Nine Mile Pond: vultures and cat vomit

Day 1 in Everglades National Park.

We decided to camp in Flamingo which is a campground at the very southern tip of Florida in Everglades National Park. Any further South and you are swimming to get to Key West. As a veteran of many national parks, I can say that Everglades National Park is the red-headed step child of the park system if the visitor’s center is anything to go by. As an actual red-headed step child, I have street cred to make these statements.

Sadly, this crime against architecture survived Hurricane Wilma

On a totally unrelated side note, should you find yourself at Flamingo and in need of something to eat, do NOT dine at the Buttonwood Cafe in the visitor’s center unless you like terrible food served at a glacially-slow pace at astronomical prices. Instead, go to the marina shop and gorge on overpriced frozen candy bars.  Nothing is more delicious or nutritious than a frozen Snickers washed down with a diet Red Bull for breakfast. I do so hope to grace the cover of a cereal box someday, but I think I should lobby Red Bull to make room for my face on their can:

I think this has serious marketing potential if Red Bull is trying to market to 40 somethings who are constantly sleep-deprived in semi-dangerous situations.

We decided to kayak Nine Mile Pond, which is actually not nine miles long or a pond, but more like just shy of six miles of trail through a series of ponds, mangroves and open sawgrass prairies. The parking area is populated by vultures. These vultures want to destroy your car. Seriously. They are addicted to rubber and will strip your car in no time if you don’t take precautions. I tried to take a picture of a Japanese tourist taking a picture of a car being attacked by vultures, but Troy wouldn’t let me. Probably because he had deduced the vultures wanted to eat that car and not ours.  Even so, we diligently wrapped windshield wipers and kayak cradles in towels to keep the damned vultures at bay.

They are waiting for you to leave so they can strip your car. It's nature's version of Camden NJ.

Everyone (not native to Southern Florida) has an idea of what they think the Everglades looks like.  The terrain varies based on elevation, but at the farthest southern portions, you can expect a lot of wet sawgrass for miles and mangrove stands.

The start (and end) to Nine Mile Pond

We got into the water and headed across the first pond to the mangroves.  The trail is marked by numbered PVC pipes which is a good thing because pretty much everything looks exactly the same.  This area has crocs and alligators, although we saw neither this time.

Side by side in Nine Mile Pond

The middle portion of the trail is pretty much mangrove islands and sawgrass areas where the alligators and crocodiles like to lounge.  Alas, no reptiles to speak of.

Sawgrass on the left, mangroves to the right.

The portion of the trail furthest from the starting point is riddled with some type of reed that made the paddling exceedingly tedious. Each stroke would bring up rotted wet cattails to slap you in the face.  The water here is no more than one foot deep.

Rotting cattail things in the water

Close up, they greatly resemble cat vomit. It is noteworthy that I managed to get three of these things down the front of my shirt while paddling. Cat vomit in the cleavage.

Attractive, isn't it?

Troy realized after we made the turn back that we managed to miss poles 60-79. If it was more of this, I can’t say I’m too sorry. Paddling through stagnant cat vomit loses its charm rapidly when you are already expending energy fighting the wind and shallow water.

If you are in Everglades National Park, the Nine Mile Pond trail falls on the must-do list.  Overall, Troy and I managed to do it with a minimum of strife, no capsizing and it was a nice paddle.  Personal pain rating: 5 out of 10, for cat vomit in the cleavage and a blister on the right hand.


Sawgrass and mangroves

Wind sings across the water

Cat vomit in hair




12 Responses to Nine Mile Pond: vultures and cat vomit

  1. Now you must, you simply must, go to Key West and take the ferry to Dry Tortugas Islands. It will be perfect–no alligators or capsizing or anything like that. Just Civil War history wayyy out in the Gulf. It’s on my bucket list. Go there for me.

  2. Oh, and Hunting Bigfoot starts a new season in January!

  3. Elliot says:

    Being from South Florida, I can tell you that developers are screwing up the ecosystem big time, so I’m glad you got to enjoy the Everglades while they’re still around.

  4. I saw that they appear to be trying to raise the Tamiami trail up to get water through, but they seem to have made next to no progress since we were there in 2010. It’s amazing to see just how much damage the fertilizers do, plus the urban sprawl. The world does not need more gold courses in south Florida. Or for that matter, anywhere.

  5. That was supposed to be ‘golf courses’, but maybe they really are gold courses and this is some kind of Freudian slip.

  6. David says:

    Thanks for taking the camera along, yet again. It can’t always be convenient. I’m definitely looking forward to images from the Dry Tortugas, When we were in Key West, we would have liked to have gone but were traveling with dogs. Not sure if we’ll get another opportunity.

    Our trip south was shortly after I’d been reading Tim Low’s Feral Future and, sure enough, as mentioned in the book there were miles and miles of introduced Melaleuca along the roadway. I realize that’s nowhere near the greatest issue but It was a very visible reminder of many severe environmental problems emerging in Florida.

  7. mistyslaws says:

    Wow. Cat vomit in the cleavage. Very sexy stuff. I’m not sure how you got through that whole trip without getting thrown down and taken advantage of. And I don’t mean by the vultures. Unless it was rubber cat vomit? That would be double trouble I guess.

    • Cat vomit is incredibly sexy. Especially when it’s slapped in your face and cleavage methodically with every stroke of the paddle. I’m reasonably confident Troy was able to resist my charms because he too was covered in cat vomit.

  8. *Of course,* Red Bull is trying to market to 40-somethings who are constantly sleep-deprived in semi-dangerous situations. Hello, target audience!

    P.S. I think you’ve figured out how cattails got named.

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