After staying on the west coast of Florida for over a month, we were happy to finally find a place in the Everglades that allowed RVs. Long Pine Keys campground is the first campground in the Everglades one of only 2 that accept RV’s. The other campsites are only accessible by canoe, which makes them even more awesome, but sadly out of our reach. As you can imagine, Long Pine Key is a forest of really tall pine trees, mostly bald, which become excellent bird perches when dead and have provided me with plenty of awesome bird photos ( vultures, hawks and crows being my favorites).
There is no electricity or water here, but with Ross’s electric setup, and new improvements, there is hardly a difference. We use a gallon of gasoline a day for the generator which, most of the time, we can barely hear, even though it’s directly below our seats while we work. Water we have to collect daily in a 6 gallon tank, of which we use about one a day, and getting rid of the water, we do every other day with our tote tank, which we tow with the truck to a dump station. We use the public bathroom that is about 30 yards away most of the time, showers are the only water usage issue we have but its worth dealing with to stay here.
Besides TV, which we never have any good channels of anyway, we don’t miss out on anything. We have internet, can watch movies, use our laptops, use all the lights and of course the fridge and stove are propane. I could do this forever and not mind it really. During the day it can get pretty hot still of course, and theres not enough power for AC. It usually in the mid 80s so we have the windows open all day and a fan in the door, but about 3pm it becomes too warm inside and we all move our work to the tent outside (the size of a bedroom with a 6 foot roof).
We have basically been alone in the park since we got here last Sunday morning with just a few tents showing up here and there. This weekend though we were a bit bombarded with huge families who talked and yelled half the night and/or blasted their stereos, counter productive to camping I thought but in general, whatever, didn’t keep me awake.
We finally got to take a look around the everglades this weekend, and Friday night had been cold and the day started out really cool, so we felt we could leave the animals for a few hours with a fan in the window. Our goal being Flamingo, the farthest south point in the Everglades and I think mainland Florida, and on the way we stopped at every turnoff we could find. Most of them were also occupied by tourists and people from nearby in blue mustangs (and other soft top mustangs), we went on a couple 1/2 mile hikes, one really amazing one through a Mahogany Hammock (a Hammock is a small forest in the swamp basically). The landscape in the Hammock changed so completely it was like going from desert to jungle in 5 steps. There were vines and old growth, strangler figs, woodpeckers, giant mahoganies, termites, ferns and everything you would expect to see in some kind of a rain forest. Outside of the Hammocks were miles of grassland looking marshes, most of which were actually part of a huge 8 mile wide, super shallow, river, scattered in some areas of the park were bald cypress and other parts, palm trees, or like the area we are in, long pines. Randomly throughout, there are deeper rivers, lakes and ponds filled with alligators. In the most southern areas, you might even find American Crocodiles and – if your in the water, dolphins and manatees. The whole Everglades is just a phenomenal example of varying ecosystems in one area.
There were canoe rentals at a couple points but without knowing before hand, we weren’t really prepared (maybe next weekend), as both of our canoe trips have been about 4 hours each. When we finally made it to Flamingo, we saw the campsites there, fairly open and busy but still pretty cool. The visitor center was abandoned though not in too terrible shape, having closed after Katrina damage. By the time we got there we were starving, half expecting a restaurant or store but finding a small marina shop, with a pretty terrible selection of snacks and sandwiches for fishermen. We bought enough to get us home, walked around a bit and headed back to camp.
We stopped off at the end of a dirt road we saw on the way, partially flooded and gladly tourist free. It lead to a small pond that kept a couple alligators, one at least 8 feet, and as we later found out, a Water Moccasin, which as the time we did not know the identity of.. and poked with a stick because we thought it was dead. It was just shedding and busy, and probably cold, so we got lucky he was feeling nice that day.
We weren’t sure about staying here without electricity at first since a week would be our longest since last year at Slab City, but since it’s so incredibly easy and only improving, we’re staying another week. We would like to stay at Flamingo but not sure about internet, so we may just head there next Friday night and stay through Sunday night, heading to Shark Valley after that!
Bald Cypress, Everglades
Fern in the Mahogany Hammock
Post Hurricane Scrub Land
Birds at Flamingo
Water birds at our secret dirt road