Have you ever wanted to sell everything you own and just "take off?" Travel the country's back roads, paddle down a meandering stream, experience breath-taking mountain views, walk among 100-year old trees, and just marvel at America's beauty? That is the dream that my partner, Betsy, and I decided to make a reality. This blog describes our adventure. The food we eat, people we meet, sights we see, and the enjoyment we find in traveling.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Everglades City

Everglades City is a sharp contrast from the wealth and chic that we experienced in Naples and Marco Island.  This is the area where “swamp people” live.  Instead of perusing art museums and manicured botanical gardens, you will find yourself taking an airboat ride to see alligators or riding a swamp buggy with 4-foot high tires clamoring through the cypress swamp.  Shopping here consists of buying fishing bait and beer.  All the more reasons why we loved it!  And, all of this reminds me of my wildlife biologist days driving an airboat through the wetlands of Louisiana.
Me inspecting a gas well at the Barataria Preserve while I worked for the National Park Service.
Before Betsy’s brother Mark left us, we drug him to the end of HWY 29 which dumps you into a little town called Everglades City and in the midst of the vast expansive wilderness that is Everglades National Park.  Mind you Mark is a “city boy” from Chicago.  When he is not running the Maples Inn in Bar Harbor, Maine, he spends his winters in Chicago where he enjoys strolling down Michigan Avenue, visiting the theater, and admiring the city’s architecture.  Needless to say, he was a good sport to accompany us to this unique place at the edge of the world.
The store has a wax figure of Ted Smallwood.

Our first stop was the Everglades National Park visitor center.  This was a great place to book a sightseeing tour, but the visitor center left much to be desired.  There wasn’t even an orientation movie and the exhibits were old and out-dated.  (I would suggest trying out the other visitor centers especially Shark Valley that we heard was very nice.)  We left the visitor center and continued down the road to the terminus which is Chokoloskee Island to see the historic Smallwood Store.  When Betsy and Mark asked what was there, I replied that it was a historic trading post/store turned museum.  They looked puzzled and not too excited.   

The store/museum doesn't look like much from the outside but wait until you go inside.

The store is located on Chokoloskee Island (affectionately known as “Florida’s last frontier”) and served pioneers and early settlers that lived and traveled through the area.  Ted Smallwood opened the store in 1906 and it has not changed much since.   Oh wait, it was raised after a series of flooding events.   The store was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974 and remained open and active until 1982.  After which the doors were locked and 90% of the original goods remained in the store.  Recently, Ted's granddaughter reopened the store as a museum and today acts as a time capsule of Florida pioneer history.
Inside the store was the town post office.  
The Smallwood dining table (right forefront) was in the midst of the store which was open 24 hours a day.
Take your time going through the store - there is lots of stuff. 
Betsy getting educated about the Smallwood business.  Underneath the
counter was angled inward so ladies hoop skirts would fit as they stood at the counter.
Is that a washer and dryer?
After the Smallwood Store adventure, we headed to the Museum of the Everglades to learn more about the history of the area followed by a walk around town.  Many of the towns’ old historic buildings have been preserved and serve as restaurants, bed and breakfasts, the “rod and gun club,” and gift shops.  We capped off our trip with a stop at the Everglades Seafood Depot which was offering all-you-can-eat boiled shrimp and salad.  The shrimp were so sweet and delicious we filled multiple plates.
The Museum of the Everglades is housed in a cute historical building that was the
"Old Laundry Building" built in 1927.  
Inside the museum are exhibits, a gift shop, and informational movies.

The famous Rod and Gun club open for lodging, eating, and a place to dock your boat.
Town City Hall

The bank is now a bed and breakfast.
We just liked this sign.  

1 comment:

  1. Hi there..new followers. I'm enjoying your blog, and especially as we are planning on visiting the Everglades next winter. Looks like we may be on the same general path as we too will be going west to Colorado this summer.


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