This past Saturday, the night of the full moon, we joined some of the other Big Cypress volunteers and staff for a bike ride at Shark Valley in Everglades National Park. Our lovely neighbors, Mary and Gary, had organized the excursion so that we could enjoy the scenic beauty of the Everglades through the evening light and then under the glow of the full moon. The route is 7 miles each way, all flat, so we expected it to be a peaceful and easy ride.
Once we get past the large gators leisurely sprawled across the base of the trail, the ride was glorious. The sunny blue sky was reflected in pools of water across the prairie,
an array of birds perched around every bend,
and the canal just off the trail was clear and calm.
We stop to appreciate each bit of wildlife and arrive at the observation tower at the end of the trail just in time to enjoy the sunset and birds roosting.
As the sun goes down and the moon begins to peek through the clouds, the mosquitos start swarming and we decide it’s time to start the ride back.
There are two routes back from the observation tower, but we decide to go with the shorter since Andrew’s bike had been having having minor issues on the ride in.
We pedal out at a steady pace since the moon was hidden by the clouds, and you know – alligators and darkness are not the most wonderful combo. When we are at about what I estimate to be halfway, Andrew says, “I’ll probably need to stop soon to check my bike.” Immediately, as if on cue, his pedal falls off and the bolt to reattach it is lost to the darkness.
Since Andrew is not particularly adept at one-footed pedaling, he holds on to my backpack as I’m forced to pedal both of us the last 3-ish miles. If I was worried about the flat ride not being enough of a workout before, I was certainly feeling the burn when towing both of us.
As the full moon finally emerges from the clouds and spreads it’s glow across the watery prairie, I’m less concerned with the the beauty (although it was absolutely stunning) and more concerned with getting back without crossing any fearsome wildlife. What I find intriguing in the afternoon sun is suddenly frightening under the veil of moonlight. Just after I start towing Andrew, he spots a shadow that discovers is actually a 6-8 foot gator perched at the edge of the trail, about 3 feet from us, with it’s big mouth open wide. Fortunately Andrew waits until we’re safely back at the car to share this info.
Slowly but surely we do finally make it back. I may have been sweaty and buggy, but at least I was in one piece. And I would definitely do the ride again – next time I’d just make sure everyone’s bikes are in working order before we set off.