I was a somewhat reluctant Floridian. I always said it was a lovely place to go on vacation but not to live. The heat was too much, you have to drive everywhere, the people seemed too old for me. While my maternal grandparents migrated to Southwest Florida from Wisconsin in the late 70s/early 80s and my parents followed suit in 2004, I stayed away – college in Michigan, back to Wisconsin afterwards, then overseas for a few years, and then NYC. But after my cancer diagnosis in late 2013, it was decided (not really by me) that I needed to be closer to family, so off to Florida I went – temporarily, I told myself.
Well temporarily turned into 3.5 years at this point with no intention to leave anytime soon. Florida actually has a lot to recommend it. Yes, there's the heat, traffic and politics that can drive me crazy. However, for someone who loves swimming, there's not many better places than a state almost entirely surrounded by water. And the nature doesn't stop at the beach. Florida is full of county, state and national parks where you can do anything from short walks to long hikes, observing the bird life and wildlife all around.
One of my favorite walks is the Anhinga Trail at Everglades National Park. About an hour south of Miami, off of Route 1, there's two small cities, Homestead and Florida City that are gateways into the park and have what you might need as far as hotels, food and supplies. Everglades National Park spreads out over the whole of the southern park of mainland Florida, and I certainly intend to explore the more backcountry, less accessible areas in the future. But for now I'll just focus on the Anhinga Trail, which is very accessible once you get into the park (admission only $10 per vehicle) and an easy walk of a little less than a mile consisting of pavement and boardwalk.
Younes and I went for our "mini-moon" right after the wedding and later came back with my parents. The trail is a fantastic place for bird-watching. You will see a lot of anhingas (hence the name) as well as double-crested cormorants, herons, ibises, spoonbills, eagles, hawks and vultures. Of the non-winged variety, there are turtles and tons of alligators. Although the path is short, you can spend hours looking at the various wildlife.
In fact, I think it might just be time to go back – once it cools off.
Anhinga wing spread