We wanted to spend some time in the Everglades, so we pulled six miles up the Barron River into the little town of Everglades City, the headquarters for Everglades National Park.

With some trepidation we stayed at the famous Rod and Gun Club.  It has a somewhat mixed reputation among Loopers since it is really set up as a hotel rather than a marina so the services are pretty sparse (e.g., lights in the bathroom didn’t work the first two days).  But the place is such a well-preserved piece of Everglades ancient history and the people are so nice, that all-in-all I think it was a good pick.

The Rod and Gun Club was for decades the personal lodge of Barron Collier (as in Collier County), the hugely wealthy founder of the New York City transit advertising industry and a real estate developer who once owned a million acres of south Florida property.  He thought Everglades City would become the next Miami, and got that one wrong, but the little real estate schemes he called Naples and Marco island did rather well for him.

(Side note:  When you name your child “Barron Gift Collier”, it must be a sign that you’ve got things pretty well mapped out for him.  I have never seen a cop roust a homeless guy and say, “Hey, Barron, let’s get moving.”)

The Rod and Gun Club looks like a movie set for a millionaire’s lodge, but it’s all very real, so it’s fun to eat there (good food, even our alligator appetizer), play pool in the billiard room, and just sit around in the comfortable old lounges and imagine the past glory of the place.  Collier used the lodge as a winter-time draw for politicians, writers such as Ernest Hemingway, movie stars, big game hunters such as Ernest Hemingway, business tycooons, and did I mention,Nobel prize-winner Ernest Hemingway.  They rather like the Hemingway connection here.

The highlight of our stay was an airboat ride into the Everglades.  We saw a lot of wildlife, and boy do those babies move!  Our guide was a third-generation airboat jockey, and really knew his stuff, getting us into some impossibly narrow places and running us OVER the muddy spots to get way into the mangroves.

Last night coming down to the Keys was in the Little Shark River, basically the only useable anchorage for deep-draft boats in an 80-mile stretch.  We heard all kinds of noises coming out from the Glades on a perfectly starlit, warm night, so I was secretly glad that we hadn’t pulled too far up the river.

ISLANDS

Going up the river to Everglades City, you pass hundreds of these Mangrove Islands

The Rod and Gun Club, Everglades City

The Rod and Gun Club, Everglades City

Rod and Gun Club interior features a handsome dead animal motif.

Rod and Gun Club interior features a handsome dead animal motif.

Dining room at the Rod and Gun Club

Dining room at the Rod and Gun Club

R&G billiard room. John and I played (poorly) every night.

R&G billiard room. John and I played (poorly) every night.

John and friend at the airboat place

John and friend at the airboat place

Tourists heading for the Glades

Tourists heading for the Glades

Eight-foot gator about two feet from the boat

Eight-foot gator about two feet from the boat

Family of racoons came down to the boat to see if they could cadge a snack

Family of racoons came down to the boat to see if they could cadge a snack

This guy jumped on oour boat for a free ride back to the dock.

This guy jumped on oour boat for a free ride back to the dock.

Mangrove Forest Primeval

Mangrove Forest Primeval

They run the boat up to about 20 mph on these straight stretches and it feels like 100

They run the boat up to about 20 mph on these straight stretches and it feels like 100

Anchorage, Little Shark River, the Everglades -- you can't get any further from Block Island physically or mentally than this

Anchorage, Little Shark River, the Everglades — you can’t get any further from Block Island physically or mentally than this

Sunset, Little Shark River, the Everglades

Sunset, Little Shark River, the Everglades

Our airboat -- even fully loaded it will go 30 miles per hour in 8 inches of water

Our airboat — even fully loaded it will go 30 miles per hour in 8 inches of water