Picture of the Day: Sunset in Everglades National Park

Had a wonderful dinner with loved ones as the sun set in Everglades City, FL.

Took a few more pictures from the Everglades National Park Gulf Coast Visitor Center.

Everglades National Park is a great park for kayaking as long as being surrounded by alligators doesn’t frighten you. We saw some really big ones.

As always, thanks for reading! rk

Sunday Hikes: Wright Lake Trail

The Wright Lake Trail is a 5 mile loop trail in Florida’s Apalachicola National Forest that shows the diversity of plant life in Florida’s swamps. Dad and I hiked this trail in late March on a weekend trip. The trailhead is found at the Wright Lake day use area across from the Wright Lake Campground. We arrived early in the morning and caught the light just right to see the trees and clouds reflecting on the lake. At the trailhead is a large sign with loads of information about the different types of swamps and marshes that the trail goes through. Dad and I took a minute to read the sign and then went on down the trail.

The Apalachicola National Forest has been logged heavily and is mostly rows of pine trees planted for future logging with small pockets of swamp and marsh scattered throughout. It’s a very strange and unique looking place. We hiked through it while keeping an eye out for alligators and the pitcher plants that grow in this part of Florida.

We came to a dome swamp filled with bald cypress trees with some deep water and only one way to cross; a long plank not even a foot wide across the middle of the swamp. We went one at a time because we didn’t trust the bridge but it proved sturdy and gave us a nice view from the center of the swamp without getting mucky.

After the bridge we walked through the forest a bit more before we came to a sandy forest service road that cut through the forest straight and flat. After the road the trail makes a large loop and crosses the road once again. After this it curved around a circular depression of trees that looked like an aliens crop circle.

As we neared the end of the trail we came to a wonky bridge with a sign that said “Bridge Closed”. We decided to pretend we didn’t see the sign though and took the bridge anyways. It felt sturdy but about half way through the bridge made a 45 degree turn and the entire thing seemed like it had been lifted up on one side and was very slanted. There was a sign here that read “Marleen’s Magic Corner”. We weren’t sure what that meant but we figured there was a witch living nearby or something.

Soon we returned to the trailhead after a nice hike and we hungrily headed out to find some lunch. We never saw any pitcher plants on the hike but there were a lot of pretty wildflowers. We did find some pitcher plants off the road and stopped to take some pics.

I was very surprised at how much I enjoyed the Apalachicola National Forest and I think it’s worth visiting especially if you like plants and/or boating in swamps with alligators and snakes.

Thanks! -Josh

Picture of the Day: Sunset on Marco Island FL

The sun looked like a giant orange beach ball as it slid beneath the horizon. The picture honestly doesn’t do it justice. The sun was just huge and it seemed to melt away as it touched the water. rk

Camping: Elliot Key

Camping in Biscayne National Park is a unique experience because the only way to reach the campgrounds is by sea. So to reach the campground on Elliot Key you need to own a boat, pay for the ferry from the mainland, or have incredible swimming skills. I chose the ferry option and took a 20ish minute boat ride to Elliot Key (also when they say ferry don’t expect anything fancy. It’s a small motorboat with a shark painted on the side). The camping area is small with picnic tables. There is a small visitors center that was closed when I visited and looked like it hadn’t been used in a while. There is also a bathroom with running water! Most of the island is forest with a trail system running throughout. At the moment the trails are mostly inaccessible because of recent hurricanes. On a weekday night you will likely have the whole place to yourself! However there isn’t much to do on Elliot Key unless you have a boat. The Biscayne National Park Institute charges a small fee to bring your kayak along and when I get the chance to go back I will for sure do that! I would love to kayak around the island and snorkel at the reefs (something that costs a lot of money to be ferried to). Most of Biscayne is underwater but even if you don’t have access to snorkel gear and a boat it can still be a relaxing camping trip on an island to yourself (unless it’s a weekend). Just be sure to bring bug spray!

To camp at Elliot Key it is $25 to dock your boat and a tent site.

If you don’t have a boat like me then you will have to pay the ferry fee of $59 per person (kinda pricey) plus a $15 dollar camping fee.

All docking/camping fees are waived from May 1st to September 30th.

Thanks! – Josh

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