Amazingly, the temp was 50 when we got up! Hitching up went quicker than usual! We drove north through a lot of agricultural area, including some sugar cane that was being harvested. And there are some orchards and truck farms, but we didn't take the time to stop, and a lot were closed since it's Sunday.
We're staying at a place called Ortona South, an Army Corps of Engineers (COE) property on the Caloosahatchee Canal. There's a lock and dam here, so we have seen a few boats passing through. The canal starts on the SW corner of Lake Okechobee and runs over to Fort Meyers and into the gulf. The canal system was built by the COE and is maintained by them, along with a campground here and there. We are near the town of LaBelle. After walking around the park, we found out we could get on wifi, and that was good to catch up on a few things. Like catching up on this blog after 6 days away, which really puts me behind. But Bob keeps some brief notes every day, and I use those and the pictures to remember what to write! And it's good to reflect back on what has been happening. We can also catch up on news from all over, which is bittersweet.
I've been trying out a new-to-me textile art. I'm block printing small designs onto fabric. I carve my own stamps, which are quite rudimentary at this stage! Then I ink the stamp and put it on the fabric. Just trying out something different to see what I can do with it and whether it's even something I like! Sometimes, I get an idea of using other designs and I might like it or might not. That's what my grandson Jack says! Ask him if it's going to snow today and he will say "Might, might not". A true weatherman!
I think this stamping needs more testing before I can say "might not".
Today both of us took a bike ride in the morning, hoping to miss the hottest part of the day. We went to Snake Bight (yes, that's how it's spelled) and back. At the end of the trail there is an observation area where the fresh water meets the salt water. It's a muddy, mucky section without much growing there.
Today brought another hike through the area of the campground that we call The Ghost Campground. It's actually the B and C loops that used to be tent sites but now are abandoned. I asked a park staff person about it and they surmised that it's because the demand for tent camping has declined, so they no longer maintain that area. It's a nice quiet area to walk through. It's also a trail head to the Florida Coastal Trail (I might have the name wrong). It's also a low maintenance area because of some plant that is supposed to be threatened so that's under study. The trail was a bit overgrown in places, but we could still make it through. We stopped after about a mile, since we really hadn't planned for a long hike, and I was a little spooked by the idea of some bobcat or something jumping out at me! My imagination is active!
Today's big event was a 4+ mile hike on trails and roads in the park. It was hot and sunny, and walking on blacktop part of the way seemed to raise the temperature to 90! It takes me awhile to cool down from that! Sitting outside in the shade with the breeze feels pretty good now.
We wanted to get back in touch with some family members, and since the wi-fi is limited to a weak signal from the little temporary visitor's center, we took a drive towards Homestead to find enough signal to make some phone calls. After that, we went back to the trailer, cleaned up (which felt oh so good!) and enjoyed the evening outdoors as it cooled down.
Not a lot to report on today. Bob did go on a longish bike ride to Spider Bight, which I learned is another word for a bay, I think.
So I'm going to share some of my pictures of things around here. I'll put names of things that I know in a caption that you can see if you hover or click on a picture.
We have learned all about mahogany on this trip. I saw so many little pieces of a wood-like material on the ground. It's hard, brown, shaped like an oval with a point on each end. I could not figure out where they were coming from! Finally, it all came together for me today.
The first picture shows the seed pod growing on the tree. #2 is a seed pod that has fallen on the ground and cracked or popped open. Finally, you can see the inside of the pod is layer upon layer of fragile little seeds that are light enough to be blown around. The pieces of husk just stay there and turn darker brown. The seeds remind me of a dandelion pod when it's popped open and the seeds float off.
The birds around here are hard at work cleaning up stuff the humans leave behind. Nothing dead or rotten or smelly is safe from the turkey vultures!
It turned out to be a bit uncomfortable for sleeping last night with the humid, warm air. We didn't have the air conditioner running because it had cooled down somewhat in the evening and I thought it would continue to do that during the night. That's what normally happens, right? But no, this time it really didn't cool off. So a lesson was learned, and tonight we will have A/C!
This is really a different place than we have visited before, starting off with that weather pattern and on to so much more. It's in the mid to upper 80's during the day, and always some wind, usually from the water. We did more walking, we are separated from the Florida Bay and Gulf of Mexico by just a bit of land and vegetation. Looking out across the water there are many small islands scattered around.
This "town" of Flamingo isn't really a bona fide town, it's more of a glorified National Park station. There did exist a fishing village named Flamingo sometime in the past, but that has disappeared. There was a large pink building built in the 1950's as the park visitor center, but it was badly damaged by more than 1 hurricane and is finally being restored and becoming more hurricane resistant.
It will become the center of activity for offices, education, dining and whatever else is needed. There is another nearby project under construction to offer a vacation spot for visitors that don't camp. It's an elevated complex made from shipping containers. I think all the building is supposed to be done this year, but we all know that building timelines have changed, so don't take my word for it! The current visitor center is in a tiny temporary building and the only food available for purchase is from a food truck by the marina. The marina also has the usual travel souvenirs, snacks and beverages.
So there is a little bit of developed area at this southwest side of the park, and not anything else aside from some visitor centers on the 1 road that transverses the park and the interstate on the north side. There is a huge amount of space that is really cut off from everything except for the creatures living there. There are some trails on the road into Flamingo that go a short distance into the wildness, but otherwise, it's not the type of place that you would just go wandering around.
We did go on a tour boat excursion this afternoon which was a fun experience. Our captain taught us a lot about the coastal area, the birds, the plants, the wildlife, the mix of salt and fresh water. The fresh water from Lake Okechobee feeds the Everglades via rivers and canals. The saltwater of the Gulf of Mexico gets mixed with that at the coast.
Last night while we were still in Key West, we walked further west along Duval St. After the sun goes down, this area gets much more lively! A lot more fun stores to window shop, more people gathering on outdoor patios for great food and beverages, live music in the air and always lush, fragrant flowers and foliage. It was a fun chance to see another side of the island!
We had thought we would go back to Key West this morning, but decided to forego the traffic and parking and just stay close to home. We did have to change campsites within the park this morning, so we could extend our stay by 1 more night. That was quick and easy, which left us time to enjoy the great pool and patio here. And Bob was able to go gas up the truck without the trailer hitched up, which is so much easier. Pulling into a gas station while towing a trailer is kind of like rolling the dice. Sometimes it comes up Yahtzee and sometimes it's Chance! The turns can be next to impossible to make without clipping a sign or post, the pumps can be set in such a way that it makes the exit difficult and if it's busy, you are stuck in the middle of a lot of cars and drivers just wanting you to get out of the way! And don't get me started on the customers who gas up, leave their car at the pump, go inside to get groceries and finally return to clear the way. Who does that!!? By the way, the regular gas was $4.39.
Sunset over the RV park on our last night in the Florida Keys...
This morning it was pack up, clean up and hitch up! We drove east and north on Highway 1 through little islands and beautiful aqua water. We stopped for groceries at Publix, which seems to have become our favorite grocery place. Plus Aldi, for chocolate! After some lunch in the trailer, we moved onward to Homestead, then turned west for the road to the Everglades.
We had reserved a site in the Flamingo Campground which is way at the end of the road. Not a lot of traffic out here, only visitors to the park and guests, a few hikers and cyclists and kayaks and canoes. We moved into our space and took some time to roam around and become familiar with the area. We're going to be here for 6 nights, so we got some ideas about the things we want to do while we're here. It's warm, but a light wind that makes it feel much better. There is zip for Verizon service here, and a feeble wifi signal if you stand right outside the visitor center back door! So it's more off grid than we are used to, and none of our fancy pants antennas and electronic gadgets will change that!
I have been looking forward to this day for so long! We made plans last year to visit Dry Tortugas National Park and fly there on a seaplane for the day. This was a big splurge for us, but would kill 2 birds with one stone. A visit to the only national park not accessible to cars, and a seaplane flight. There are also ferry trips to the island, but I decided to go big or go home! I was inspired by youtubers, Trish and Mark, after they did this. The bad thing is that the weather changed overnight, and the pilot deemed it would be too windy and unsafe to land out there, so our adventure was cancelled. Sad face for a little while, but you can't be guaranteed the trip will happen. So, just to let you know what we missed out on, I've included the video that got me fired up to go there in the first place! Also, Trish looks a lot better on that beach than I would! We'll just pretend this is the Bob and Pam show!
So, to keep us entertained, I put on my thinking cap and pulled a rabbit out of the hat! I signed us up for a food and history walking tour this afternoon! We went on the Southernmost Food Tasting & Cultural Walking Tour. Honestly, everything around here is the southernmost! Our guide was Chris, and because he is also a trained chef, he had a lot of background information about everything we sampled. I did think the price was sort of high, at first, but I hadn't realized that it included food stops that were actually more of a meal than I would have eaten otherwise! We had a group of only 8 and our tour lasted just over 3 hours. We went to places that we would have never wandered into on our own, through neighborhoods of multiple ethnicities. We ended up with a cup of Cuban coffee at the Cuban Coffee Queen, and I loved it! Espresso mixed with brown sugar, what's not to love!?
It was a hot and windy day, full of fun, and our lemonade ended up with a downpour as we were running back to the truck!
Happy Birthday to Ian! Ian, you had a big job to do as soon as you were born. You had to teach us how to be grandpa and grandma! I hope you are happy with the way we turned out, or else we have to go back into training! Now that you are into double digits, we love you double infinity!
We drove into Key West today, and spent hours aimlessly wandering around, but we didn't get lost! We were wondering what traffic and parking would be like, but it was better than we expected. With the pickup, we tend to encroach on others' spaces, so we watched for signs and ended up with street parking on the outskirts of the old town area. There are some public parking lots scattered around, but when we walked by them, they were pretty tight and would not be good for a pickup!
We found the landmark southernmost point marker. There was a line to wait to take a picture by it, and we were too impatient to start exploring, so a picture from across the street will do for me! We were hungry for some lunch, and stopped at a little French restaurant and we got to sit upstairs on their balcony. I was full-on tourist mode as we walked along, ogling old buildings, odd buildings and everything in between!
Since this was a Thursday, and midday, it wasn't real crowded anywhere we walked. We stopped in a few stores to look for t-shirts, but we didn't indulge in a lot of shopping. We were both just very interested in getting the feel of this old, old town. There's places that feel Cuban, Haitian, Mexican, and definitely a vibe of live the way you like it! You can see and hear the military aircraft up in the sky, and the Coast Guard on the water. Along with some huge cruise ships as a contrast to that! We ended up finding a shaded bench in a park to eat our dessert, Key lime pie!
We became snarled up in traffic trying to leave Key West for our trailer. There's only 1 road that can be used, and it's 4 lane in some places. But an accident had closed 2 lanes, so everyone was way backed up for a long distance in both directions. The morning traffic had been nothing like that, so we were surprised, but it makes sense.
We spent some time earlier today looking for potential camping spots as we head north in a little over a week. A lot of places have no vacancies during this busy time, so we have to dig a little deeper. We do it all online, using websites like recreation.gov, allstays app, campendium app, state park reservation systems, facebook groups and Harvest Hosts. Somehow, we always end up somewhere!
Today we drove south and east across the Everglades on highway 41. No alligator sightings, but we did see a few lovely Roseate Spoonbills and a couple eagles and lots of pelicans and egrets. I think I've always imagined the Everglades as wooded and junglyish and spooky. It's not like that! There were large open grassy areas that were part swampy, some pine groves and other trees. Very few inhabitants on this route. But since we started out in the Big Cypress National Preserve, we did stop at that visitor center. It was very nice with displays about the ecosystems within the preserve. And, I got a stamp for our National Park book.
As we got closer to Miami, we turned south on highway 997. It took us through an agricultural area with lots of landscaping businesses, orchards and vegetable growers. In Homestead we met up with highway 1 and followed it south and west along the Keys. Lots of islands and bridges! We are staying at a KOA campground on Sugarloaf Key, at mile marker 20. That means it's 20 miles from the end of the road in Key West. Very nice and fairly new campground, more fairly called an RV resort with all the amenities. Also, wonderfully landscaped with trees and plants that are suited for this climate. It's hot (to me!) and the sun is so direct! We enjoyed some pool time and walking around the drives here. Of course, I had to take some pictures of the flowers!
Thank you for stopping by! I appreciate the time you have taken to look for and read my story. I hope you find something that you like!
Hi! I'm Pam! Join me on this journey through the next steps of life!