Last year, I finally had enough of the holiday madness. I snapped. A new convention needed to be established with a quickness. So, I decided to something different: go camping on Christmas Eve! Not just any camping, either. Primitive camping, in the Everglades.
A few weeks earlier, a grumpy, old disk jockey by the name of Dr. Rich was talking about the Flamingo Campgrounds on his show, The Love Doctors. He said it was one of the greatest places to camp in South Florida, and many of the callers agreed. Further online research confirmed that Flamingo is a great camping destination, so I began to make plans.
Safety is a big priority when camping, especially in the backcountry of a 1.5 million acre park with crocodiles, alligators, and pythons (oh my!). Considering I have never engaged in a trip like this before, I decided to hedge my bets and bring along a friend.
We read everything we could to prepare ourselves for the trip.
Picking a campsite was pretty easy. We had two choices: 1) beach camping, or 2) river camping (on elevated 10’ X 12’ wooden platforms with roofs called “chickees”). I had always wanted to camp on a beach, so that was that.
We loaded up our gear and made our way towards the park where the entrance fee was $10 per vehicle and our pass was good for seven days. The Flamingo Visitor Center was another 38 miles away, but there was plenty of scenery to take in while driving.
Registration was quite a cinch. I filled out some paperwork and received a decal that was to be placed on my tent for identification. Dealing with the canoe people, however, was a bit trickier.
In an effort to save time, I reserved a canoe online. When I went to pick it up, I was met with a confused crew of guys that did not know a thing about online reservations. After 15 minutes, someone found my reservation and then I had to wait an additional 15 minutes for my canoe to be placed in the water.
In the meantime, I picked up 2 waterproof nautical charts at the gift shop, and then I wrapped my backpack/gear in trash bags to keep my belongings try. It looked kind of ghetto, but large dry bags are more expensive and are quite difficult to get a hold of. My 55 gallon, industrial strength bags did the trick.
We boarded our canoe and set off on a 4-5 hour journey that led us to encounters with lascivious dolphins, indifferent birds, bewildered sand crabs… and Holy Mudd. Let me tell y’all ’bout the mudd. It is downright treacherous.
I picked up a tide chart during registration and was warned by an elderly park ranger that we would most-likely get stuck at some point during our travel. It was suggested, if we were to find ourselves in such a predicament, that we get out of and simply drag our canoe along until the tide came back in. Ha!
And so the moment came to pass. We found ourselves stuck in muck.
Holy Mudd is akin to quick sand. The longer we stood in it, the more we sank in. After much hullabaloo, we finally realized that it was more efficient to lean on our canoe and trudge forward at snails pace, preserving our energy. Knee deep in sea grass and mud, we carried on like this for the better part of an hour before finding ourselves in deeper water, only 250 feet away from where we first got stuck.
The whole ordeal felt like penance. By the time it was over, we felt spiritually cleansed and hella happy to be alive.
Exhausted from our crusade, we decided to drop anchor at the first inhabitable beach that graced us with her presence.
We dragged our heavy canoe up to the beach and tied it down.
Next, we spent half an hour and nearly 2 rolls of biodegradable toilet paper trying to start a fire. Dry twigs collected from nearby dead plants were instrumental in the process.
The sand was extra soft, and required many stakes to secure our tents.
It was chilly that night, but we were pleasantly distracted by a celestial display of stars, space debris, and even the ISS (International Space Station).
Heaven on Earth.
The tide was to be at its peak come sunrise, so in an effort to prevent ourselves from getting stuck again, we woke up early and set sail sans breakfast. This time around, we ventured farther out into the golf and made sure we always had at least 3 feet of space between the belly of our canoe and the Holy Mudd. This strategy fared us well and we made it back to harbor in a little over 3 hours.
Mild discomfort aside, my overnight camping trip was a great experience and I can’t wait to do again this year! Perhaps I will stay out there for a week next time. Maybe, not likely.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Located on the ocean with views of Florida Bay. ... more less
- Also Known As:
- Flamingo Campground Hotel Everglades National Park
- Flamingo Hotel Fl