February 23, 2010
Visit to the land of alligators and palm trees
The southern part of Sunshine State might be the flattest place I’ve ever visited: I didn’t see a single hill. Perhaps that’s why the developed parts seemed so relentlessly ugly. We drove through an endless expanse of parking lots, strip malls, big stores, and apartment complexes that looked like military barracks. Here in the northeast, we have hills and valleys that create pockets of natural areas, and trees to hide concrete and asphalt. In a perfectly flat landscape, eyesores remain eyesores.
In contrast, the national park we visited, filled with sawgrass and alligators and turtles, was more beautiful than I expected. We stopped at every interpretive trail and walked on boardwalk trails through mangroves and boggy areas, all the time listening to bird song and watching alligators. We rented bikes and rode out to a tower that overlooked the rippling fields of sawgrass. I saw birds I’ve never seen before and flowers that were blooming in February.
We drove through a famous chain of islands that, ironically, would have been so much nicer without the highway we were driving on. Some of the smaller islands functioned bridge supports, and the highway didn't leave room for much else. We kept seeing broken bridges, deserted and left standing, replaced by a stronger, bigger bridge, and buildings that had been abandoned after hurricanes. Despite that, the beaches were still lovely, with clear water and silty sand. I wondered why they were so empty, but then I saw a poster on a bulletin board that the water wasn’t safe to swim in because the bacteria levels were too high.
That was the impression I kept getting: Southern State of Alligators and Palm Trees was stunningly beautiful, but damaged and abused, as if somewhere along the line, humans didn’t understand the value of that beauty.
Posted by jo(e)