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Introducing Tamiami Trail

Calle Ocho, in Miami’s Little Havana happens to be the eastern end of the Tamiami Trail/US 41, which cuts through the Everglades to the Gulf of Mexico. So go west, young traveler, along US 41, a few dozen miles and several different worlds away from the city where the heat is on. This trip leads you onto the northern edges of the park, past long landscapes of flooded forest, gambling halls, swamp-buggy tours, roadside food shacks and other Old Florida accoutrements.

Past Hialeah, Miami fades like a trail of diminishing Starbucks until…whoosh…it’s all huddled forest, open fields and a big canal off to the side (evidence of US 41’s diversion of the Glades’ all-important sheet flow). The surest sign the city is gone and the Glades have begun is the Confederate flag decals on Pit BBQ, which serves decent if not memorable smoked pork and dishes of that ilk. The empty road runs past the Miccosukee Resort & Convention Center. It’s essentially a casino-hotel complex full of slot machines and folks chunking coins into them – not really an ecological wonderland. Rooms have attractive geometric Native American designs worked into the furniture, but again, there’s no need to stay here unless you’re gambling.

As you head west you’ll see fields and fields of pine forest and billboards advertising swamp tours. Airboat tours are an old-school way of seeing the Everglades (and there is something to be said for getting a tour from a raging Skynyrd fan with killer tatts and better camo), but there are other ways of exploring the park as well.