Watch Out for Them Gators
Hey there hi there ho there, Off-the-Beaten-Path fans! It's been a spell, but I'm back. Usually I cover remote or little known places in the surrounding Milwaukee areas where you can escape to for a quick getaway. But since this blog is entitled, Off-the-Beaten-Path, and I do enjoy traveling, occasionally I will expand my sojourn journal to encompass places that still fit the bill – just not so locally. This winter break, I was fortunate enough to get lost for a long weekend in Bonita Springs, Florida to visit family. AJ Page and I had a wonderful adventure renting bikes one day and riding through the Everglades National Park. When I say adventure, I kid you not. We had to sign waivers and watch for the telltale curled leathery tails along paved paths, leading to the nearby swamp areas. I am not exaggerating when I say we took note of some 50 alligators. (I know this because a fellow trail-mate noted this count back in the "I spotted" log at the visitor center upon our return.) Besides our many large reptilian friends, there were abundant flora and exotic flocks of every crane-like bird you could imagine, as well as turtles and butterflies. We really felt the last half of that 15-mile loop on the way back – mainly on our butts, since the rental bikes didn't really have fancy seat cushions. This was alleviated by standing and coasting every five minutes or so. All in all, it was a trip to remember, and great gratitude for having accomplished it without getting eaten.
Another unusual and intriguing park closer to where we were staying was the Koreshan State Historic Site. This park was named after the movement created by its founder, Dr. Cyrus R. Teed (apparently no relation to the cult leader, David Koresh). This fellow founded an alternative utopian spiritual society. One of their key beliefs was that the earth is a sphere, and those who are enlightened live in a core in its center. The remnants of his village include 12 buildings, Victorian gardens, and mounds. There was a main house, cottages, a general store, an art hall, a cafe and their own printing press. These artifacts of time were kept up well, and the volunteer guides were most friendly and informative. The Koreshan Unity Settlement was a fascinating ghost town walk back in time. Speaking of ghosts, it looked like they were scheduled to have a special event candlelight walk, with actors playing the former residents.
There was also a pleasant 2-mile hiking trail lined with gently creaking bamboo trees, a Sunday farmer's market with local vendors, yoga early in the morning, a free acoustic guitar concert in the old art hall, and canoes you could rent to float down the adjoining Esterno River. The entire setup was very impressive and we both appreciated how the locals had made such good use of their still protected natural resources.
The idea of safe haven communities outside of the mainstream societies has always intrigued me, and this one was about as off-the-beaten path as you can get. For more info, please visit www.floridastateparks.org and http://Koreshan.mweb.org.