The southwest edge of Florida is a unique gem, and one most people don’t know much about beyond the beautiful white sand beaches. Drive inland a few miles from Naples, FL and you’ll see the only sub-tropical climate zone in North America, also known as the Everglades or “River of Grass” as the Seminole Indians called it.
The ecosystem here is very unique and just like a desert, unless you know exactly what you’re looking at, you might miss the magnificence of Mother Nature. Nestled amidst the swampy grasslands is Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, an Audubon refuge for wildlife. The 13,000 acre preserve is home to the largest stand of ancient Bald Cypress trees, some older than 500 years – that means the trees were here when Columbus discovered America…
Corkscrew features a 2.25 mile boardwalk where visitors can see endangered species such as American Wood Stork plus hundreds of alligators, white-tailed deer, barred owls and red-bellied turtles in their natural environment. The pristine sanctuary is so tranquil and untouched that you wonder if a dinosaur is going to lumber around the bend at any moment. Corkscrew is a breathtaking glimpse of our world before mass development.
So, when we learned about a unique outing a few weeks ago, my husband Larry and I jumped at the chance. Normally, the sanctuary closes at dusk but one night a month, special after-hours tours are offered to experience the boardwalk in its natural state by moonlight only. The only words to describe it are truly magical.
Imagine a world of gentle shadows, chirping crickets, glowing lightening bugs and moonlight illuminating a path and you are close. Add the cacophony of frogs and a few barred owls calling and you are almost there. With the night scent of blooming jasmine and ginger, the picture is complete, bathed in a tranquility that transcends the stresses of the day.
Part of the tour is guided by an Audubon naturalist, and then you are left to revel in the moonlight on your own. Getting lost is a bonus! We took a turn off the boardwalk and found ourselves at an observation deck, complete with a guide to explain the area terrain and set us back on the path to civilization. When we did return to the Blair Nature Center, high-powered telescopes were set up to view craters of the moon plus the four moons of Jupiter.
Some experiences have a long-lasting impact, and our moonlight tour is certainly one for us. Over the last two weeks, when Larry and I reminisce back to the peaceful evening, it has a calming effect. There is something spiritual in experiencing a world that was here long before us, and hopefully will be here long after we are gone. It reminds us that all of life is cycle, and to appreciate the time we have in our own.