Bill Leslie's Carolina Conversations

A Spring Break in Florida

Posted April 9, 2008

Have you ever seen an alligator up close?  If you'd like to engage in some good ole gator gossip today is your chance.  Please share your stories.  For starters you might want to check out my latest slideshow "Gator Gazing."
Last week I vacationed in Florida.  I wanted a fairly quiet and relaxed setting.  I'm writing a book and I figured a change of pace and place would inspire me.  And it worked.
My wife Cindy and I had some airline miles to burn so we picked Fort Lauderdale.  Southwest Airlines got us there 20 minutes ahead of schedule.  I was impressed.  We stayed at a beautiful beachfront location called the Pelican Grand.  It was wonderful.  But after a few lazy days on the beach we were ready for an adventure.
Snorkeling in the Keys was our first choice but windy weather got in the way so we opted for a trip to Shark Valley in Everglades National Park.  We didn't see any sharks but we got our fill of alligators.  Shark Valley includes a 15 mile paved bicycle trail in the sawgrass marsh and the alligators are everywhere.
It is not a good place to teach a child to ride a bike.  Recently a rookie bicycler lost control and crashed in a canal hitting an alligator provoking an attack.  Trouble is, the alligators here have lost fear of humans.  Sometimes they fall asleep on the bicycle trail.  Snakes have also grown accustomed to the presence of humans here.
Bird watchers love Shark Valley.  Great blue herons, egrets, anhingas and many other feathered friends flock here to the fish filled waters of south Florida.
Just be sure to pack the insect repellent.  There's a bumper sticker here featuring a large mosquito and an American Red Cross symbol.  The sticker reads: "I Gave Blood in the Everglades."

View the audio slideshow of our adventure.


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  • fishnett5977 Apr 10, 2008

    Celt, you can find a few sand dollars down in the area of Ocean Isle/Sunset Beaches. First time I EVER found one was there and it has been about a year ago! Never have even seen any on any of the other NC beaches - and I've been to all a lot except the Outer Banks! Was a thrill for me - as I kid I looked for them at Surf City alot! My bestfriend and I went down to Sunset Beach in January - on my birthday - and walked the beach and she found a whole one for me. It's in my curio cabinet now with her name and the date on the back! Agggggh!! I want to go to the beach now!!! :)

  • At Work Apr 9, 2008

    bill orton plantation is horrible they have thousands of gaters.

  • MaplesMom Apr 9, 2008

    Celt- I remember those Sand Dollars when we vacationed in Ft Meyers and on Sannibel Island. We'd bring home buckets filled with Sand Dollars. I agree: TRES COOL!

  • Celt Apr 9, 2008

    Well, this is not EXACTLY a gator story--but it is about a secluded beach on the panhandle called Alligator Point (I used to go to FSU, so the beach was cheap fun!).

    Anyway--one time we were wading out into the gulf at Alligator Point. It was one of those areas where you can wade out 50 yards and still be only up to your chest. As we waded, we noticed how much it felt like paving stones....the floor was solid and smooth. I reached down, grabbed one paving stone, pulled it up--and saw that it was a sand dollar. The entire floor of the gulf at that point was solid sand dollars laid out as smoothly, tight, and flat as a sidewalk. It was tres cool!

  • gabby1 Apr 9, 2008

    My mom and step dad live in Wilmington and have a view of the Cape Fear River. There seems to be an alligator that is living near by. He comes to visit every now and again. I have to say it is a bit scary to be sitting on the screened porch and see him slither by. Fortunately the porch is on the second story!!!

  • MaplesMom Apr 9, 2008

    Bill, you have made me homesick for my native land. I am a native of Palm Beach FL and I am well aquainted with the gators!! My parents land was 5 acers and there was a canal in the back. As kids we were never allowed to go back there, so natuarlly we were there daily. The gaters never scared us and we never got too close. Never forget a lazy afternoon in the summer when a gater came crawling through the back of the property to the house. I've never seen my dad run that fast- he scooped me up to take me in side. I never did fugure out why my folks where so scared of the alligaters. As an adult- I now wonder why they didn't put up a cement wall to keep us away from them! Florida is beautiful. The everglades, the swamps, two of mother natures finer gifts. If you havn't been there- it's hard to comprehend that swamp land is as beautiful as a rainforest. If I knew you where in the area- I'd have sent you to the best restaurant in the state of FL. Up in Lake Worth called John G's.

  • bleslie Apr 9, 2008

    justmy2cents: ha - no more Big Macs for a month!

  • bleslie Apr 9, 2008

    Congrats, jdlewis! Parenthood is challenging but wonderful. All the best!

    The book is called "Blue Ridge Reunion." It features my father's mountain watercolors. I have written a compansion music CD. My dad died while I was in high school and I never had a chance to say goodbye. SoI revisited his favorite landscapes and let the vistas inspire me musically. It has been a wonderful reunion of spirits. Thanks for asking!

  • just my2cents Apr 9, 2008

    When we went to FL last year, we saw 2 gators "fighting," or atleast that's what we told my son! I was scared to death to walk anywhere in the dark after seeing them just lying around.
    Glad you had a good vacation, hope you enjoyed something better than your Big Mac while down there! lol (I knew it was you!)

  • jdlewis76 Apr 9, 2008

    What's the subject of your book, Bill? And, totally unrelated, but I just found out I'm going to be a daddy for the first time! Just thought I'd share with the readers. :)




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Bill Leslie