Everglades landscape

Camping in the Everglades National Park, Florida

It’s March in Florida. By Florida standards, dusk through dawn are still a bit chilly, but the day time is beautiful and sunny. The weekend weather was perfectly perfect. We planned this trip to the Everglades months before we went. It ended up being six of us, five of whom belong to the West Coast Swing community here in the Tampa Bay area.

Happy campers

The Everglades preserve is 1.5 million acres of wetlands composed of marshes, mangroves, woods, grasses, and hundreds of animal species. We didn’t see the Florida panther, but we did see manatees, and crocodiles.

Yes. Crocodiles.

There are 23 species of crocodile in the world. Two of these exist in the US, and both of them live in South Florida. I saw a wild croc for the first time. Totally worth the five and a half hour drive there, to sneak past the barricade on a boat ramp to get this photo of the nondescript crocodile that is still blowing my mind by existing in Florida.

American crocodile
American crocodiles exist in the South Florida coastal region at the most northern point of their range.

There are also more than 360 species of birds in the park. We definitely saw many of them. Kites are birds. They are not kites. So don’t look for a kite when someone says, There’s a kite! Look for a bird.

Birds of prey

Let me just sum up the Everglades in one accurate and descriptive word for you:

Mosquitos.

We get to the park check-in, and the government employee at the front says Turn Back Now. There’s a Holiday Inn up the road.

Muhrer fugger was right. We cut back on the activities we had planned for fear of being carried off by mosquitos. It took more than one shower to scrape off the layers of DEET after the trip. Camping was fun… but I felt guilty for putting my dog through it. I did some research on mosquito prevention for pets. I tried the organic stuff. I was still worried my 35 lb dog would be carried off in a swarm of fat-bellied vampiric insects. So I lathered us both up in bug spray. And I don’t think she or I will ever go back to the Everglades unless it’s the Arctic there.

HOWEVER, it was a lovely group of people with good attitudes, which really made the mosquito situation more bearable. It was certainly comical. The boys tried hiking, some of the group went kayaking. I think I still hear buzzing in my ears when I try to sleep.

The cost breakdown was as follows for a weekend trip:

Camp site: Standard campsite with no electricity is $20 per night
Entrance fee: $25 per vehicle
Fire wood: ~$40 (we ended up with some extra firewood someone else abandoned, which was nice because we were running out)

We camped at the Flamingo campsite. We set up on Loop A, where you can park your vehicle right by the campsite. There was also a spot where you can’t park next to your site – so you have to carry your gear a little ways – but it had an ocean front. I think that would have been nice but so was having the truck very close. There was a restaurant and a store in the park, as well as the marina offering canoes and single/tandem kayaks.¬†We had bathrooms and showers very close by as well.

Several of the campers brought these freeze-dried packets of food that you add boiling water to and eat right out of the bag. Everyone seemed to enjoy them, especially the biscuits and gravy and the chicken and rice. Not so much on the chili and mac and cheese.. even though Rick and Michonne seemed to be fans when they found it.

Reservations are required November 20 – April 15. I guess so few people are willing to risk the swarms during the heat of summer in between. If I ever were to try this again, it would be during the cold, and I don’t think I’d want to camp in the cold. I would want to see the trails, however. I’ll be posting more photos on Instagram – although I wish I’d seen more scenery and gotten more photos and video. I did, however, climb this tree.

Climbing this tree was way more fun than running from mosquitos in the marsh.
This was way more fun than running from mosquitos in the marsh.

All in all, I had a blast, but the next Florida camping trip will be at Fort de Soto. It’s closer, there’s a dog beach, they have paddle boards, and there’s no f**king way they have that many mosquitos.

Keep an eye out next week for a post on the Shark Tooth Fossil dive coming up this Sunday!

Sources:

www.nps.gov

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