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NIGHT CLIMBER
Written By: OC Fotoguy
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I guess I went to sleep too early.  I’m lying here awake at 4:30 a.m., but I find it so conducive to being le’id back and restful in this silence, fresh, pleasant, relaxing surroundings.  I’ll lie here for a while and see if I go back to sleep.  What?  Something is bumping against my nest (slide-in camper on a pickup truck).  I feel it several more times.  I know it’s very dark outside, but whatever it is it’s big.  If I was parked overnight on a street in Key West I’d figure it was just a late night partier, who needs something to lean on, but here seven miles back Loop Road (Rt. 94) off the east end of US Rt. 41 in the Big Cypress jungle, where there’s only a handful of other campers, all of whom are in the geriatric crowd, I know it’s something other than a person.  It must’ve went on its way, though...  No, something is above me on the roof!  Then I hear a clambering, scratching, clawing, then a thud and another thud.  Whatever it was climbed on top of my nest and lost its footing on the slope of the front of the roof of the camper right above where my bed is, and fell to the ground.  Opening my door now would invite trouble in; no thanks!  I’ll look for it after it gets light.  If I’d have done that I’d still be lying there, then!
In the morning I look for an indentation in the soft ground, which has soaked up many inches of rain over the last days, weeks and month.  I saw no animal, no dent in the ground, or tracks.  Something was up there, though.  I see the trash containers are bear proof, so bears can be here, but rarely a panther is sighted here.  The most likely animal, though, is a large raccoon.  They’re clever, climbers, can be 20-25 lbs., and there’s lots of them.  I’m sure the campers leave plenty of food scraps around and the tent campers who come here have food, that an animal can smell; so they know where an easy meal can be had.
This morning the sky is blue with some cirrus clouds shrouding the sun, 60 degrees, and potentially could be in to the mid 70s, with no rain in the forecast for the next week or so.  I came to this end of Big Cypress yesterday to obtain an off road permit to go deep in the jungle to my favorite campsite, Pink Jeep, where I’ll see bears, panthers, snakes and alligators, routinely, and a myriad of birds, plants & flowers every day.  Being there has offered  photo highlights on each of 18 Adventures starting back in 1999.  I used to be there for weeks, but now I’ve added the Keys, south Texas & Arizona, southern Utah and so many other places that I can’t get to all of them in the four months or so that I travel in the winter months to where it’s warm in those places and when it’s cold in Ocean City.  This year I hope to get to the Sequoia Trees in California.  That’ll add an extra 1,000 miles of driving to my trip and the trees are on the other side of the Sierra Nevada Mountains from Las Vegas in a “you can’t get there from here” kind of place.  I’ll have to go way south then back north, since there’s no roads that’ll be passable in latter March, because of the snow, roughness, and 8,000+-feet altitude.  I’ve decided it’ll be worth it, though, to put up with Arnold (Schwarzenegger) Land, where yea, the fruits and nuts rule and the gas and other prices will be dollars more than other places in this country.  I’m doing it though!
Today, since my brother and sister-in-law are nearby on their way to Key West, I’ll tag along with them to the tourist spots including the Anhinga Trail that’s near Big Pine Camp Ground on the road to Flamingo, which begins in Homestead.  Seeing an alligator is a big deal for them; for me, not so much.  I’ve seen so many, but there’s a fruits & vegetable stand on the way on Rt. 997 just north of Florida City, that not only has “you pick” vegetables, but scrumptious key lime pies, so that’s an added incentive!  Plus, I’ll get to spend time with family; always a good thing.
Where I’m parked is Mitchell’s Landing campground operated by the National Park Service.  Here and Big Pine N.P.S. Camp Ground are both in close proximity to Miami, South Beach and Ft. Lauderdale is not far away via Rt. 27 south.  Mitchell’s Landing is at the east end of Loop Road, which cuts through lots of jungle and Sweet Water Strand and there’s lots of trails, kayak put-in spots, and wild life.  Someday I’m going to spend a week exploring off of Loop Road.  It’s so wet in this El Niño year that hiking may’ve been difficult, though.  I’ve done South Beach, Ft. Lauderdale, not much there for me and I’m done with Miami and most cities.  Reservations are not required at either camp ground, but I’d suggest arriving mid week and around noon, so your chance of getting a spot is more likely. 
If you go to south Florida, one of its cities, and spend time in the EverGlades or Big Cypress, you will easily understand why Mother Nature’s wild critters are amongst neighborhoods where people live.  The people have invaded the alligators, snakes, panthers, bears and many more wild things habitats.
 
Bob R  o.c.FotoGuy
more photos @ http://picasaweb.google.com/118432269990335870353
& facebook.com/OCfotoguy
PHOTOSAsYouWantThem.biz
articles @ CoconutTimes.com
 
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