Fire Cloud...
An irregular marking on the exterior of Native American pottery: usually resulting from burning fuel coming in direct contact with the vessel during firing

Friday, 20 April 2007

Camp Flamingo

The Everglades – Florida

We are camped in a grassy campground on the Gulf of Mexico. The lights of the Keys are visible to the south. It is a 50 mile drive from the town of Homestead though the park to reach this remote campsite. Only about 10% of the campsites are occupied.

Here are a few pictures of salt water crocodiles and other things.

By August the campsites will be free as the unbelievable clouds of mosquitoes take over the park. I’ve come here more than once with my son in August. Once we awoke to a strange scrabbling sound. We found our tent completely engulfed by three-inch “palmetto bugs”. We call them palmetto bugs so as not to horrify tourists who may not be ready for the idea of flying roaches that large.



The park was hard hit by a double tap from Wilma and Katrina in 2005. The motel-like lodges are windowless and vacant. The restaurant and lounge is still closed. This year the marina and campgrounds reopened. The high point in the park is only three feet, so the 10 foot storm surge from Wilma was very damaging to the park structures here on the coast.

The snowstorms to the north linger late this year. My cousin, Danny, in upstate New York got thirteen inches of snow this week. The temperature here at the tip of Florida averages a high of 80 F in January and 90 F in August.

The Calusa Indians once occupied this area. They were tall people. Two female skeletons were measured at 6’3”. A male skeleton went 6’10’. The unusual height might have been caused by genetic drift or by a rich diet of shellfish. The Spanish exterminated the Calusa by 1750. The Seminoles from North Carolina drifted in to fill the void. The Seminoles never signed a peace treaty. Now they operate airboat rides along Tamiami Trail, big Casinos in the cities and sell tax free cigarettes. Anna Nicole Smith died recently in a Seminole Casino of undisclosed causes.

The area was first used in modern times by feather hunters, train robbers and rum runners.

We take a boat tour ten miles back into Coot Bay and Whitewater bay in the afternoon. I’ve been there in a canoe several times over the years. The bays have salt water crocodiles, alligators, manatees, dolphins, bull sharks and black tip sharks. We see a couple of large crocs. They are still endangered but their numbers are up to about 2,000 after falling to 200 in 1970. The manatee population is low but stable at around 3,000. A couple of bad years with low water temperatures, disease or red tide could kill them all off. They won’t breed in captivity.

At nightfall Mrs. Phred and I take a hike around a large pond a mile or so from the campground. As dark falls, white morning glories begin to bloom around the pond. Venus, red giant Aldebaran and the crescent moon are up in a strange triangle in the early evening. The light from Aldebaran is 65.1 light years distant. The light we see is vintage March, 1942. The fires we see were burning when McArthur bugged out on a PT boat from Corregidor after saying the famous words, “I’ll be back”.

At 2 AM the stars are bright and clear. The nearest city is Key West about 70 miles southwest across the Gulf. The lights of Marathon Key are visible from the campground. Tomorrow we will go look up our old friend Jimmy Buffet in Margaritaville.

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