Friday, January 28, 2011

We did it

In 30 days, we canvassed the Gulf Coast from South Padre Island, TX, to Key West, FL.  Some of our favorite stops include Waveland/Bay St. Louis, MS; Indian Pass, FL; Homosassa Springs, FL; Collier-Seminole State Park, FL; and Florida City, FL.  In MS, we love camping in Buccaneer State Park, sandwiches and coffee at Mockingbird Cafe, beignets at Da Little Cafe, and cold Lazy Magnolia drafts.  Indian Pass Raw Bar and Indian Pass Campground in the Florida Panhandle are remote and one of the few remaining flashpoints for old Florida.  The wildlife park and butterfly museum in Homosassa Springs showcase iconic species, like the American Bald Eagle, Florida Panther, Black Bear, Whooping Crane, and American Crocodile.  Collier-Seminole State Park, originally set up as a panther preserve, is located near Naples.  During our stay, we heard black bears rummaging around our campsite.  We also cycled a trail through the panther preserve -- but did not see any of the large cats.  Only alligators and deer.  Royal Palm Hammock Trail inside the camping area winds through stands of these ancient looking palms; the boardwalk areas shake and rattle a little but are still functional.  Park staff request that everybody leave the trails by 4pm because that seems to be when the really big wildlife wake up to eat.  Unless you want to be "invited" over for dinner, comply.

The real highlight of this Deep South sojourn, however, is Florida City.  Most travelers stop off here at the gateway to the keys intending to stay a night or two.  Some are looking for unique adventures in the Everglades.  This is THE place for both...and more.  Rates are very reasonable, even in high season.  Tours of the Everglades -- smaller groups and more thrilling than park-sanctioned tours -- leave from the hostel.  Some are during the day, some at night, depending on the time of month.  If you can get there during a full moon, take the late night canoe and hike tour.  David went on this one guided by Graham.  The pics of the cypress dome under the full moon light are simply awesome.  Another day, we went as a family to walk along a small trail near Flamingo, also inside Everglades National Park.  Here and no place else on the planet you can see American Alligators and American Crocodiles living together.  What an experience!  Key West is only about 3 hours south.  We were able to complete our "border of blue" tour by reaching southernmost point by late afternoon and returning to the hostel that evening.  Communal dinners at the hostel are first-rate, and the garden and waterfall-pool rejuvenate weary travelers.  Public transportation from the Miami airport is available.  If you drive, there is plenty of parking.  You may prefer car camping in your vehicle to dorm accommodations; the fee is only $15 per person compared to $28.  Perfect for those of us with small campers willing to boondock.

The best part of Everglades Hostel, though, is the people.  Whether resident volunteers or transients like us, there we discovered a new group of friends, an extension of our family, and a community where we want to return again and again.  They welcomed us into their enclave as part of them, and almost every person treated Sage as if she were her own.  No wonder none of us wanted to leave...

But we did, having completed our journey (at least one direction of it) and are now backtracking toward Texas.  The day after Christmas we left South Padre eager to see as much of the Gulf Coast as possible.  One month later, we touched southernmost point in Key West.  So many experiences, places and people enriched the memories of this odyssey-of-a-lifetime.  We will carry them with us as we ramble we left Naples in silence (except for Sage's piercing shrieks during a temper-tantrum.)  Nobody seems happy to leave, yet we are all excited about the new projects and presentations that begin next week.  Back to Dallas, back to work.  And on to the next adventure.  Safe travels.  May you always float, sea beans.  :)

1 comment:

  1. What awesome travels Christy! Glad ya'll made this journey safely. Sage is looking a mite bigger to me since I last saw her. She's so cute! ~Jen