The problems plaguing the Everglades are varied and plenty, and often we find ourselves hard at work behind our computer screens as we fight for the places we love. So when a couple of our staffers had a chance to spend a day on assignment in Everglades National Park, we were enchanted and inspired.

A midday walk on the Anhinga Trail, accessed from the Ernest Coe Visitor Center in Homestead, brought us face-to-face (from a safe distance) with a mama alligator and her recently hatched brood. The tell-tale yellow stripes of the hatchlings provide temporary camouflage for blending in among the marsh grasses. From a perch above, the sharp eyes of a merlin hawk observed the day’s events quietly — one of many sentinels of the Everglades sky.

Later in the day, Florida slash pines mirrored against the still surface waters of Pine Glades Lake inspired a moment of reflection as we listened to the wind brushing between the branches. The moment became all the more serene as the sun dipped below the horizon, treating us to a spectacular sunset like only the Everglades can provide. Close your eyes and it’s easy to imagine you’re the last person on Earth out there — just you and the mosquitos, that is, which picked up in ferocity as the day progressed into the evening.

In the final moments of daylight we went on a search for the famous Z tree — a bucket-list moment for many Everglades enthusiasts. Then we wound our way slowly down the road (dodging a variety of snakes crossing!) to our final destination for the evening. Braving inky blackness and the sudden appearance of many eight-legged friends, we watched the Milky Way emerge, stretching across the sky in all its glory, as visible from the mangrove-covered West Lake Trail.

In a word, the day was magic. Everglades National Park is fast approaching its 75th birthday, on December 6. Next time you have the chance to experience moments like these that reinvigorate the soul and remind you why this place is so important, don’t think twice. Take it from us — it’s worth every mosquito bite.

All images by Multimedia Producer, Leah Voss