Sunday Hikes: Spite Highway Trail

Elliot Key is the largest island in Biscayne National Park. Before the park was a park, the wealthy folks that wanted to build mansions on the islands attempted to build a highway traveling up the eight mile long island in order to ruin the nature so it wouldn’t be wanted for a national park (that’s a somewhat loose retelling of the story but pretty much what happened). Anyways they called it Spite Highway and now what’s left of that road is a trail in the National Park. I went camping on Elliot Key last weekend and after setting up camp we decided to do some exploring on the trails. We went to the trailhead and ran into some signs claiming that the trails were closed. We disagreed and went in through the other trailhead closer to the swimming area. Pretty quickly we ran into a large fallen down tree right in the middle of the trail that we had to climb around. Figuring there wouldn’t be too many more we pressed on into the island’s interior. At first I didn’t really notice any bugs but the further we went and the more trees we climbed over, the more mosquitoes I felt surrounding me. We came to a sign in the trail that probably used to say something but was a blank slate now.

About thirty minutes in we came to a crossroads and took the left road thinking it was easy to the islands other side. We hiked and hiked, climbing over, under, and around fallen trees all the while being slowly sucked to death by a million mosquitoes. I never realized how buggy the Florida keys were (I also forgot bug spray like a dummy). There are literal clouds of mosquitoes surrounding us. It sucked (get it, because of the mosquitoes sucking lol). Anyways we felt determined to reach the Atlantic and swim around with some fish so we carried on.

The further we went, the more trees and trash (lots of light bulbs) brought to the island by hurricane Irma. We started off quite determined to reach the islands other shore but after what felt like an eternity in bug hell our Atlantic aspirations dwindled down and were replaced by just wanting to be back at our campsite. We turned around and headed back on the trail and then came to the crossroads once again. Believing that the way back was straight ahead we went that way but after twenty minutes of hiking through buggy muck we realized we were going the wrong way. The island is 8 miles long but only half a mile wide and we had definitely gone more than half a mile. So we went back to the crossroads, looked left, saw the trailhead with the “trail closed” signs, and sighed in relief and annoyance at missing the exit. We hiked out of the woods and straight to our tent to hide from the mosquitoes. The rest of the trip was spent playing poker, relaxing by the bay, and swimming around. Overall the two days on Elliot Key were pretty relaxing and now I know to bring plenty of citronella next time. If you ever go to Biscayne, learn from my mistakes and bring bug spray and don’t go hiking on closed trails! I still had some fun climbing through the forests though. It was really cool to see the plant life growing on the island!

Thanks! – Josh

A National Park for each Month of 2017

Since we are at the beginning of the year, I thought it would be a good idea to list which National Park would be the best to visit during each month of this year.   Of course, at Bighorntravelblog we believe it is always a good time to visit a National Park, but there are some compelling reasons to visit these parks in the month indicated.    I hope that this inspires you to consider visiting National Parks when planning your vacation time in 2017.

January – Rocky Mountain National Park.   Colorado is known for its great skiing in places like Breckenridge, Vail, and many others.   Why not combine a ski trip with a visit to beautiful Rocky Mountain National Park.   Rocky Mountain National Park has plenty of winter activities including ice climbing, mountaineering, snowshoeing and skiing.   This is also one of the few national parks that allows backcountry camping in the winter.

February – Bryce Canyon National Park.   If you think the orange-red hoodoos look amazing in the summer, then you should see them in February when the rock spires are coated with snow.   It is very beautiful and the clear cold skies should make for some great stargazing as well.

March – Death Valley National Park.    Despite the name, in the spring flowers bloom throughout Death Valley.   Perhaps you will get lucky and during a March visit get to see the Superbloom which happens about once a decade (which is about how often they get any substantial rain in the park).

April – Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.   Late April after Spring Break is usually one of the more inexpensive times of year to fly to Hawaii.    The weather here is always perfect plus you could tack on a visit to Haleakala National Park as well.

May – Grand Canyon National Park.   The Grand Canyon is always a great place to visit.   In May you can beat the summer crowds and heat and dodge the snow that is here in the winter.

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June – Great Basin National Park.  Summertime is when the crowds really come out to the National Parks.  Why not take this time to visit one of the least visited National Parks in the lower 48.   This is one the best places to see the stars in the lower 48.   Summers are the one time a year you can see the yellow bellied rock marmot.   The yellow bellied rock marmot hibernates for 9 months a year and is usually only seen in mid summer as they sunbathe on the rocks.

July – Zion National Park.   Now I know, Zion is a zoo with crowds in July.   But July is the best time to hike the Narrows or the Subway.   Wading through the cold water of the Virgin River feels great when it is over 100*F and the risk of flash floods washing you out of the canyon is minimized.

August – Olympic National Park.   Olympic is normally very rainy and wet, but in August you have your best shot of sunny skies and relatively warm weather.   The clear skies are also make this a great time for a side trip to the Space Needle in Seattle to get great views of Olympic and Mt Ranier National Parks.

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September – Yosemite National Park.   Yosemite is another park that in the summer months is difficult to traverse due to crowds.   But visiting in the winter isn’t great because many of the roads are closed and huge portions of the park aren’t accessible.   September is a great time to visit as school is in session so the crowds are down and all of the park is open for business.

October – Acadia National Park.    Acadia in October is stunning.    The New England foliage is showing their full color and the weather is perfect.   Add in some lobster rolls was watching the ocean crash on the black rocks and I can’t think of a better place to be in October.

November – Biscayne National Park.  Visiting this park in South Florida in the summer is like giving yourself over to the mosquitoes as a human sacrifice, but the bugs die down in late fall but the weather is still nice.   This is the best time of year to visit this park.

December – Yellowstone National Park.   Snowmobiling through Yellowstone is one of my bucket list items.   Wildlife is easy to spot in the snow and the cold air really shows off the steam rising from the hot springs and geysers.

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