Serenity with a dose of danger defines this enchanting trail. Bird Rookery and Swamp trail is one of the most beautiful and peaceful trails we’ve hiked in Florida.
On the road at seven a.m. headed north on I-75 to Naples, exit 80 to our destination, the Bird Rookery and Swamp. We arrive at a small parking lot equipped with two porta potties. A gravel road bordered by swamp leads to the beginning of this 12 mile trail.
The trail begins with a boardwalk; 1,800 feet of easy walking that allows you to freely and easily observe some of the most beautiful scenery in south Florida.
As we begin to walk the serenity of this place embraces you, instantly enveloping you in its peaceful environment. I’m immediately entranced by the songs of the birds that surround us and, for a moment, except for the man-made walk we stand on, I am transported to another time. All thoughts of the daily hustle and bustle lift away. This is where I am meant to be at this very moment, and I stop to take it all in.
The boardwalk ends and the trail begins. A grassy, sandy trail with swamp on either side. The lushness of the cypress trees, palm trees, flora and fauna is a nature lover’s dream. This land is truly beautiful. Busy taking one picture after another to capture the beauty that surrounds me, I hear my husband talking to someone further down the road. A man is taking his own pictures with a much better camera than my iPhone, but his focus isn’t on the flora. A very large alligator rests comfortably on the side of the road, probably observing the strange humans staring at it. This is our first encounter with the Florida alligator, we would cross many more in the course of our hike.
We briskly pass the roadside gator and continue on our hike. I have to say, it was a bit scary to be that close to this potentially dangerous creature. This encounter intensified our excitement. What other adventures awaited us on this trail! We would soon find out.
One of the things I enjoy most on our hikes is having long, uninterrupted conversations with my husband. Conversations of family, work, future, next adventure; conversations that feel carefree, no doubt because we are temporarily devoid of stress; conversations that are sometimes interrupted by a new discovery on the trail.
Having passed a few hikers and bicyclists in the beginning of our hike, we were alone for the majority of the time. Well aware that we were visitors in this lovely place, we were careful and vigilant of our hosts. As we continued on the path about 2 miles in we came across a lake. Could this hike get any better?!
Onward and further into the hike the terrain is primitive, and we are lucky to witness this natural habitat of so many creatures, including the Florida panther and black bear. But the alligator reigns here, and we are acutely aware that this is their home, as we listen to a chorus while strolling through the gator den.
Determined to complete the 12 miles we continue to enjoy our eventful trek. Almost 5 miles in we spot something blocking the path in the distance. As we get closer we see that our roadblock is not one we can easily bypass. We decide to play it safe and alter our course.
This gator is a little too menacing, too big, and too close for comfort. He reminded us that this was his domain, and he wasn’t about to move out of our way. We headed back hiking 9 miles instead of the 12 we set out to do. I was a little disappointed, but in the end, we were happy to have experienced the Bird Rookery and Swamp Trail.