Best Of :: Sports & Recreation
It's easy to look out on that sea of green west of the Sawgrass Expressway and call it Everglades. But if you want true Glades swamp, if you want strands of cypress that slap the heat out of the Florida sun, you've got to go north. You'll find one of Florida's most pristine cypress strands at Jupiter's Riverbend Park, where you can canoe, bike, and hike in backwoods Everglades. The 680-acre Riverbend is just 2 years old, but for years, the piece of undeveloped land has served as the starting point for canoe trips down the Loxahatchee. The all-day trip takes you over two dams that become waterfalls when the river's high. Along the way is the old Trapper Nelson homestead, which provides one hell of a picnic spot. And with the creation of the park, there's now more to do in Riverbend than just canoe. The county added 15 miles of hiking and biking trails that take you through that same cypress canopy that covers the river. It's like natural air conditioning, and it's one of the state's most pristine examples of old, swampy, cypress-covered Florida, the way it should be.
It's not flashy; it's just the Florida dream. There aren't any massive, marble-laden, mammon-memorializing monoliths jutting into the sky nearby. It's a working-class beach with a picturesque old pier, a food shack (the Dania Beach Bar & Grill), and a nice strip of sand that stretches far enough that, if you so desire, you can always find an isolated spot near the sea grass for you and yours. That's really all you need, but if you want to catch some shade, get under the chickee huts at Frank Adler Park, where the kids can hit the playground. Up north a piece is John U. Lloyd Beach State Park, where the barbecue grilling is fierce under the slash pines. And if that's low-rent, we're happy for the squalor.
Miami Dolphins fans haven't had much to cheer about since Don Shula decided to hang up the clipboard. The list of coaches to patrol the sidelines since then looks like this, in descending date and professional football coaching ability: Jimmy Johnson, Dave Wannstedt, Jim Bates, Nick Saban, and Cam Cameron. When Bill Parcells was brought in to turn the franchise around, one of the first things he did was hire Tony Sparano from the Dallas Cowboys to whip this team into shape. Sparano did way more than that in his first season, guiding the Dolphins to a ten-win improvement, a division title, and a playoff berth. Sparano changed the face of the entire NFL when he introduced the "Wildcat" offensive package. A few weeks later, almost every team in the league had its own option package, and every defensive coordinator had a whole new problem on his hands when dealing with the Dolphins. The upcoming season is sure to be brutal for the Dolphins, but after last year, there's no reason to believe Sparano can't lead the team into a new era of respectability and realistic championship hopes.
It is a strange land that holds a castle of theories. For this castle is said to be carved from 1,100 tons of oolitic limestone and built by one man. This man weighed only 100 pounds. He stood barely over five feet tall. He used no large machinery. But this castle has walls more than eight feet high and a tower of more than two stories. This castle is furnished — with beds, chairs, tables, and fountains — all made from coral. And in considering the many theories of how this man came to build this coral castle — as you move beyond the castle's walls and gates — you will find that its diminutive builder, Edward Leedskalnin, was a secretive man. Through the coral castle's audio tour, you will hear his queer tale. Ed started building his castle for his 16-year-old fiancée, even though she left him along the way. They never wed, and he would spend nearly 30 years building the castle as a monument to her. You will learn that it will never be revealed how this place came to be, but you will agree with the icon signed by Ed, a Latvian native, at the entrance. It reads: "You will be seeing unusual accomplishment."
Dogs are an ease to please. A couple of acres of rolling green space on which to gambol. Freedom to relieve one's self on one's own schedule. That, and the chance to practice the species' appallingly crude greeting ritual: bum sniffing. The Barkham at Markham Dog Park sports more room and better-kept grounds than the area's other dog parks, where an hour of fun usually requires a bath at home. For when us bipeds need a trot, there's a fitness track in both the park's big dog and little dog sections. A pavilion makes this one of the few parks where you can have a picnic and unleash your dog. Plus, with the Everglades bordering the park to the west, this is real country air. It's a glorious way to spend a spring Sunday afternoon, and the exertion is liable to make that mutt a little less obnoxiously peppy through the evening.
Here is a football star for the YouTube Generation — and not just because Joey Porter's 17.5 sacks made for a slick highlight reel. The Dolphins linebacker, who answers to "Peezy," gives football's most colorful interview. After Giants wide receiver Plaxico Burress accidentally shot himself in a nightclub, Porter went on ESPN not only to defend Burress but to defend guns. After he made the Pro Bowl, Porter appeared on Fox Sports to say he couldn't wait to get in the face of a teammate, Denver's Brandon Marshall, who had called Porter "soft." When Porter was in town to play the Dolphins, he stopped by his alma mater, Colorado State, and couldn't resist running into the end zone to give a player a leaping chest bump, even though it would cost his old team a 15-yard penalty. If you're a Fins fan, you live with those antics because Porter's aggressive style electrified the Dolphins defense. Besides, no matter how seriously some of us take football, it is entertainment. And even Porter's fiercest critics must admit: The guy's fun to watch.