Everglades, Dry Tortugas, Biscayne National Parks

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Cholo

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Time for my winter pilgrimage to the tropics :) This was going to be an unusual vacation for me because it was structured. Every night was booked in advance. Hotel rooms averaged about $50 per night more this year than last because the wh-flu kept a lot of people away last year.

I picked up my son at the Miami airport and we had time to head into the swamp like I did last year in March and April for some freshwater fishing. He left OH that morning when it was 9*. It was in the low 70's, but there was a northerly wind which shuts down the fishing back home. Looks like it does here, too. We caught about 6 in 2 or so hours. The next day we only caught about 20. Last year I averaged about upwards of 300 per day.

Let's head down into Everglades National Park for the day! I last went here on my honeymoon in 1975.



There are multiple boardwalks we could walk to experience this vast wetlands. One had these huge mahogany trees, the last place I'd expect to see them.



It's hard to really photograph this National Park because so much of what you're looking at is either so close or so far away. There are so many islands of trees with the land only being a few feet above the rest of the area. It creates moats that protect the islands from fires. If the trees grown to a certain height if the land is 2' above the rest of the area, they can grow to triple the height if the soil is 2' even higher on the same island. It's just cool!



These trees all looked dead, but they're not. They actually look like they're covered in frost. I didn't take a pic of the plaque that says the name of these pine trees that shed their needles. They were unique to one section of the park we traveled thru.



What we didn't see while walking thru all of this were the alligators. We saw plenty in Big Cypress!

We're looking forward to the ride from Miami and the FL Keys all the way to Key West. Wayne's never been to SO FL and I havn't been to Key West since I rode my motorcycle there after Christmas in 1977. Lots to see! I didn't expect it to be the same after almost 45 years, but I knew it would still be beautiful! Oh, and expensive LOL
 

sfhogman

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Thanks for posting.
I was stationed at Homestead AFB during the Vietnam War and so spent a lot of time in and around the Everglades. To me they're just incredibly beautiful. As were the weekend motorcycle rides down the Overseas Highway to Key West...
Knock back some good ol' Southern BBQ for me!

Jeff
 

Cholo

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Finding a hotel in Key West that is semi affordable and offers the things you want is the most difficult I've ever experienced. It's a small island with a lot of people living there, and an equal amount of tourists. I'd find a hotel that seemed pretty nice for roughly $300+ per night with pretty good reviews. In reading the reviews at one place there would be people bragging about it and stating that sharing a bathroom with 6 other couples just added to the charm :roll: I gave up and left that chore to my son. You really have to know how to decipher reviews or you'll be camping with a bunch of hipsters who havn't bathed since New Orleans.

You will pay dearly for a nicer hotel here! I just checked and one month from now it's up $200 per night, and there were only 2 days available in a row. Book at least 2 months in advance!

The drive from Miami was pretty nice. You will have to deal with south Florida drivers, by far the most obnoxious and aggressive drivers in the USA bar none! I don't condone road rage, but I understand it!

We did a lot of walking on this trip! Unfortunately my back was hurting me the most since the spring on '18 when I went in for physical therapy. When we 1st went to explore I drove and we parked in a lot. $40. We walked to Truman's Little White House. He sure had a lot on his plate! It's worth the guided tour if you're in KW.



We walked around a bit and then on to Ernest Hemingway's KW home. Interesting character to say the least! He liked to drink, a lot! I mean he really liked it LOL He lead a tormented life being bi-polar before much was known about it. Suicide was his final escape.







You can't visit Hemingway's KW home without visiting his favorite bar--Sloppy Joe's. It's a pretty big place for KW, and it was packed at 12:30pm. I got a double Jack on the rocks and my son got a rum and coke. I will never understand day drinking. Nope! LOL The live music wasn't too loud and the plastic cups were cool. I meant to save mine, but...





No trip to KW is complete with a pic at The Southernmost Point in the Continental USA



In '19 I visited the NW most corner of the Continental USA in Neah Bay, WA--3,650 miles driving distance to KW.

When you drive to KW, just leave your vehicle at the hotel and take an Uber to wherever you want to go and then walk if it's not too far. The island is not that big. They have a shuttle bus that can take you from here to there that runs by about every 30 minutes and it's free.

KW was okay, but we were really looking forward to the 2.5 +/- boat ride due west to Dry Tortugas National Park.
 
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My son lived in Homestead for 10 years. The crime got so bad they moved to Tn. You look like y’all are having a good time. Thanks for sharing the pics etc.
gramps
 
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What I remember about Homestead is many years ago... before the Hurricane went through it .... was lost driving through it with some friends in a big old rented Caddy with duffle bags hanging out of the trunk and stopped at a convenience store at midnight to get directions.. I walked up to the counter and there were about 10 people sitting on the floor behind the counter and one guy at the register.... I got out of there quick.... then we were headed out of town still trying to find US 1 and a cop car pulled up beside us to let us know to turn on the head lights on the car....
 
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What a great trip! I didn’t know Key West was so crowded. I went there in high school with my parents. I don’t remember the hotel, but I do remember Hemmingway’s home. Do they still have all the cats? He favored 6 toed cats.

How are the mosquitos this time of the year?

Oh, and great pictures by the way, keep ‘em coming. I love the pic of the trees in the Everglades.
 
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Water and sky look like great weather, hope it held for the ride out to the fort.
I think I read a few months ago that somebody set a fire on the marker and they had to repaint it....again.
If you stop in Big Pine take a look for key deer, some are used to being fed and will come right up to people.
 

Cholo

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They still have all the cats (over 50), and most of them have 6 toes. They've always been named after famous people. "Oh, here comes Marilyn Monroe!" LOL These cats are federally protected.

It's not that crowded in Key West. There are only so many homes and so many hotel rooms. The numbers must stay consistent during each season, right now being the peak. I would think that very few people would take a 7 hour round trip from Miami just for the day. All the restaurants and coffee shops we went to were nearly full, but we never had to wait for a table. It seemed that most people rented scooters or used Ubers so the traffic would be fairly consistent, too. Even the ride down there flowed right along.

Yes, a couple of drunks set a Christmas tree on fire against the Southernmost marker early AM on Jan.1. It's interesting how they got caught. When the surveillance video was shown on TV a bartender recognized them as 2 clowns who didn't tip him. They paid with a CC and he found the guy who paid the bill by looking thru the receipts. Karma :)

www.fox13news.com/news/repairs-complete-on-key-wests-famous-southernmost-point-buoy-after-fire-damage-suspects-charged

Key West is cool to visit, and Dry Tortugas NP was outstanding, but I doubt I'll ever go back.

PS: I didn't notice many mosquitoes, but they usually don't like me. They would have had a tough go of it being as windy as it was even after the sun went down.
 

Cholo

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Dry Tortugas National Park

We got to the dock at 6:45am for the 70 mile ride to the NP that departed at 7:30. At 7 they go over the rules etc and then let you know that you can buy a chewable dose of Dramamine for $1 right there in the waiting room. We both did. I'm sure the crew wished everyone would have taken it. It was cloudy and windy when we left, but it turned into a really nice day once we got to the fort. There were 6' seas the entire 2.5 hour trip and multiple people got seasick.

We sat outside going and coming. If you sat inside you had to wear a mask. The woman sitting across from up threw up all over herself and almost us. She had a seasick bag and didn't use it. Luckily, I had a baggie with sunscreen and about 30 baby wipes that I gave to her. She said she couldn't take Dramamine, but she sure took it for the return trip! Take-the-Dramamine! LOL

If you're into the coastal forts like I am, you'll love this one! This bad boy had 450 cannons and you could still see where they could swivel them and cover 360*. Of course, no fort is complete without a moat.

Fort Jefferson is a massive but unfinished coastal fortress. It is the largest masonry structure in the Western Hemisphere,[5][6] and is composed of more than 16 million bricks.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dry_Tortugas_National_Park

A much shorter but interesting read:

www.nps.gov/drto/learn/historyculture/index.htm#:~:text=Dry%20Tortugas%20was%20established%20to,access%20in%20a%20regulated%20manner.















The boat ride back was much calmer, but I bet those who got sick going to the Park were dreading it.

I never realized how many islands make up the Keys. Leave it to me to see a tiny Key in Everglades NP named Dildo Key :mrgreen:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dildo_Key
 
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That is so awesome! Wow! The water is beautiful! What kind of vehicle are you driving?

We are down at the beach right now, just outside of Galveston, and the waves are pretty big. Not 6 feet, but 4 and 5 feet for sure. Plus it’s really windy. According to Google it’s 1,400 miles by car, but I wonder how far by boat?
 

NewRuger41

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Awesome snaps! Thanks for sharing. I've ended up with some gators on my line while bass fishing. Most under 4' in length.
 

Azrael

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"You will have to deal with south Florida drivers, by far the most obnoxious and aggressive drivers in the USA bar none!"

I have to agree with that statement, however I must add that those South Florida drivers all came from somewhere else. As a 77 year old native of Miami (very few of us natives), I must state that our biggest fear was drivers from NY, Ohio, NJ. and all of New England. They brought their regional driving habits with them and the result is not pretty, put a New York city driver and a Boston driver on the same road....scary !
Upon retirement, I moved to the west coast of Florida and now face different problems...old people (my age) from Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, and the entire mid-west driving very large vehicles. Why does a 82 year old, 5 ft. widow from Chicago need to drive 35 mph in a 70 mph zone, in a Lincoln Navigator? I have lost 3 cars to "out-of-staters", I now look at license tags first.
 

Cholo

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Kevin, I took my Nissan NV2500 3/4 ton van. It's great to travel in. Well, except the gas mileage.

I don't doubt they're originally from somewhere else, but all the really aggressive drivers I saw had Florida tags. If I were a cop I would have arrested one woman and had her car impounded.

Biscayne National Park

You have to book the boat that leaves at 9:30 and 1:30. https://npplan.com/parks-by-state/florida-national-parks/biscayne-national-park-park-at-a-glance/biscayne-national-park-guided-tours-and-excursions/biscayne-national-park-heritage-of-biscayne-cruise

Just like the Florida Keys as most know them extend far west past Key West, they also extend northward from Key Largo which is Biscayne National Park. This is a water National Park like Voyagers NP in MN. The boat will make one stop at one of 3 places. Our stop was Boca Chica Key in the northern end of the Park.







South Florida is a great place to get away if you're getting tired of the cold.

This last pic is looking up from in front of our hotel in Key West.

 

contender

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Ahh the memories!

I've been to most of those places. As a diver,, I went to the Keys occasionally. And of course,, the side trips were always enjoyable. The 6 ft seas,, heck,, I've been out on MUCH bigger waves on a dive boat. But yes,,, many tourists SHOULD take something for seasickness. Unless you are acclimated to riding a boat in rougher water.
Sloppy Joes,, always a favorite to visit. I'll have to tell you a story about one of my trips down there sometime.
Hotel rates are HIGH during the normal wintertime because so many want to escape the cold & flock south. I always preferred to stay north of Key West,, (Marathon,) and during the summertime,, when rates were much more affordable.

If you missed it,, Mel Fishers Maritime Museum is also something to behold. STUNNING array of artifacts he's recovered. One of my favorites down there. Heck, Mel offered me a job there long ago. I still have the job application with his initials somewhere.

Keep the memories,,, eerr,, pics coming!
 

turd

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Cholo, you take the most interesting trips and the most beautiful photos. Thank you for sharing. I'm freezing here in South Dakota and enjoyed the trip. :mrgreen: Are you using a camera or cell phone for the pics? They are excellent.

I always wondered why the fort at Dry Tortugas. At one point it was more like a prison, with bad boys like Geronimo in residence.
 

Cholo

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Thanks! The camera is a 4 year old Samsung S9+. It's still a pretty good phone!

This briefly explains the why of Fort Jefferson. Good strategy!

www.nps.gov/drto/learn/historyculture/fort-jefferson.htm
 

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