We decided we needed a pre-Christmas camping experience, a short trip with our neighbors Frank and Linda Ruff to the Everglades National Park. Janice was already down in Ft. Myers playing in a golf tournament with the RV so John drove down with Linda and Frank in their RV to meet at the park.
Everglades National Park is over 1.5 million acres in southern Florida. Most of the primeval landscape—a mix of freshwater and coastal prairie, mangroves, marshland, pine and cypress woods, and the waters and islands of Florida Bay—is a federally designated wilderness (the largest subtropical wilderness in the United States).
We should tell everyone if you are going down to the Miami area or the Florida Keys this should be a stop on your trip for a day, this is a different and amazing national park.
Janice arrived at the Flamingo Campground first and texted back to John, Frank and Linda that it would be a 40 mile drive after entering the park to the campground and it was a Mosquito nightmare! Well, while deet bug spray may be a little toxic, it is the king of mosquito repellents and the only choice to not be carried away by the mosquito’s and it worked. We suspected, way out there, those mosquito’s had little exposure to it so were highly sensitive, hah sensitive sounds like we are “snowflakes”! We sat out for a while with our drinks and then meet in Frank and Linda’s RV, they have a larger one with slide out. We had a few more drinks and a delicious steak dinner then retired for the night.
When we woke up in the morning, at about 8 am the power went off. A park ranger came by and told us the electric company was working on the main line since it was beginning to deteriorate over the years and that they expected to have power again by 5 pm, he did say that in prior scheduled outages sometimes it took four days.
We decided to get moving and headed up to the visitor center at Flamingo to discover what our adventures would be. On the way we saw a Osprey fly with a fish in its claws. As we watched it landed at a huge nest and shortly after the mate appeared. we learned it was the season for the Osprey to build their nests, very cool. The people at the visitor center said that some of the walking paths could be many mosquito’s and only recommended the walk from the center back to the campground. We decided we had plenty of deet and headed out to see what we could find. There were many choices along the way for walking and viewing different areas of the park,
We stopped at a small lake and stood their watching a large number of water fowl spread out around the lake. As we stood and watched it was amazing, we later discovered these birds were American Coots. The Coots began flying along the water in lines to catch up to the main group. We put together a short video, hope you enjoy.
In the end they were all in one large flock.
We continued down the road our next stop was the Mahogany trail. On this trail there is the largest living Mahogany tree in the United States. Tried to get a picture but the light just was not right, it is majestic. Also on the trail were many air plants. Some were very beautiful and on the various hardwood trees on the path.
We continued down the way to the a Pine Island Trail, The pinelands are the most diverse habitat in the Everglades, consisting of an open South Florida slash pine forest.The beauty of the views as we walked through many paths were amazing. You look down and see the water flowing and it is very clear. The grass lands with the lone tree in the middle with birds of all kinds feeding in the grass.We drove tot he main visitor center at the entrance to the park, about 40 miles from the campground and found out about a missile base in Everglades National Park and there would be a tour the next morning at 11am. We also walked around in the center and read about the park and the ecosystem. Before leaving we wanted to have out pictures taken with a Florida panther. There are about 200 adult panthers in South Florida. Here is one we could get close to!
We left the visitor and headed for Florida City fro have lunch. After lunch we started our drive back to the campground. We knew we would have to go through the pass again. As you all know passes in the Rocky Mountains can be tretcherous, as we got to the pass we held our breath..
Back at the park we took a rest and then met again for drinks and dinner. Our plan now changed to head to the missile base in the morning and then head home. We originally were going to stay one more day but we felt like we had seen most of the interesting things in the park.
Saturday morning we packed up and took the RVs to the visitor center so we could leave them there and take the car that Frank and Linda tow behind their RV, to the missile base. The tour was changed to 2 PM, however we could go there for self tour. We drove to the base and this history is incredible.
Everglades National Park houses one of the best preserved relics of the Cold War in Florida. A historic Nike Hercules Missile Site, called Alpha Battery or HM-69, remains virtually the same as it was when official use of the site was terminated in 1979.
This missile base was built by the United States Army Corps of Engineers, completed in 1964 at the height of the Cold War, immediately following the Cuban Missile Crisis of October, 1962. The United States Army chose this strategic site within Everglades National Park, located 160 miles from the Cuban coast, to build an anti-aircraft missile site.
We were fortunate that when we arrived at the site there was a volunteer there to tell us all about the site and the history of the Florida missile sites. This is one of four sites in Florida, the last one built after the Cuban missile crisis. The other sites in South Florida were in Key Largo, the Crome detention center and around the Palm Beach, Broward county border . The base was finally known by the public when internet mapping companies showed this site and people began asking what was that military site? It was then exposed and opened to the public. There are actual items there to look at. As you can see in the large picture, the missiles are kept in the buildings and if necessary would be rolled out on the tracks and pointed at Cuba. There were 3 of these buildings on the base. The missile was restored by a group of Boy Scouts to its original color but is the actual missile that was left at the site along with other parts.This was the actual control system to launch the missiles in the building, seems archaic for today!
Can’t say enough about this part of the adventure, history is so interesting and it reminds many of us about those days during the cold war when we would have drills in school for a nuclear attack where we hid under our desks or flattening against the hallway wall, YIKES!
We finished our tour and got our RVs heading home to Flagler Beach, another wonderful trip.