Daily Archives: 14 April 2016

Less butterflies; More dragonflies

Mangrove forest
Thick, mangrove forest

I hiked several of the trails around Flamingo. They offered mangrove forests, coastal plaines, rivers of grass, hammocks, and wildlife galore.

Christian Point Trail was one that I tackled. 1.8 miles one way, and it was not being maintained. There were no cars at the trail head, which sealed the deal.

Bring DEET. Lots and lots of DEET.

I had not brought along my REI Jungle Juice, but if I didn’t wash my hands after applying the stuff I bought, my steering wheel would deteriorate, so I figured it was acceptable. And it did work… at first.

At the start, the trail goes through some very thick vegetation, and it was in the low 80’s. I have no idea what the humidity was, mainly because I had no interest in knowing. As I perspired, the DEET was diluted, and the horde of blood suckers were on me. I briefly thought of stopping, getting the bug dope out of my pack and reapplying, but just a short pause was enough to deter such thoughts. I quickened my pace, and hoped that the coastal plain was near.
*A side note: this was the last time the bug dope was not in one of my pockets.

Coastal plain
The country opens up

There were butterflies everywhere, and occasionally I would spot a dragonfly. Probably 10 to 1. Butterflies are all right to look at, but dragonflies are beautiful… especially when one is hunting down a mosquito. I am so attached to dragonflies, that I feel awful when I hit one with my truck in Alaska. With every windshield fatality, I figure 10,000 mosquitos just flew free.

I could see the vegetation lessen and feel the air heat up even more. Suddenly, I broke the barrier and ran for the sunlight. The horde would not follow, but it could afford to wait patiently.

Coastal Plain hike

I enjoyed hiking the coastal plain, in spite of the heat. The lack of mosquitos allowed me to slow down and enjoy the unusual country I was hiking through. Little geckos or small lizards were everywhere. The vegetation was surprisingly thick and green, but the vast majority of it did not come up to my knees.

The Prize
The Prize at the end of the trail: Florida Bay

The vegetation suddenly thickened, but there were no mosquitos. The trail ended at a small opening, looking out at Florida Bay. There was no beach, just some soggy earth, then the ocean. There was a bench with a resident gecko. He allowed me to join him, and I ate some lunch, drank a quart of water and stalled. I had suffered for this view, and I was going to take it in. What a relaxing spot.

Very dry plain

Heading back, I crossed a desolate patch of earth that at one time must have been a water hole. I spotted a hermit crab in the thick brush, then I thought I saw a land crab move from under a chunk of log.

Crab corpse

Then I spotted the corpses. I don’t know how I missed them the first time, although I was taking a slightly different track across the dried up earth. The ground was littered with the corpses of crabs. I assume that they came out en masse when this was still standing water after the rains. Then they were found: gulls, crows, vultures? I don’t know. Maybe all of those and others. But it was a feast.

Crab feast

The Everglades

Flamingo, FL
The view from the southern tip of Florida’s mainland

It was an adventure in itself just getting to Everglades National Park. First there was road construction: 50 feet of shoulder smoothing caused a 25 mile long parking lot on I-75. I did not want to drive the I-75 “Alligator Alley” section, which is a toll road, and decided on two lane U.S. Hwy 41. That ended up being shut down due to an accident, and I had to back track to Hwy 29 and take that north to the toll road anyway. Nasty traffic on Florida 997 sealed the deal, and I was over three hours delayed, and arrived when the park offices were shut down.
I didn’t know what to expect, but I gambled on getting into Everglades anyway, even though I knew one camp ground was closed and the main park road engulfed in smoke due to a wildfire.
Long Pine Key campground was closed, with the fire still smoldering all around it, and the park road was blockaded by a ranger saying the park was closed. I was not happy by the news, and argued, sweet talked, pleaded my way into the park. After all, I had called ahead to make sure the road was open. The ranger, very kindly, agreed to let me go to Flamingo, if I followed the escort car and agreed not to come back to the blockade for two days.
The fire was contained, but there was smoke and some smoldering going on, which considering what Interior Alaska’s summer was like last year, this was like driving past a large campfire. The escort left me within three miles, and I drove the remaining 35 miles without company or incident.

Flamingo Marina
Flamingo Marina near the visitor center

I bought a bag of ice at the marina and went to find a camp site, as darkness was near. I had heard about the voracious mosquitos at Flamingo, and I was not disappointed. The horde rivaled anything I’ve experienced in Alaska, with one exception. I set up the tent, grabbed a quick sandwich and jumped inside the tent. Then I spent the next hour hunting down and killing the mosquitos that made it into the tent.

Flamingo campground
Flamingo campground

Flamingo has a couple of camping areas. Since I came in late, and the mosquito horde was already on its evening raiding party, I did little exploring and simply grabbed a site as far away from others as I could. There were very few other campers, and elbow room was ample. Solar powered showers were a nice treat after a day of hiking & bathing in DEET. They were also very hot! yes! at the end of the day.

Flamingo Beach
The beach along the tent only area

There was another loop that was for tents only, and that had a better view of the water, and hopefully a stronger breeze, but I am not so sure. One is not allowed to drive on the grass in the tent only section, so gear must be carried. Although, I didn’t see anyone following that rule. I assume that in prime season, and without a wildfire, the park rangers may have put a stop to those driving across the yard to get to a site.

Everglades is a beautiful and unique park, but come prepared. Mosquitos were minimal during the day, as long as one stayed in the open areas with some sun and a nice breeze.