Day 17: Key Largo, Florida to Everglades National Park, Florida

Pulling out of our hospital campspot, we headed down the Keys trying to make it to Key West before the major tourist rush began. The drive was pretty but not quite what I’d expected. Precious waterfront real estate wasn’t about to be wasted on the road except where the islands were so narrow it was absolutely necessary.

In Key West, we put Black Dog on the leash and walked around a bit. We walked around the downtown tourist core, along the water (no beach) looking at the giant cruise ship docked there, and checked out the piers (“Sail at 2, $26 each and puppy can come!”). We chose not to partake in any of the sails to keep our money available for less touristy activities. All in all, I wouldn’t go back but Forrest went back so I could see it!

On our way out, we stopped at Ann’s Beach where we went swimming with Sprocket. He’s getting to be quite a swimmer but I think he feels like the “Responsible Puppy” (his version of responsible person). He gets quite upset if we make wining noises to tease him and swims over to us as fast as he can (which is pretty fast!). He also doesn’t like it when he can’t see both of us at the same time. He’s like a water sheepdog! After our swim, we rinsed off our salty puppy and ourselves and headed out of the Keys.

Driving through Homestead, FL on Day 15 we’d seen lots of restaurants that looked fantastic: El Salvadorian food, Peruvian food, Mexican food, etc. so we drove back that way for dinner. The place we chose to eat at advertised Nicaraguan food but I’m pretty sure what we had was fantastic Mexican food. I had a shrimp dish cooked with onion, garlic, and red pepper…it was amazing! Forrest had chicken quesadillas that he raved about.

We had been hoping to reach the Everglades on May 1st so that the new parks pass we’d have to buy would be good through Memorial Day of 2011, but we were running out of things to do in Florida so we headed for the park anyway to see if we could buy our pass as a May pass or possibly hope the booth wouldn’t be manned at 7PM. F repeatedly told me that it was my responsibility to “sweet talk” the ranger at the booth for a May pass which I fully accepted. Pulling up to the entrance, I politely told the ranger that our pass had expired and we needed to buy a new one but asked nicely if he could punch it for May. He smiled and faux whispered, “I think I can do that.” Forrest was so excited to explain our trip to the ranger that he immediately launched into the story of how we’d driven 4,500 miles to be there before he realized the ranger had already agreed. He says that he didn’t say that and was commenting on how easy it is for girls to get what they want. I laughed.

In the park, we headed for King Palm to do a short hike before it got dark. We hiked the Anhinga Trail. We saw lots of birds, turtles, swamp rats (aka alligators), and heard lots of frogs. I decided it was the noisiest national park I’d ever been to. As we walked out on one of the viewing platforms we spotted a gator swimming from across the pond, in the gator-y silent way it glided under the platform on which we were standing and just hung out there. After our hike, we headed to Lone Pine Key campground, set up camp, and tried to take Sprocket on a walk but were turned back by the mosquitoes.

Excited for a night uninterrupted by traffic sounds or light, we crawled into bed early. Quickly we realized that the mosquitoes were smart enough to fly around our cracked windows and attacked us. We grudgingly rolled up the windows and suffered through the most stifling night ever. Sprocket was rather unhappy and was being attacked by bugs. F and I would wake up and hunt the remaining mosquitoes and toss around hot and unhappy. Finally it was over…phew.

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