Back in the Everglades Again

Out where a friend is a friend
Where the big mosquitoes feed
And the lowly hikers bleed
Back in the Everglades again.

Here we are, for the third time, because this place is worth it.

We spent Thanksgiving at the large campsites of Big Cypress, as a quick stop between reservations in Tampa and Naples. Then we had those glorious sunrises down at the tip at Flamingo on our way to the Keys. Now we’re at the eastern edge of the Everglades, close to Homestead, Florida, which is a good thing because we’re on our last roll of RV toilet paper, and Homestead has a Walmart. No joke: this is the big goal of today.

Long Pine Key Campground

This campground is managed by the same private company that manages the one in Flamingo, even though the Everglades is a national park. Tracy thinks this was Reagan’s bright idea. Note the sarcasm, since the state park campgrounds we’ve been to are much better kept up. Whatever, we are here and enjoying it.

We’ve traded:

  • sand for dirt (under our feet as well an on our bodies),
  • sunscreen for bug spray (well, bug spray on top of sunscreen),
  • kayaks for hiking, and
  • ray patrol for alligator patrol.

Banjo for one is very glad to have a larger campsite where she can spread out and have some good ol’ dirt to lie in.

Gumbo Limbo Trail

This first morning here, we thought we’d beat the crowds to a nearby trail, and we plumb forgot the major VULTURE WARNING we’d read about. I’m not kidding. Vultures hang around the parking lots at trail heads and perch on top of cars, picking at any exposed rubber, especially windshield wiper blades.

When we pulled in to this trail head lot, there was a flock of them on top of a rental red convertible, trying to pick their way through the roof. No kidding. That car, like most in the lot, had a tarp on it, but I guess convertibles are so irresistible to vultures that they loosened the tarp.

We grabbed two tarps plus bungee cords from the bin at the ranger station and did our best for the kayaks. (Spoiler: after our hike, the kayaks and truck wiper blades had been unmolested.)

Gumbo Limbo is a tree we’ve seen down here before; it’s also known as the tourist tree because the deep red bark peels.

This tree hammock is lush with an undergrowth of ferns and plenty of strangler figs.

Anhinga Trail

Gumbo Limbo i’s surrounded by a slough (pronounced “slew”) that’s a freshwater river/basin where a variety of wildlife congregate.

I didn’t get good images, but we saw tons of freshwater, bright, big fish swimming right below the boardwalk that took us over the slough, plus lots of water birds, including the purple gallinule, which I’d thought Tracy was making up until I spotted it myself. Gorgeous.

We saw this cute guy all by himself. I wonder where his siblings are?

The Everglades at Night

It’s nice to be back in the dark and the quiet. The night we arrived, the stars were bright (we caught glimpses as we ran from the screened tent to the trailer and back; we didn’t risk sitting outside the tent because of the mosquitoes).

It’s also alarmingly quiet here after Sunshine Key RV Park, where people turned on their outside TVs to Fox News and kept them on all evening. No joke. In the Everglades at night we can hear our neighbors zip their tent, and that’s about it.

A Note about Generators

This is our first time entirely off the grid with our new solar install, so that’ll be fun for Tracy to track the data regarding how much energy we’re using and how much we’re generating.

The bummer is that right when we arrived, the trailer was 90-something degrees inside from the drive up the Keys, so we had to crank up the generator to run the AC long enough bring the trailer temp down. We opened the windows once the sun set and the air outside got cool, but until then the AC had to work hard, and that’s where the solar isn’t strong enough.

I mean, we could have run the AC off the solar-powered lithium batteries for a couple of hours, but then the batteries would have been drained and we couldn’t charge them until the sun rose the next morning.

Not that that would have been a catastrophe, but by chance, the fridge had been running inefficiently due to getting frozen up in the Keys (we had to crank it during the day because the sun shone on that side of the trailer) and ice formed in spots, making it have to work all that much harder.

So right when we got here in the Everglades, we did our usual chore of defrosting the fridge by shoving most everything in our cooler, then leaving the fridge door open with a fan blowing in it, and I’d stand there during the dramatic moments when huge chucks of ice would fall from the back blades and I’d catch them. Fun stuff!

My point though is that once we got the food back in, the temperature of the fridge wasn’t cooling down (the trailer was still hot), so we panicked briefly that we’d overheated every dang thing we own. Another reason for the generator.

And oh how I hate the generator. I try for the first few minutes to tolerate it; it’s an evil necessity even with the solar. But soon I just can’t take it. I get so cranky I keep asking Tracy, How long? How long? and the I sit in the back of the trailer with earphones on.

But, that’s done. The trailer is now back to the temperature of the air around us here, and the fridge is cooling as it should. We have one more day of high temps, and then they drop to the 70s, so maybe no more generator?

I’d rather listen to our neighbors zip their tents all night. That’s fine with me.

And just for nostalgia’s sake, here’s the last picture I took on the Keys.

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