Day 1:  Excited and ready to begin their Travel Study adventure in the Everglades,  Phoenix kids rose early this morning, filled with anticipation.

“I imagine flying over rivers and trees of the Everglades. I’m feeling tranquil. I wish I were down there already, witnessing the landscape full of life.” Fiona

“Thriving mangroves surround me as I canoe down the River of Grass. Wading birds fly above me and alligators lurk just below the surface waiting for an unsuspecting bird to fly into their jaws. Alligators are one of my favorite parts of the Everglades, stalking their prey with undying patience.” Liam

“My dream is to learn about most of the animals of the Everglades and to learn about as many animals as I can. I want to meet park rangers because they meet, love, and learn about animals of the Everglades.” Eziah

“I look into great aeolian eyes that seem to burn holes into mine, then, vanish under cool bracken and bromeliads.” Karina D

“I am excited for the bike ride because I just started riding my bike and I got the hang of it.”  Aiden

“Something that caught my eye on the list was canoeing.  At first, I thought NO WAY, but then I realized it might be cool.”  Karina P-Z

“I honestly have not been too excited to go on the trip. I will really miss my dog, no matter how annoying she is.  I guess it could be interesting seeing all the alligators. Even though I would feel uncomfortable around an alligator, at least I would get to study the creature up close.  Who knows? All I know is this could be fun.” Max

“I imagine venturing through the endless sawgrass prairies, the sharp edges biting at my legs.” Arlo

“As I skim through my Everglades itinerary for the very first time, my eyes catch an item far down the list: a 15-mile bike ride.  I am suddenly transported onto my bike, riding through the breathtaking sights of the Everglades.” Alice

“The Everglades is teeming with reptiles.  I’ll keep myself on high alert until I see one with my own eyes.  My sight won’t be limited to reptiles, but I will spot all animals who call the Everglades home.” Charlie

After a full day of plane and van, we enjoy the local cuisine at an open-air Mexican restaurant before heading into the park and venturing out onto the Anhinga Trail.  In the darkness, Taylor Slough embraces us, talking to us as we walk solo along the boardwalk above the water. We hear plops, whistles, chirps, grunts, squawks, splashes, and loudest, the whine and buzzing of hungry mosquitoes welcoming us, their surprise human feast, to the party.

Some of us are excited for our solitary adventure into the darkness, some of us hold back, dreading being alone above the slough.  We see distinct shapes, but no colors. In the end, we find each other, Leslie, and Kyle at the overlook, proud, and relieved to be together again. Before leaving the slough, we scan trees and water with Kyle’s bright light to discover the real inhabitants of the glades; fish gliding silently under lily pads, alligators with shining eyes, and a lonely spider resting on its web that spans from tree to tree.  The ride back to the hostel finds us quiet and ready for bed at the end of our long first day of Phoenix Travel Study.

Leslie, Barbara, & Kyle