Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.

Henry David Thoreau

First Days in Flamingo

Thursday January 23 & Friday Jan 24,2014
Flamingo Campground Site 3
Everglades National Park


We have come up to the northern end of the park to hike the Anhinga Trail and since our Verizon internet works here, I’m posting a couple of blogs from our first days in the Everglades.  Future episodes will be posted when we leave Flamingo to return to Midway on Sunday February 2nd.



THURSDAY January 23





We set out from Midway for the easy drive down route 41 and past Robert is Here to the Everglades National Park.  104 miles.  My kind of day. 

Robert is home and doing a booming business.  Luckily there is a BIG space along the road to park Winnona and Ruby.  We pick up some of the most delicious tomatoes I have ever tasted and a giant bag of fresh kale among other things.  Sure wish Robert was a little bit closer to the campground but he’s 40 miles away unfortunately.  I’d like to stock up on fresh produce mid week.  If you aren’t familiar with Robert, check out his story here.






Yup that’s Robert still running the corner market he began at age 6.









AM Everglades Morning (73)

From Robert’s it is a straight shot down the park road, past the Northern Visitor’s Center and Long Pine Key campground to the very end of the road where we are assigned my favorite spot ever in the T Loop of Flamingo Campground, Site 3.  

The T loop has electric but no water so after taking on a tank full of water we pull into the site – backwards.

Being the weirdos that we are, we pull in the opposite direction from everyone else but that means our view is the trees and greenery as well as a sliver of the bay rather than the rear end of every other RV in the campground.   We also have a huge yard now.  But Winnona does look like a “which one is different picture”.  Does this make us unfriendly?





One of our neighbors must have had a rough day.  We find him sound asleep on his picnic table.  It is a beautiful day and I don’t blame him for preferring a nap outside, mattress, pillow and all, to one inside his Leisure Travel Van.








First  on the agenda, after hooking up, is to bike down the Guy Bradley trail to the Visitor’s Center, get our first look at Florida Bay and see what the up coming programs will be.


The strong sun bleaches out my ability to show the true flamingo color of the visitor center. 








Out in Florida Bay we can see that the White Pelicans have arrived.  An afternoon paddle on the bay goes on our agenda.






On our first full day in the Everglades, I begin what always becomes a morning ritual here for me. 
Up to see the sunrise over Florida Bay
Walk over to see the early birds on Eco Pond
Walk over the visitor center to get the day’s agenda.

It puts a good start on my 10,000 step day.


Dawn is a beautiful quiet time of day.  No one else is out yet.

AAM Everglades Morning (100)




Looks like the clouds have left only a sliver of room for the sun.


AAM Everglades Morning (112)




AM Everglades Morning (14)



It’s still early morning when I head over to Eco Pond hoping to see the dozens of birds who flew in each morning last time we were here this past February.

AM Everglades Morning (15)

AM Everglades Morning (16)


AM Everglades Morning (17)


But no big crowds are here  or come in.  I wait quite a while enjoying the solitude and the beauty of the pond,  Again I have it all to myself just as I had the sunrise over Florida Bay.  But I am not totally alone.  I walk around the pond and find a great egret and tri-colored heron.


AM Everglades Morning (20)


Another great egret and a white ibis

AM Everglades Morning (26)




Some black neck stilts with their red legs hidden in the water.

AM Everglades Morning (31)A




A group of what I think are blue winged teal


AM Everglades Morning (40)



And one lone roseate spoonbill.


AM Everglades Morning (50)A


Egrets, heron, ibis hanging out together.

AM Everglades Morning (61)


AM Everglades Morning (65)



Before heading home for breakfast I stop off at the Visitor’s Center to photograph the weather, tides and schedule for the day.   High 69.  15-20 mph winds, high tide is a whole 1.3 feet this morning and 2 feet this evening.


AM Everglades Morning (69)


Based on the schedule, we head over to the visitor in the afternoon to hear about the manatee.  I love manatee and didn’t really expect to see many down here but after the talk we walk over to the marina and sure enough there are two on each side of the dam separating the Florida Bay salt water and the buttonwood canal fresh water.

PM Everglades (12)




Surrounding the visitor’s center are a variety of large gorgeous trees including this mahogany with its enormous seeds.


PM Everglades (31)

PM Everglades (32)




PM Everglades (33)

We stay to hear the Croc Talk given by another ranger and learn again that crocodiles are found no where else in the United States other than the very southern tip of Florida. Crocodiles also have a more pointed snout than alligators and you can see not only their upper but also their lower teeth.  I think this makes them look even more sinister.  Maybe that’s why Captain Hook’s enemy was a crocodile and not an alligator.  The marina has several crocs that hang out and after the talk, we take a walk over to see them and the osprey who has a nest just above the walkway where you can see the crocs.



PM Everglades (34)


PM Everglades (6)



PM Everglades (8)





PM Everglades (11)


It’s been a Fine day in Flamingo!  

Where, by the way, there haven’t been any flamingos since the early part of the century but they are how what was the town got its name.   The park are is located at the site of the former town, so it is called Flamingo too.  And of course what other color for its visitor center than shocking pink?  More about all of this after the Ranger Campfire program on the history of Flamingo later in the week.

Off to the Everglades

Tuesday 1/21/14 & Wednesday 1/22/14
Midway Campground
Big Cypress Swamp, Florida





Tuesday was get ready to go to the Everglades day.  We packed up the outside, went to the store and bought as much of ten days of groceries as we could.

We did make a planning error in not going out for a final paddle before going to the grocery since when we came back it was raining and the temperatures had dropped.  DARN. 





We said our good byes to E. G. Simmons and its lovely skies and pesky raccoons.









We head out about 9:30 for the dump station and then the 200 mile drive to Midway Campground on Route 41. 

The campground, in Big Cypress Swamp, is about 104 miles from the end of the road in the Everglades. The Flamingo Campground, which is where we are headed is as far down into the Everglades as you can get and still be on land.  


Midway is an electric only campground.  We always stop here on our way to and from the Everglades and during the week there has never been a problem getting a site.  But I noticed when we pulled in about 3:00 today that the No Vacancy sign was out.  They have now started taking reservations at Midway. 

I think this is unfortunate but it’s the fact.  They have also upped the price from $20 ($10 for seniors) to $30 ($15 for seniors).   Electric is the only utility at the site but they have a dump station and a water tank fill up so you don’t have to come with your water and carry that extra weight on your travels.




It’s a lovely little campground, located not too far from the wonderful Shark Valley and just down the road from one of the Big Cypress Visitor Centers.   In the center of the single circle of sites, all facing it, is a nice lake which the Duckies are trying to figure out how to get into. 


I’ll talk a lot more about Midway when we return from Flamingo since we are staying 4 days then.  Tonight is just an overnight to cut up what would be a PDD day for us of 304 miles.   200 is more than we normally do but today wasn’t too bad since we made a couple of stops to get gas and pick up some mail.






We have arrived in WARM.   FINALLY!   I am so excited to be able to have the doors and windows open that I take a picture of it!!


This will likely be the last post I’ll make for the next 10 days since we expect to be without internet, phone and TV unless something has changed in the year since we were last there.   AT&T has the only coverage of Flamingo.  They don’t share and they don’t have any way to buy a short term air card.  It’s a contract or nothing.  We have Verizon so we’re out of luck.







It’s possible we’ll surface sometime in the middle of our stay to do some things up near the entrance where there is internet.  But that’s fairly unlikely since that’s 40 miles away, and we cut our stay from 2 weeks to 10 days just to make sure there were no medical things we would need to attend to.   I will be writing blog posts while we’re down there though so you can see all the fun we’re having when I throw them all out here when we get back.




Alligators, Crocodiles and LOTS of birds, here we come!!

Hanging around the park

Sunday January 18 & Monday January 19, 2014
E.G. Simmons Park
Ruskin, Florida







Sunday dawned cool and breezy again dashing our plans to go kayaking  But luckily our friends Bill and Nancy wanted to see the park so they came by and we hopped on our bikes for a ride. 

We took them around to all the spots including panther point, where there are no more panthers, and bobcat point, where there are seldom if ever bobcats.   We stopped by the power boat ramp and the beach.   The entire park is on Tampa Bay and all the canals and mangrove trails lead out to it.




The day had started out sunny but then the clouds rolled in and we had a short shower.  We ducked under a pavilion until that ended but the wind picked up and I don’t think it ever got over 56 degrees which with the wind chill felt more like 46.




I actually put up the hood on my hoodie to keep the wind off of my neck and ears.  Is this really just across the bay from Tampa, Florida?   The people from the frozen north coming down here in January for a beach break are sure going to be disappointed.





I had made a big pot of vegetable barley soup for dinner and invited them to stay but Nancy had also made a big pot of potato soup.  She brought us some but wouldn’t take part of ours home with her.  She claims they can’t eat even all of their own soup since most days their coach is in the bays at Lazy Days and they eat at the Crown Club.  Hmmmm……wish I’d thought to insist she take it and freeze it.  That works very well.  So for dinner we had a soup bar declared them both delicious.  

Much better than the dinners fish and trashcan dinners of these three regular park residents whom we saw today.  But I suppose they don’t think so.













Today 56 wasn’t the high it is the temperature when we go out running/walking 10,000 steps worth.  By the time we come back it was clear it will be a gorgeous day.   David has a big bowl of cereal, banana, raisins and nuts.  I have a green smoothie (kale, spinach, banana, blueberries).  We call it breakfast, get our gear and launch our kayaks right off the back of our site.  LOVE IT!






From the land.











From the water.










Down the canal





Into the waters on the edge of Tampa Bay




Just look at the clarity of the water all along the edge of the park.  It’s a beautiful day but just a tad too chilly to be in the swimming area so we figure we can paddle right through and we do.




We paddle along the edges of the park in the bay and later go into the mangroves which surround the park




Ruddy Turnstones and white ibis are along the edges.



Look Ma, one leg.DSCF3808



This is David’s picture and one of my favorites of the day.  Such clear water.  I had no idea Tampa Bay was so clean.  Just makes me smile!





We paddle all along the western end of the park and beyond where we find this compound and I think, well if I had to live near a big city, this might be just fine.   It appears to occupy an entire peninsula and other than the landscaping around the house, the rest is entirely natural and native.




At this point around the back side of the peninsula with the house, we turn around to go back and check out the mangroves.   As we are paddling along, all of a sudden there is a huge splash and a pelican lands almost close enough to David that he can touch it with his paddle.   He gets a great picture.  Lots of fishing going on among the pelicans today but we don’t see anything but a ray in these clear waters.











The shore line of the park is also totally natural.  There are little private nooks and crannies for fishermen, swimmers, families, book readers all around.





We turn into the mangroves.   Their roots reaching far down into the water always delight me.





We sit for a while and watch mergansers playing and splashing around.   A group of ducks is also in the area and again I am not sure who they are.  The sun is quite bright today and the colors my camera picks up are not great.  If you can identify them, please let me know.












It’s pretty amazing how close the birds will let us get before they panic.  We always try to swing wide around them but sometimes when I am taking their pictures, I drift much closer than I mean to.  David caught me in the act.




A quartet of Snowy Egrets.  They weren’t singing barbershop.DSCF3857





We’ve been on the water nearly 3 hours.  As we turn the corner to head back I hear a motor behind us.  Until now, we have not seen one other boat in the park area on the water.  When I turn around to look, I see another kayak between us and the motor boat.  I say “we’ve got company” and paddle on.  But when I get around the corner and move over to the side, the other boat has Howard and Linda Payne in it.  What a surprise.  We knew they would be coming back to the park from their time at the Tampa RV Show today but had no idea they would be back and in the water right away.

They are testing out their new FastTrack 385.  It looks like a great boat to us and they seem to think so too.




We gather up paddle along a bit, talking some, photographing the tri colored heron and the yellow crowned night heron who are both on the edges of the water in the mangroves.   And then…………….




night heron



And I have a picture of it……Linda Payne is paddling!! 
Remember you saw it here first and perhaps only.  Smile




It’s always great talking with them.  I learn something of importance to me every single time. They are a wealth of information.  No wonder their rallies and seminars are so popular.




Time to be heading back.  They are actually just down the channel from us about 6 sites.  Perhaps we’ll see them again tomorrow on the water.  It’s supposed to be another good temperature day although not as sunny.   We leave on Wednesday to head down to the Everglades and they leave as well but for Grand Rapids Michigan to do a show.  Brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr





Back home, David whipped up a salad and some delicious wraps.   They were so pretty I had him pose with one before rolling it up.




And they taste as good as they look. 
That’s a replay for sure!  
Don’t you just love a man who likes to cook??




Then the sun set on a mighty nice day.