The drive from Key West was long, and the SatNav took us to the wrong place, but eventually we made it to the Everglades. Driving through the abandoned entrance station we followed signs to the nearest campground and found an empty site to pitch our tent in. That done, we put on our pjs and fell into our sleeping bags, exhausted after a very long day. The next morning we were up early to make the most of our day in the Everglades, coming back from the bathroom, Liz pointed out that there were no showers. Oh well, its only two nights, kind of like having no showers at T in the Park really. After brie sandwiches for breakfast our first port of call was the campsite entrance to register and pay for the site, then out for petrol before hitting the visitor centre. After watching the obligatory introductory film, we drove the short distance to the Royal Palm centre to walk the two trails there.

Alligators on the Anhinga trail

Seeing the crowds headed one way, we headed the other and started with the Gumbo Lingo trail. This took us on a winding path through the trees and undergrowth, with plaques dotted about to tell us what we were looking at. It was lovely, but pretty short and we soon found ourselves back at the start. The Anhinga trail was longer, and had much more to look at. A series of raised boardwalk style paths allowed us to get really close to the wildlife, including the alligators, which we were able to see from only a few feet away. It was amazing, but very crowded and the group of noisy, rude teenagers on a field trip ruined the atmosphere somewhat. Nevertheless, it was a great opportunity to see alligators so closely in the wild, there are lots of pictures! Returning to the car we drove further into the park down to Mahogany Hammock where we had our lunch before wandering around the trail. Much like the Gumbo Lingo trail, this mostly took us through the trees, including a huge Mahogany tree, before returning us to the start. It was barely 1pm by this time, so we decided to return to the campsite and walk the Long Pine Key nature trail. Looking at it on the map there were several options to turn off to shorten the route so it seemed perfect. It was a lovely walk, but these advertised “turn offs” never appeared, or were certainly not clearly marked. Almost 7 miles later in the hot sun we reached Pine Glades lake. Some cyclists who had passed us twice commented that we had walked really far from the campsite and we asked them where we were. They said we were pretty far away still, but that they could give us a lift back. This was such a kind offer, and faced with more walking we quickly agreed and climbed into the truck bed with their bikes. The driver very carefully circumnavigated the potholes on the track to the road which was really kind of him, and drove us back to the campground. 55 miles per hour in the back of a pick up truck is very windy, we both had to spend a long time brushing the tangles out of our hair. Arriving at the campsite he pulled up to the office and said to the Park Ranger, “We found these guys a few miles away so we’ve brought them home.”, we felt a little like wayward children, but were too grateful for the lift to really care. After thanking our rescuers profusely we looked at the map to see how far we would have had to walk, and discovered that had we not been rescued we would have had a further 7 miles to walk. Heading back to the tent we cleaned up a bit, I put aftersun on my sunburn and we headed to Pa-hay-okee Overlook to watch the sunset. We were very early, so ate dinner in the car before heading up to watch the sunset, it was pretty, but not as stunning as the guidebooks would have you believe.

Dusk at Pine Glades Lake

On the way back we returned to the lake where we had been rescued earlier to take some photos, concluding that sunset would have been more stunning there than at the overlook. Heading back to the campsite we went to bed shamefully early in a bid to escape the swarming bugs.