American Locations 46 – Big Cyprus 2

The trip is from New River, West Virginia, to Stinking Creek, Tennessee, by way of Long Key, Florida.

 Big Cyprus National Preserve, Florida

The campground was nearly deserted. There was one other RV and the resident campground host. And 4 alligators. Our site was on the side of a lake and on the edge of the swamp.

Once again, it was like staying in a bird sanctuary.

The campground host said there were 4 alligators staying in the lake.

I hiked all around the lake.

See all the birds by the lake?

I kept walking toward them while snapping pictures, wondering how close they would let me come. As I neared the lake without them taking flight I was so intent with my camera I didn’t see the alligator lurking at the water’s edge. I came within 10 feet or so before I saw him. He was eyeing me.

So I slowly backed off. Last time I walked around not looking where I was going while snapping pictures. That evening we took a stroll around the lake at sundown.

As we approached the only other RV we saw the campground host was there with a park ranger. We learned that the couple had a little dog with them, and an alligator was hanging around their site eyeing their dog. The ranger said there was nothing he could do about the alligator, this was a wild place and not a zoo, so his advice was to keep their dog inside if they didn’t want it eaten. We walked on, but it got dark quickly before we could make it around the lake, so we turned back. Sure enough, the park ranger and campground host were gone and the couple and their dog were inside their camper. But that alligator was still lurking around.

He’d gotten a whiff of that dog and was after a meal. But it was a pretty sunset.

One big drawback to staying here were the no-see-ums. The campground had no hook-ups, so we couldn’t run our air conditioner. It was too hot to close the windows. And these tiny black flying bugs were so small they came right through the screens and swarmed us. It was an infestation. All night long we swatted at them while trying to sleep. The next morning I went for a walk into the swamp. There was a road.

As you can see, it was flooded. But I have waterproof hiking boots. So I set off.



But the water got so deep it came in over the tops and thoroughly soaked my feet. So I gave it up before going very far. Instead, I walked another circuit of the lake and said good morning to all my friends.


Next Location – Fort DeSoto, St. Petersburg, Florida













American Locations 45 – Big Cyprus

The trip is from New River, West Virginia, to Stinking Creek, Tennessee, by way of Long Key, Florida.

 Big Cyprus National Preserve, Florida


The next morning we drove north out of Homestead on Rte. 997 to Hwy. 41, then headed west. This road skirts the northern edge of the Everglades and the southern edge of Big Cyprus National Preserve. Which meant it was another incredible drive, one of the best of the trip. Our first stop was Coopertown to take an air boat ride into Everglades.


We were entertained while awaiting our boat.



There were 8 of us on the boat. It was slow-going as we went up the channel that led to the swamp.


But the pilot opened up the throttle when we got out into the swamp. You can tell how fast we were going by our wake.


But he would slow down at times so we could admire the view.


He also took us through channels like this.



And, of course, to see alligators. He knew where all the alligator holes were.



After the air boat ride, we continued west on Hwy. 41. There is an irrigation canal that parallels the highway.


With Everglades to the south and Big Cyprus to the north, we had plenty to look at.


And there were visitor centers along the way to stop at. Where, of course, there were alligators. Notice the sign in the second photo. Is anyone going to harass an alligator? I wouldn’t have thought so before I saw that video of that idiot in Yellowstone harassing a bison.



There were other critters.



There were 8 campgrounds in Big Cyprus. Only one was open. So we settled down for several days. We hadn’t been able to stay in Everglades, but this was the next best thing.



Next Location – Big Cyprus 2







American Locations 44 – Everglades

The trip is from New River, West Virginia, to Stinking Creek, Tennessee, by way of Long Key, Florida.

 Everglades National Park, Florida

Leaving John Pennekamp, we drove north on Hwy. 1 off Key Largo back onto the mainland. In Homestead, we turned west and entered the Everglades National Park. Our first stop was at the visitor center at the east entrance. We walked their extensive boardwalks.





There was an alligator hanging around.


This ropy brown stuff was flourishing in some of the water.


One of the main attractions were the birds.


Do you see that dark thing in the water? That’s an anhinga. It’s a diving bird. The boardwalk system at the visitor center is named after them – The Anhinga Trail. They dive for fish, then surface and float on the water while spreading their wings to dry the feathers.


We learned from a ranger that the campground at Flamingo was closed from extensive hurricane damage. The visitor center there was also closed. But the view was as great as ever.




On the way back east we stopped several times to look around or take a short hike.






Since the campgrounds in the park were closed due to hurricane damage, late that afternoon we left the park and drove back into Homestead to find a private campground.

We meet a lot of fellow campers on our trips, campers are a companionable lot. We met a man and his son there from a northern state. His wife was an insurance adjuster, and she was on a 6-month assignment filing claims for hurricane damage. Her husband was a construction worker who wasn’t working at the time, it was the off-season for construction work where they came from. Their son transferred to a local school. They had rented a large trailer and set it up in this park to live in. The father and son were having a ball, while the mother worked 12-hour days. We never did meet her. Her husband said she always came in very late. While he and his son were floating in the campground pool.


Next Location – Big Cypress National Preserve


American Locations 43 – John Pennekamp 2

The trip is from New River, West Virginia, to Stinking Creek, Tennessee, by way of Long Key, Florida.

 John Pennekamp State Park, Florida


The next morning we got an early start. We drove south on Hwy. 1. Since the glass bottom boat at Pennekamp had been damaged in the hurricane, we stopped to see about a ticket for a cruise on a commercial boat. Where the actual boat used to film the movie “The African Queen” was docked.

1553_Florida Keys

We continued south through the Keys. Where we saw a lot of clean-up from the hurricane still going on.

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But the Keys are beautiful no matter what.

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We found a good-sized iguana.

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We crossed from Key Largo onto Plantation Key.

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Where the water was just as beautiful.

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At Long Key State Park we learned from a ranger the damage was more extensive further south, and many places weren’t open. This state park was completely closed, not even open for day use. So we decided to turn back. We had driven all the way to Key West 24 years ago and had fond memories, so we had no desire to see it all torn up. Long Key State Park was as far away from home that we got on this trip, from here on we would be getting closer to home rather than farther.

So we returned for the afternoon glass bottom boat cruise. As you can see in the photo, our boat was moored next to The African Queen.

1571_Glass bottom boat

I hadn’t been on a glass bottom boat since I was a kid. We have done a lot of snorkeling in the Caribbean, but the water here was too choppy. I’ve tried that in Mexico before, and it’s such a struggle trying to stay oriented in a rough surf it’s exhausting and frustrating. So we took the boat instead. There were a lot of pelicans hanging around the dock.

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It was fun cruising out.

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We saw more birds when we reached open water.

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The water was beautiful as we approached the reef.

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This was the view from inside the boat. The glass was really clean, but it’s just not the same as snorkeling.

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We motored around the reef for about a half-hour, then it was back to land.

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And past some beautiful homes.

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We drove back to our campground then for another relaxing night.


Next Location – Everglades National Park, Florida