to
go eat. Once again it was a Shoney's, but that was Okay. They had a display
of paintings on their walls that I found rather exciting; done by a local
gal. Back at camp, everyone disappeared either to use the phone or the shower.
Once again I found myself alone, only this time I had a radio and a nice
blazing fire. Having realized that music was the thing I missed most from
the civilized world, I quickly found a rock station and did a primal dance
around the fire. When my tent-mate John arrived, he joined in. I now felt
fulfilled and turned the music down as the rest of the party returned.
Oh yeah, the girls' plan. They lined up the professors for a group photo
and just before snapping the shot, they let 'em have it with silly string.
It was definitely cute. I can't wait to see the pictures. We stayed up late
that night sitting around the fire, talking. Just before retiring, some
of us (I'll never tell who), toilet papered
the professors' tent. Ha! Ha! I guess some people never grow up. I think
it was good innocent fun. I mean, I had fun watching them. (Faculty
note: there was a rule against practical jokes on this trip, however the
girls found a loophole through this very impractical use of toilet paper).
Well, my job of writing for the day is nearly over. I just wish to convey
that this trip has been an extremely exciting experience for me. I learned
a lot about my environment, and traveled with some really great people,
both of which have changed me in a small, but positive way. Thank you, Dr.
Cunningham! Now, in the words of Roy Rogers, or one those old cowboys, "Happy