Family Fun In Everglades National Park

By: 
Steven Gadecki

When was the last time that you experienced something that left you in total amazement?

During our family trip to Florida we took some time to head down and visit the Everglades National Park. This trip was extra exciting as it would become my son Hunter’s 2nd national park.  His Grandfather, whom was there for his visit to Joshua Tree National Park was able to join us, also making it his first visit to the Everglades.

The weather was a little overcast as we drove down but cleared up as we entered the park.  Meandering clouds broke up the sunshine keeping the temperature comfortable all day, which is perfect when hiking with a toddler. We stopped into the visitor center to make sure our trails were open and to see how intense the mosquitoes would be.  When my wife and I had first visited years ago, we were relentlessly attacked, so this time around we made sure to order bug suits for everyone as we didn’t want history to repeat itself. The Ranger gave us clear signs on both so we decided to drive to Mahogany Hammock first and work our way back to the entrance.

The drive to the trailhead was so picturesque, seeing the blue and white sky above the green and wet Earth; it really set the mood to start exploring. When I was doing my research on where we should hike, I tried to find some trails that were really moderate so that we could enjoy our time and not burden Hunter.  The hammock trail was a perfect start as it’s a boardwalk that goes into the swamp. Even though the Ranger said the mosquitoes were mild, we still suited up before heading in. Didn’t want to risk ruining the trip on the first hike but we should have had a little more faith in the Ranger.  Things were fine once we got in and we were able to ditch the suits.  I was glad because they were restricting and Hunter was not into wearing his 

As we headed deeper down the path, walking through the thick overgrowth was surreal and it seemed like a museum exhibit at times.  It was the occasional wildlife that brought reality back making sure you were paying attention to your surroundings.

My wife pointed out a blue tailed lizard which I believe is called a blue tailed skink.  He was just sitting on the railing hanging out enjoying the sun.  I walked over to it with Hunter so that he could see and slowly he reached out to touch it.  Hunter drew back his hand with an excited “Whoh” as the lizard let him touch him, but ran away quickly right after.  It was amazing to watch Hunter’s face as he tried to process what had just happened. As a parent it’s that initial moment you hope to witness with your child, because it builds up the excitement for the future ones.

Next on our trip was the Pa-hay-okee Overlook.  This was another wooded walk way overlooking the swamp.  The waters were so clear when you looked down on them that you could tell the land had been undisturbed for quite some time.

Finally, we hit up the Anhinga trail and saw an abundance of wildlife here.

This was a good trail to finish off with and Hunter and Grandpa sat on the bench at the end, taking it all in one last time.

After a full day of travel and walking around, Hunter was finally at the end of his exploration time clock and it was time to head home.

I’ve recently been invited into “The Discovery Project” for L.L.Bean; where they’ve asked me to test and proof gear for them over the next year. When I accepted the invitation, I thought, “A year from now, what will I wish I had done with this opportunity?”  It’s rare to be given such a chance in life and I wanted to experience this moment to the fullest. So I sat down and wrote a “Discover” list of where I wanted to go, and what I wanted to see, especially through Hunter’s eyes.  I wanted to really make this an experience that I’ll never forget. So I made up a “Discover” sign and have been taking it everywhere I go. Writing in my destinations along the way and taking a picture with it.  Following L.L.Bean's “Million Moment Mission” campaign from 2012, where the National Park Foundation was a direct benefactor. Every goal and moment that I accomplish on my "Discover" list, a donation will be made to the National Park Foundation on behalf of the people that affect my life. To date I’ve accomplished 30 moments! You can follow the adventures at #LLBDiscovery or on my blog.

All in all, I'm really excited for the ‘Discovery Project’ with L.L.Bean, but looking forward to the lifelong legacy project of exploring the National Parks with my son Hunter. There are so many places out there to Discover; I really hope we can get to them all.