When I tell people I’m from Everglades City, I usually get the response, “That’s kind of far isn’t it?” or “What do y’all even do for fun down there?” I know it may seem like we’re far away from everyone and everything, but we’re actually a lot closer than you think. Everglades City is only 29 miles away from Marco Island, and about 33 miles from Naples.
In writing it looks and sounds like a long drive that one might rather skip; however, the drive down is beautiful. An endless view of sawgrass floods the windows of your vehicle with bright greens and soft browns. Every so often you’ll see birds of the Everglades wading through the grass, soaring in the baby blue sky, or looking for their next meal in the canal. Alligators line the banks of the canal on hot, sunny days, sometimes you’ll even catch them smiling for a photo. In the distance, there are groups of trees and brush called hammocks where panthers, deer, bobcats, wild hogs, and other animals live.
After a few twists and turns, you’ll reach Carnestown, the four–way stoplight where you turn to go to Everglades City. In less than five minutes you’ll be coming over the bridge and driving through one of Florida’s last frontiers, Everglades City. The city is filled with numerous historical buildings, homes, and landmarks to see. My family owns one of the historical homes that was built in 1925. It sits next to our home and we use it as a seasonal rental throughout the year. Although many hurricanes have tried to take it down, my dad has countlessly refurbished it back to its original state. Interestingly, when my dad first refurbished the house after my parents purchased it, he found the mud line within the walls from Hurricane Donna. Within the walls he found newspapers and other artifacts dating back to the 1920s. I love walking around the house because the floor is original Collier County pine, and I can’t help but wonder who else walked on this floor back when it was first built. There are so many places to visit, things to do, and places to eat here that you’d need a few days to fully cover everything.
When it comes to fun, living here is like knowing adventure and a good time is right around the corner. Sometimes that means getting a group of friends together to go ride in the woods or out on the boat fishing. Other times it means going to visit your family or friends at their place and hangout. I go over to my friend’s house all the time and we’ll sit there on her dock, talking and watching the alligators float by and the fish jump under the mangroves. Here, everyone is like family, you either grew up together, grew up knowing them, or you’re related, and everyone understands the local traditions, because it’s just what we know. At our school, some kids will graduate and become Stone Crabbers and Guide Fishermen, while others go off to college and at the end of the day, our community is equally as proud of the two. I can still remember sitting in science class and around one o’clock in the afternoon I’d look out the window and hear the faint sound of airboats winding through the sawgrass. At night, our town is so quiet that you can hear the soft humming of crab boats at 3 AM rolling down the Barron River, heading out to start their day. Once in a while, my dad and I will go down to our dock on the Barron River to stargaze until the night air gets too chilly. Around 9 PM, everyone is usually in their homes or off the roads so when you drive around it looks like a ghost town.
Since everyone knows everybody, we know exactly who to call or get in contact with for specific things. Everyone in town knows my love for cats and kittens, so when one of mine went missing a few months ago, every day for weeks I would get a call, text, or someone coming by the house to ask if he’d been found and that they’ve been looking for him. Sadly, we never found him. Just the other day, my mom received a text stating that someone had found a kitten behind one of the walls in Island Café and for me to come get it if I wanted it. So of course, I dropped what I was doing and booked it on my golf cart over to the restaurant to get the kitten. When I opened the cardboard box she was in, and saw her for the first time, I instantly fell in love. A tiny, green-eyed, four-week-old kitten sat there staring back at my giddy face. She is a calico, so her fur is multi-colored, and her face has a perfect orange cross right in the middle of it. We decided to name her Twyla, which is a character from one of our favorite TV shows, Schitt’s Creek. The name also reminded me of October and the spooky season that she was born in. Twyla’s already brought so much joy and fun into our lives and we’re so happy to add another cat into the family.
Moral of the story, here in the Everglades a fun time is just around the corner, and you never know what the next moment holds.