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Everglades National Park, Nike Missiles, and Mosquitoes Attack!

When most of us imagine what the Everglades are like, we think of swamps, alligators, wondrous birds, and an airboat or two.  At least that was what we imagined.

Anhinga Trail in the Everglades

The closest we found to satisfying our imaginations was the Anhinga Trail, pronounced, “anne-ha-ling-ah”.  In fact, we enjoyed the Anhinga Trail so much we walked it three times.  Angela and I have been to almost every National Park from coast-to-coast and I don’t think there’s a single trail we walked so much.

Everglades National Park Anhinga Trail bridge

Filming HD video for TCM at Anhinga Trail

Everglades National Park Anhinga Trail alligator

One of many alligators along the Anhinga Trail

Everglades National Park Anhinga Trail osprey

There’s lots of wildlife all along the Anhinga Trail

Essentially, the trail is a series of boardwalks above swampy wetlands filled with dozens of alligators, fish, and birds.  It’s a nature photographer’s paradise.  It’s also home to hundreds of buzzards, the kind we met at Myakka River State Park.  Jerry even tried to break up a fight between two roughhousing buzzards.  He may of failed at his peace mission, but he and Reta really loved the Anhinga Trail.  So did we.

Long Pine Key Campground Site #90

Long Pine Key Campground Site #90

Arctic Fox camoflaged by the brush at Long Pine

Our Arctic Fox camoflaged by the brush at Long Pine

Long Pine dump station

Filling with water at the Long Pine dump station

Long Pine Key Campground

Both campgrounds in Everglades National Park are dry camping only and first come, first serve.  There was a notice in the Flamingo Visitor Center about hookups coming soon, but no date of availability was posted.  For now, Everglades National Park is dry camping central, no reservations required.

Driving into Long Pine Key campground, Angela and I were very excited to see not one, not two, not three, but four other truck campers in the campground.  Including our camper and the Caldwell’s, there were six truck campers there that night.  It looked like a mini truck camper rally.  Before preparing dinner and settling in, we went and introduced ourselves to the other truck campers and made more friends.  It never fails.

Everglades National Parking

Fitting into a regular parking spot everywhere we went

Nike Missile Site

A plaque at the Nike Missile Site

Nike Missile Site Tour

During the tour we went into a restricted area


Nike Missile Site

At first blush, you might think the park rangers in the Everglades are launching expensive sneakers into orbit when you read that title.  Actually, there’s a Cold War missile facility of critical historical importance in the heart of Everglades National Park.  I was born ten years after the Cuban Missile Crisis, but, as the proud son of a history teacher, I know how nearly apocalyptic that event was.  And, like my father, I love almost anything to do with history.

The Everglades National Park rangers offer a fantastic tour of the Daniel Beard Center, the location of the Nike Missile Site.  The facility is as it was when the government abandoned the missile site.  The park ranger presentation was fantastic and the facility was truly amazing.  The Nike Missile Site is highly recommended for anyone with an interest in history, our country, and the brave men and women who protect us.

Flamingo Campground

The drive from Long Pine Key campground to Flamingo campground is thirty-eight miles and takes about an hour due to the low speed limit in the National Park.   Flamingo is right on Florida Bay at the southern tip of Florida.  It’s about as far south as you’re going to get in Florida, short of the Keys.

Boy could we feel the breeze off the water when we arrived.  This was the weather we all had envisioned when we set our sights on Florida, truly warm and tropical.  When we saw the blue and green water near the Flamingo Visitor Center, we were giddy.  I don’t think I’ve ever used the word giddy in TCM before and I wouldn’t throw it around lightly.  Let there be no doubt, we were giddy.

Lucky for us, Flamingo had plenty of campsites available and our truck campers were small enough to be allowed in the section closest to the bay.  The big motorhomes and towables were sent to another site a few tenths of a mile further from the water.  Too bad for them.

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