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The only way I can see escaping his jaws is to start pedaling as fast as I can. He doesn't care, not in the least, but my pounding heart still does. Technically, the Everglades is not a swamp, but a river flowing southwest from the Kissimmee River and Lake Okeechobee, and humans have choked off that flow.During the dry season, December through March, you can practically walk across the wildlife in the lagoon on the Shark Valley Trail.The park's wildlife seems to be thinning, Thomson says, but it's difficult to know whether the pythons are responsible.For a visitor like me, however, there's no shortage of wildlife and wonder.Then, a behemoth appears on the horizon - a big bull alligator easily 10 feet long and 3 feet across its lolling belly.Quite a sight when you're on a raised boardwalk, or on the tram that winds through this 15-mile loop at the park's Shark Valley area.November through May are the best months to see wildlife, when the park is dry and animals congregate in wet areas.For more information, go to gov/ever or call 305-242-7700.
The 81-degree breeze strokes the saw grass prairie for miles.
Gators aren't the only intimidating reptiles to keep an eye out for.
Burmese pythons are new to the Everglades, brought here by pet owners once they figure out that owning a snake that grows to 20 feet and 250 pounds is a bad idea.
"They're just sunning themselves, and if you don't do anything, they won't react," says Maria Thomson, a 10-year veteran park ranger at Shark Valley.
"Actually, we are more worried about people harassing the wildlife than about wildlife attacking the people." At the observation tower, whose wide spiral ramps conjure 1950s space-age design, I run into Kathleen Smith of Naples, who is leading a dozen or so friends on a bike ride.