Everglades Excitement

Finally back in Kansas! We've got all of our laundry done and the car cleaned out and repacked, so now its time to try to sort through all these pictures and try to remember what we've been doing the last couple of weeks. The Everglades was our first stop off after Exuma as we were killing time before our cruise. (I have to preface this story with the fact t
hat there is a federal penitentiary a few miles from the entrance to the National Park. This detail will be important later on.) We arrived in the sweltering heat in the afternoon sun and picked a spot in the shade. It wasn't hard since the campground was nearly empty. We were to find out why shortly. Our first afternoon consisted mainly of repacking and repacking again, trying to manage the transition from hotel to camping to cruise ship. I'm actually pretty impressed that we fit all the crap in our car to facilitate all these different modes of travel.

We went to sleep covered in bug spray and sweaty. The next morning we woke up to 80° F and super humidity. Quite a shock from the cool and breezy Exuma. We did the whole park tour that day and were amazed to see dozens of alligators and hundreds of storks, cranes, songbirds, and vultures. We also cruised around most of the shorter nature trails that winds through most of the different kinds of landscapes.

The place is truly unique and worthy of the protections afforded it by the national parks designation. I've never experienced such a diverse mix of flora and fauna before. The area is an amazing mix of seemingly endless grasslands and wetlands dotted with hardwood hammocks, neighboring pine and subtropical forests. Grasslands transition into hardwood hammocks or wetlands over just a few feet due to just inches of elevation change. As a result, the diversity of animals is also amazing for an area in the US. I really never imagined there was a place like this in America. This country never ceases to amaze me with its natural wonders.

It was our second night that was the real exciting part of our trip, despite how exciting it was to see the gators. The campsite had pretty well cleared out, most likely due to the tornado and severe thunderstorm watches in effect. Since we had nowhere to clear out to, we didn't have much of a choice but to ride it out. So we went to sleep expecting some serious storms for the night. What we didn't expect to wake up to was a helicopter circling our campsite a hundred feet off the ground with its spotlight shining down on us.

Now, I have seen enough episodes of Cops to know what is going down when a chopper is circling with its spotlight on. So we made a half naked dash to the car so that we could beat a quick get away when the escaped convict from the penitentiary came running through our camp to hijack our car.

From our car, we watched in amazement as the helicopter circled three or four times, and then landed about 100 yards from our tent. We drove over to see if we could figure out what was going on, and a man came running at our car with a flashlight on us. Turns out, it wasn't a Federal Marshal, but instead an EMT with LifeFlight. Apparently one of the other couple of campers had called 911. We never found out what happened, but their campsite was eerily abandoned the next morning as we drove out.

We finally got to sleep by the time the storm of the century rolled through our camp. I would guess that it was some of the heaviest rainfall that I have camped through, and lasted for several hours. Most of the lightning was a mile or so away from our camp, but several strikes were within a few hundred yards. Our new REI tent handled it all like a champ though, and we only got slightly damp on the ends of our sleeping bags. We rolled all of our wet gear up the next morning to truck it off to our hotel for the night to dry.

I don't think the Residence Inn ever imagined someone would use their room to dry off tents and tarps, air out sleeping bags, and do laundry in their sink. It worked out fantastically though, and we didn't have to let any wet gear sit in our car in the south Florida sun for a week. Overall, everything worked out better than I could have imagined and was glad we got this little bonus trip waiting for our cruise.

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