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Corkscrew Swamp: It's definitely not a 'bored' walk

One of the things I love about Florida is that there are also places where you can escape the mall culture and return to the Old Florida, to cypress swamps and wildlife refuges where birds of every color congregate and alligators bask on sunny embankments.

I visited one of these bird-watchers' paradises during a recent jaunt to the Florida West Coast. My friend, Eileen, who retired to Naples, takes all visitors for a hike in the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, a bit of wild Florida off Route 846. Younger visitors tend to get a bit restless on the 2.25-mile trail and want to return to the mall. But Eileen can't get enough of this treasure maintained by the National Audubon Society, and I was happy to return to the subtropical wilderness I loved when I first came to Florida a half-century ago.

Corkscrew is an easy hike. You walk a smooth, dry boardwalk, looking down on marshland and tangled tree roots or up at flocks of birds. The trail is punctuated with interpretive displays that tell you where you are and what you're seeing. According to our field guide, the swamp teemed with wildlife in the '40s and '50s. It isn't teeming now, but the great egrets and blue herons put on a show.

Seniors who are not into long hikes can take a shortcut from the Lettuce Lakes area back to the visitors' center. What's important is not to turn back before you reach the Lettuce Lakes. There we saw our first alligator (or was it a log?) snoozing in the sun.

The field guide cautions visitors to remain quiet on the trail so as not to disturb the wildlife. This is a rule that we found hard to obey. A walk in the swamps is a good way for old friends to catch up on the news from each other's world.

The sanctuary is open daily from 7 a.m. until 5:30 p.m., and is hiked by some 1,000 visitors a day. Admission is $8 (no senior discount).
   

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