The Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park is located west of Big Cypress National Preserve. It’s a swampy forest that nearly disappeared in the first half of the twentieth century largely due to massive deforestation. Today it hosts an incredible variety of animal species such as the ever mysterious panther; black bears, and alligators. In addition, there are 44 species of orchids and 14 of endemic bromeliads.
At the end of the road we’ll find the Picayune Strand State Forest Park, another forest located just west of the former. We’ll continue our ride from the end of the Janes Memorial Scenic Drive and head west on Stewart Blvd. This road will appear unpaved for a while, until we return to the asphalt of the ghost city. Just south of I-75 there are a few inhabited farms. About six and a half miles later, after crossing three bridges and countless intersections, we’ll get to Miller Blvd, and we’ll turn left.
Then we’ll ride about three and a half miles south, back to the dirt roads, and the route will be closed to motor vehicles and we’ll travel along the last stretch before leaving the forest on a track just two kilometers long that will lead us to the Tamiami Trail. Here we’ll go west again for a mile and a half, leaving the Collier-Seminole State Park to our left. Its environment is basically a coastal ecosystem where freshwater and saltwater merge among mangrove roots. This landscape will surround us for a few miles when we turn south on the San Marco Road, road that will guide us to Marco Island. It is narrow and has no shoulder, so we must be cautious on our bike. We’ll pass by the Royal Palm Hammock and the Goodland Bridge.
West of the island there’s the Briggs Nature Center. In the southern part, it’s the former site of a place called Caxambas, a name that remains today in a park and several shops. This is one of the oldest enclaves of the Gulf Coast since it dates back to 1771. The name comes from Caxymbas, the Arawak languages, and describes the holes that the Indians made near the coast to search for and store drinking water.
Some of the military forts erected in 1857 during the wars against the natives were Camp Moulder, Malco and Romano, in the nearby homonymous island. Currently Marco Island is a place packed with artificial navigable channels, luxury hotels, marinas, large mansions and condominiums. These resorts include the historic Olde Marco Inn founded in 1896 by William D. "Captain Bill" Collier. During the winter, up to 35,000 people come to this area. Among those who reside in this curious island are singer Shania Twain, astronaut Michael Collins, John Spiker -the bassist of "Tenacious D"- or golfers Gene Sarazen, Pat Bradley and Ken Venturi, among other athletes, musicians and artists in various disciplines.
Returning to our route, once we have reached the Collier Blvd, we will find the beaches obstructed by majestic buildings for recreation. From this point, in order to return, we have to go back all the way in the opposite direction to Copeland to complete this journey.
Read Patrick Dwyer’s “Palm Beach Shores, Apix and the J.W. Corbett Wildlife Management Area”