Monday, August 15, 2016

Camping at Long Pine Key in the Everglades National Park

camping at long pine key in the Everglades
Camping at Long Pine Key
A couple of years ago, we got the chance to go camping in the Everglades National Park at Long Pine Key.  This was with the Outdoor Group I had joined in the past.

The sad thing is, even though I had been to the Everglades over the years, I had never been to the Everglades National Park; and I have lived here my WHOLE life!  I was really looking forward to this camping trip. 

An important thing to know: There is no water or electric at this campground.  Do not worry.  There are bathrooms.  Rather nice bathrooms, indeed.   There is water to wash dishes, just that there are no showers.  Also, you cannot reserve a campsite ahead of time; it is first come, first served.

Camping in the Everglades

We were lucky enough to be on the same campsite as Cretia and John.  (my co-worker and her husband) and another co-worker who wanted to come with us.  She needed to car pool with Cretia and John, because again, our car was packed with only enough seating room for Nadia and I.

Long Pine Key was about two hours away.  You pass by a correctional facility and a lot of farms before you arrive.  As soon as we entered and passed through the Ranger Station, the park looked beautiful.  Sawgrass as far as the eye can see.  Nadia and I were getting really excited!!

We arrived at our campsite.  Nadia and I jumped out to get our tent set up and right away we started to get attacked by the mosquitos!  They were brutal!  We sprayed ourselves down with insect repellant.  I had also bought all of us on our campsite mosquito net hats as a joke, but we wore them for real. 

We said hello to our Outdoor group leader and got camp all set up. John made Chili again for dinner and Nadia made a hot dog over the campfire.  After we were done eating, Nadia and I went to do the dishes.  This time we had to walk a little ways to do the dishes.  The mosquitos were waiting for us near the water, but we got it done.  Afterwards, we all went over to the group leader’s campsite and sat around the fire.  We made some smores.  It was very nice.  We went to bed around 9:00 p.m.

Cooking Breakfast Outdoors
Cooking Breakfast
Around 5:30 a.m., Nadia and I had to use the restroom, so we quietly walked over to it.  When we got back to our tent, we went and opened the windows to listen to the wildlife while we waited for the others to wake up.  When our other camp mates did wake up, we had breakfast.  This time we had chocolate chip pancakes and bacon.  I made hot cocoa for Nadia and coffee for the rest. Yummy.

Some more people arrived to camp for Saturday night, including Lisa from the Jonathan Dickinson camping experience.  She was on another camp site this time. :(  We really wished she could be with us, cause we all got along so well on the last trip.   There were two other single parents that showed up, which was great, the kids hung out together.

Bike Riding at Long Pine Key in the Everglades National Park
Bike Riding
Today’s agenda was bike riding.  We got ready to go.  There was about nine of us for this trip.  We headed on a trail that ends up at a lake.  I loved it.  I could actually keep up.  I think I do better on a dirt trail, than a road.  To me, a dirt trail is not boring and there were no hills this time.  But I think it had to do with my bike.  I realized I needed to raise up the seat and handle bars.  I think this helped my bike ride a lot. 

We were in the middle of nowhere, just green bushes and trees all around, but in the middle of all this was Thistle, and it had a purple flower on it.  So pretty. 

We were about twenty minutes from the lake, when one of the little boys with us fell off his bike.  He was ok, but a little shaken, we decided we should head back.  We made it back ok and made lunch.  After, the kids played together and the rest of our campsite played cards.  It was getting hot, but we moved into the shade.  After cards, we gathered the kids together and two more campers and went on a hike.  We went on one of the little trails.  It was one of the neatest trails I have seen in Florida.  You walked over roots and limestone and it was really shaded by the trees.  The kids loved it! They called it the coral jungle and were begging to go through again!

We made it back to camp and started cooking dinner.   As soon as the hamburgers and hotdogs were done, it started to rain.  We are talking down pour.  Luckily Cretia and John had set up their 10-person tent.  It had three rooms in it, so it was big enough for us to eat dinner inside.  We then played some more cards. When the rain stopped, I went and did the dishes.  It was around 7:30 p.m.  I looked up into the sky and guess what I saw??? Lightning bugs! I got Nadia and showed her and the kids. Awesome.  It then started to rain again.  I decided it was time for Nadia and I to call it a night.  Create and John headed over to the main campsite, they had a tarp set up to sit under, but I was ready for bed.  I kind of wished they had a shower, but oh well. Our tent leaked a little, just a drop on me here and there.  I could handle that.  Nadia was fast asleep. 

Black vultures on the cars in the everglades
Black Vultures on the Cars
The Next morning we were all meeting at 7:30 a.m. to drive over to the Anhinga Trail.  When we arrived, we saw cars covered with tarps.  Well, we soon found out why.  The Black Vulture likes to eat the rubber off of cars.  There were cars with at least five vultures on them, trying to eat the rubber.   We all grabbed a tarp (they are given complementary by the park service).  But they ran out, so some people took a chance and parked further away.  

Here is what the Park Service recommends:
  • Avoid parking near groups of vultures
  • Park in full sun
  • Use a car cover
  • Cover exposed rubber with a wet sheet or towel
  • Use loud noises to spook vultures off vehicles
  • Notify a ranger
An Alligator Swimming at the Anhinga Trail
An Alligator Swimming at the Anhinga Trail
The Anhinga Trail is a boardwalk that wraps around the trail.  It was just awesome, the wild life you saw.  Tons of birds, including the Anhinga, for which the trail is named.  Also, we saw more gators than I could count (We went in February).  Nadia and the other children enjoyed themselves.  Nadia was taking pictures left and right. The only bad thing was that they had a gift store.  Nadia caused a scene with the "I want I want I want!"  All she got was a patch to put on her junior ranger vest and we got a CD of the Everglades sounds with music.  Along with a talking to from me. 

Water birds in the Everglades wildlife

When we went back to the parking lot, poor Lisa, had a mishap with one of the vultures and it chewed a hole in one of the rubber parts of her car.  Luckily she was able to fix it. We headed back to camp.  It was time to pack up and start to head home.  The weekend flew by and we had so much fun.  John and I had a tough time with my bikes again, but we managed to get them hooked on. 

On the way home I told John, Cretia, Nadia and my other co-worker, that I would treat them all to a Robert is Here Smoothie.  Robert is Here is a fruit stand, with fresh made to order fruit smoothies, but also has a petting zoo.  They have been around for 50 years.  I got a cherry key lime smoothie.  It was really good.  They have a lot of different flavors to pick from.  I picked up some tomatoes for my Dad while we were there. We said our goodbyes and headed home.  Nadia and I arrived home safe and sound.

Thank the Lord, that the bikes were still attached to the car.  Now to unload that car….

You can find out more about camping at Long Pine Key at the Everglades National Park Website.