As some of you may, or may not know, Tony and I have recently moved our “home base” from Florida back to Texas. Among a number of reasons for the move, the main one was for us to be closer to family and friends while we are recouping and working between trips. These relationships are the ones we treasure and miss the most so, although we will definitely miss the outdoor scene in Florida, it was an easy decision to move back.
But before our big move, we wanted to check off a few more places on the east coast while we were in close proximity. The first place on our list? Everglades National Park. Tony and I have both seen our fair share of alligators and manatees before, but we were excited to visit Everglades National Park because it is the largest tropical wilderness in the United States, and one of only 3 locations in the world to be declared an International Biosphere Reserve, World Heritage Site, and a Wetland of International Importance. Sounds like a big deal, right??
*We actually tried making a video this time to help document our trip! PLEASE keep in mind…this is an old camcorder we used for our wedding FOREVER ago and we really have no idea what we are doing. If we decide this is a fun way to share our adventures we may start looking into how to make them better!*
Back to our story:
To get a jump on our weekend trip, we left Friday after work and stayed in our RV overnight at the Miccosukee Resort & Gaming Casino outside of Miami, FL. This is a stop along Tony’s “72 Hours to Key West” bike ride route so we were familiar with the area. You may be wondering at this point, “Wait, did they bring Chewy along? She hasn’t mentioned him yet…” Nope. Dogs are not allowed in a majority of the Everglades park, and it was WAY too hot outside for him to be left in the RV waiting for us. Not to mention the fact that I’m pretty sure he is snack-sized for lots of animals in the Everglades – it’s a “tropical wilderness” remember?! He was living it up at a friend’s house while we sweat our butts off and got eaten alive by Jumanji-sized mosquitos.
Saturday morning we woke up and headed to the Ernest Coe Visitor Center to get our bearings before heading out to hike the Anhinga Trail, Gumbo Limbo Trail, Long Pine Key Trail, Pa-hay-okee Overlook, and the Mahogany Hammock. The Everglades was a lot less swampy than I was anticipating, and was more…grassland-like. We say a ton of Animals including alligators, grasshoppers (BIG ones, everywhere), birds, fish, and turtles. I was never big into birds or bird-watching until moving to Florida. It’s amazing the number of large and ornate bird species that live here.
After a day of hiking we were sweaty, itchy, hot, and hungry. Not a great combination for a married couple. I had done lots of research and planned our day so we would end at the Flamingo campground. We could hook the RV up and run our AC,take a long shower, and nap…it would be bliss! Too bad when we pulled up to the Flamingo campground we realized none of that would be happening. Because it was off-season, no one was manning the entrance booth, so if you use the campground you have to just leave a slip of paper with your information and some cash for them to pick up later. We didn’t have cash on us. We are so bad about carrying cash on us in this digital world! This did not help our attitudes. It took us about an hour to go through all the other options we had: 1) Drive the 1.5 hours out of the Everglades to find an ATM and then drive all the way back to the campground, 2) Find a cheap RV park right outside the Everglades we can stay at for 1 night and at least be able to hook-up, or 3) Go back to the casino and boondock again for free 1 night without AC…
After much deliberation and waffling, we went with Option 3 – boondocking at the Casino. We knew we could get the ventilation and cross-breeze going again once the sun went down and most likely after eating some dinner, our moods would improve. And so they did.
Sunday morning our last stops before heading home were an airboat tour and a visit to the Shark Valley Observation Tower to see one last glimpse of Everglades National Park. There are TONS of airboat tour companies to choose from but we went with Buffalo Tigers Airboat Tours because they had good ratings online and were in line with our values around animals (no gator wrestling or letting people hold babies, just a fun and informational tour from people who appreciate wild animals for what they are – wild). We thoroughly enjoyed the airboat ride and I would recommend it to anyone. Our guide was really knowledgeable about the entire park and its history.
Our last stop was the Shark Valley Visitor Center where we biked a 7-mile loop to reach an Observation Tower overlooking TONS of alligators below. I was able to count at least 30 just in the lake beneath us. It was another hot day out but somehow we made it back to the RV and were oddly happy to make the 4 hour drive back home since we could sit in AC the entire time.
In the end, Tony won the mosquito bite contest (as always) with 25+ bites on his legs and arms. And I won the Chaco foot tan contest. So I’d sum it up as a successful Everglades trip overall! Thanks for reading!