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.
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 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.
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.