Best Day Trip - 2006
W.J. Janes Memorial Scenic Drive
Readers' Choice: Lion Country Safari
Getting to Janes Scenic Drive is easy. Just take Alligator Alley west and head south on Highway 20 about 12 miles until you see the sign marking the road. Finding your way out of the heart of the dense swamp it leads to -- unless you go back the way you came -- is not. The 11-mile gravel road takes drivers, cyclists, and hikers through some of the finest wildlife-spotting turf in the state. Fakahatchee Strand, of course, is also home to numerous species of colorful bromeliads and orchids, including the Ghost Orchid of Adaptation fame. The road ends at one corner of the massive maze of Golden Gate -- the grid of streets planned for a huge subdivision never built (this is where the "Wanna buy some land in Florida?" scam was hatched). Enter this labyrinth with less than a full tank of gas and a good sense of direction and you're in big trouble. The intersections are mostly unmarked, the lonely streets indistinguishable, and all but a couple dead-end at alligator-choked canals. The only way out is to find (through trial and error) either Everglades or Desoto boulevards somewhere there in the godforsaken muck and head north. By the time you stumble upon civilization again, you're damned near Immokalee, and you've had a day not soon forgotten. Miamians have Loop Road to find backwoods adventure that flirts with peril. But out in the real Everglades, you just better hope that cell phone works.