For those of you unfamiliar with the Italian in the title, “Va Fa Napoli” is essentially a curse phrase that in the literal sense translates to “Go to Naples!” but in the figurative sense essentially means “Go to Hell! Well on this day both meanings literally applied!
Thursday was our last day in the Fort Myers area so we decided to take a drive to Naples. On our way we stopped at Abe’s Kountry Kitchen for breakfast. Unbeknownst to us, they had a $1.99 special for 2 eggs, home fries or grits, and toast – good deal (especially for this area)! Most people who know us, know that going out to breakfast is one of Rob’s favorite past times (not so much mine but since I don’t have to make it, I’m happy).
Well, things started out okay but then we ran into a hellish traffic jam trying to get out to the barrier beach region, which is probably fairly common since there is only one road to get there. After sitting in traffic for well over 45 minutes and moving maybe a 1/4 mile, we finally said the heck with it, made a U-turn and headed back the way we came. We subsequently encountered several more frustrating traffic and wrong turn situations. (That’s the “Go to Hell” part).
Since we have been to Naples before and were by now totally fed up with the driving situation, we decided instead to head out to the nearby boonies and visit Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary which we had read about and thought sounded interesting. This is a 14000 acre preserve with a 2.25 mile boardwalk through the oldest remaining bald cypress forest in the US.
We finally arrived late morning and easily landed a parking spot. At the Blair Audubon Center, we paid the $10 per person entrance fee and proceeded to the audio/visual room where they had a nice multi-media presentation of what types of trees, animals, etc. reside in the sanctuary. We then proceeded past the tank with the baby alligator and headed outdoors to the beginning of the boardwalk.
Along the boardwalk, there were periodic signs with information about the palm trees, cypress trees, various grasses and animals. One negative comment about the sanctuary was that a few of the signs were so faded, you couldn’t make out the words! It should be noted that no informational guides were included in the admission, these were $3 more (we kind of felt ripped off and didn’t buy one).
Also Rob was a bit perturbed by the boardwalk itself. It was very nice, but he was ranting about how this “green” environmentally oriented group could justify building this extensive boardwalk out of Pau Lope (a.k.a. Ipe a Brazillian Hardwood). OK sure, it was supposedly harvested from sustainable forests, but at over 4 total miles of boardwalk there is roughly 160,000 board feet of lumber just on the deck (not counting railings or support structure). Wouldn’t it have been significantly more “green” to save all those trees and use a longer lasting composite product for the decking made from recycled plastic bottles and lumber remnants (not to mention adding some jobs for US workers)?
Anyway, we started out and after the first few minutes, Rob stopped and said to me “do you see something wrong with me?” I could have come up with a lot of wise guy answers but instead after a few seconds, I just started giggling. See if you can spot it in the picture on the right! Guess he must have had his eyes closed when he got dressed that morning!
Walking along the boardwalk through the swamp and forests was very serene and very relaxing. Luckily it was a relatively cool day in the low 80’s but still a bit sticky – it must be pretty brutal in the warmer, more humid weather.
Along the way we spotted several juvenile hawks, adult hawks (we saw one catch what we suspect was a tree frog), a banded water snake (eek), lots of lizards, commorant-like anhingas, ibis, white snowy egrets, blue herons, turtles, a rather large alligator and several baby alligators. Not to mention the ubiquitous Anole’s (gecko like lizards) and lots of fuzzy caterpillars. Unfortunately a lot of the wildlife we saw was too far away to get any good photos with our non-zooming smartphone camera’s.
The highlight of the walk was probably an area with true old growth (600+ year old) Cypress with circumferences up to 25′. Most of the Cypress (and other valuable timber) in the US was decimated by greedy profiteers at various times in our history, but somehow this area escaped destruction and is probably the largest remaining stand of old growth Cypress in the world.
The Cypress “knees” were also kind of neat – these look like the stumps of defunct trees but are rounded on the top and are actually part of the root structure that helps stabilize and strengthen these majestic trees.
Would we recommend a visit to Corkscrew? Definitely yes if you want to take a nice relaxing 2+ mile walk on a boardwalk through a forest of 600 year old bald cypress and a swamp where you will see a variety of plants, trees, birds and wildlife. I’m sure what you see is dependent on the season and the time of day that you are there.
As for Naples we’ll forgo the hellish traffic this time around and perhaps try again at some future date.