Prologue. Irma, a category 4 hurricane hit the mainland US in Sept, causing damage in Florida, with the most damage in the Florida Keys. The National Parks were not spared. I planned to visit the 3 National Parks in Florida this December, camping and watching sunsets and sunrises. The 3 National Parks in Florida are (1) Everglades National Park, (2) Biscayne National Park, and (3) Dry Tortugas National Park. The plan was to visit all 3 in this trip.
Dec 13-15. Everglades National Park.
Everglades National Park has 4 visitor centers, all but one remained open after the hurricane. As of December 2017, only the Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center was open, and the nearby Long Pine Key Campground the only camping option. The other areas were open for day visits, but the visitor centers, Flamingo, Shark Valley, Gulf Coast, remained closed. I camped at Long Pine Key Campground for 2 nights. Reservation is not required for this campground. It’s on a first-come-first-served basis, but based on information I gathered from the web, it always has sites open. Found a good spot when I got there, with plenty more spaces open.
Damn, it was chilly on my first night. Good thing I brought some extra layers in this trip. Enjoyed the dark sky star gazing while enjoying hot noodles on this cold night.
Second day was spent on a road trip to Flamingo Visitor Center, just to see what it looks like after the hurricane. It would still take some time before the whole area re-opens. Backcountry Camping has partially opened, on limited availability. After reading and learning more about backcountry camping in the Everglades, this became on my list for my next trip. Chickee or isolated island camping!
Oh, 2 places you need to consider when planning a visit to the Everglades National Park. (1) Robert Is Here fresh fruit stand, and have one of their famous milkshakes and smoothies, and (2) Gator Grill, and have some of yummy gator bites. Both are on the way to the National Park entrance.