Photos by Erika Barker
Two days have passed so far and I find myself more in love with this beautiful diverse ecosystem than ever before. I have never seen skies so blue or a sun so bright in my life. Our first day was spent getting to know everyone and this group I think is the most diverse, we have everything from environmental majors to English and business majors all coming together to learn and conserve this amazing environment. So far we have cleaned up and taken down a fence around Eco Pond just near our campsite at the southernmost tip of the park. The fence was removed to allow better site for the birdwatchers that ﬂock to this pond to see all birds from the spoonbill to the snow egret.
Our next day was spent in Long Pine Key campsite working with local volunteers to clean up campsites. This is a frequently used site and we were able to clean up 48 of the 108 plots there. That was some major teamwork and the volunteer park rangers were so cool to get to know, plus we had some amazing brownies made for us by Dell, a local volunteer. I love that people get to do this for a living! People from all walks of life gathered here to help restore this park to its greater glory, so it can be seen as it was meant to be seen.
Never having really camped before, I am also learning how to leave less of an impact on the environment. Leave No Trace (or LNT as the SCAers call it) is a principle that teaches us how to come to a place such as the Everglades and leave it as we found it, making a minimal impact. It includes such things as “pack it in pack it out” which means to keep trash with you and throw it away once you leave the park. Also it covers protecting the wildlife and respecting the animals as well as other campers and visitors to the park. It may seem like common sense but these little things can make a big impact on how you leave the environment you are visiting. The best thing is they are simple easy things to remember so anyone can do it, even the most amateur campers like me. I’m excited to see what the rest of the week brings! If these last few days have been any indication it should be filled with learning and fun for all of us.
(Oh and by the way I’ve seen 3 alligators so far since I’ve been here, I’m hoping there’s more to come!)