Exploring the Middle Keys

Tuesday October 27th 2020

Today was an almost perfect weather day for a change. It was mostly sunny all day. The temperature peaked in the high eighties with lots of humidity. Wind out of the east at 10mph or more kept feeling the humidity in check.

Beautiful day in the keys.

I spent some time today getting familiar with the middle keys. I drove up and down the overseas highway stopping here and there. My first observation is that the area is still recovering from hurricane Irma that hit the area hard in September of 2017. This state park has had major repairs since the hurricane as I understand the other two Long Key State Park and Bahia Honda have as well. The campground at Long Key state park is still closed for reconstruction. Outside the park in the Marathon area some buildings appear to be abandon since receiving major damage. Most of the roadside turnouts near the bridges that I wanted to stop at are closed or in disrepair.

Kite Boarders were busy this morning.

I’m glad my campground is where it is. I only had to drive the motorhome over one fairly short causeway and bridge. Sitting high above the cement sidewalls along the road deck in the motorhome is not a comfortable feeling even if it does give you a good view. Throwing in a little cross wind and it would turn into a real white knuckle experience. Crossing the Seven Mile bridge outbound from Marathon would have been an even more challenging experience on my nerves. Today in my Honda it was interesting enough.

Some of things I was scouting for are parks or nature areas along the water. Usually, I can find directional signs for such places from the main road, but not today. The few brown park direction signs I saw were small and confusing. It wasn’t clear where I was supposed to turn or what I might see once I found the place. I did manage to turn around in one rather narrow private driveway in my wandering today. It’s time to do a little more research with Google Maps.

I also identified a few museums and attractions that might be interesting. The problem is I’m not sure how comfortable I am with visiting such places in these pandemic times. I need to figure out if they are open and what kind or restrictions they may have in place. I would prefer outdoor to indoor activities if I decide to visit. The other question is how busy the places might be. So far, I don’t think there are a high number of tourists in the area. Only a handful of RVs in this campground are from out of state.

Exploring Curry Hammock State Park

Monday October 26th 2020

Overall today’s weather was OK. The daylight hours started and ended partly cloudy. During the middle of the day the clouds filled in, the wind came up and a couple of fast moving heavy downpours passed through the area. It wasn’t too hot, but it was very humid.

Beach area on the Atlantic Ocean

I spent time today exploring the area around the Curry Hammock State Park campground. The campground is located on an island called Little Crawl Key. Most of the island is partially flooded and filled with mangroves. The beach along the Atlantic Ocean is narrow with a lot of grass growing out of the sand. It isn’t really a beach for swimming or sitting either. What it is good for is launching water sports. At one point today there were seven kite boarders racing along at high speed and launching into the air for a stunt or two.

The day use area beside the campground usually rents kayaks to paddle around the island, but the concession is closed to support social distancing. Like at my last stop, it would have been nice to rent a Kayak on a calm day. A few people had brought their own, but the wind was better for the kite boarders than paddling today. This park is apparently “the spot” for kite boarding in the central keys.

Boarder is fifteen to twenty feet above the water.

Another storm was approaching the area as night closed in. It prevented the sun from providing a nice colorful departure for the day. I’d like to get a few nice sunset pictures while I’m here. Taking pictures may be one of my only diversions while I’m here. I don’t get any local over the air television channels and my internet access is limited. If it wasn’t for my satellite TV, I’d be doing a lot of reading when I’m not out touring.

Travel Day to the Florida Keys

Sunday October 25th 2020

Today was a travel day. It was also a rainy day which is not the best combination. It started to rain around 9:30 just as I planned to begin the outside packing tasks. I delayed a little, but eventually had to get wet. My biggest challenge was finding a place to hook up the car. Blocking a road for fifteen minutes or so with everyone trying to leave wasn’t didn’t make sense. I drove the car over to the kayak launch then brought the motorhome over to make the connection after I’d finished with the line for the dumping station. Of course, I got wet walking back from the kayak launch parking lot.

It was still raining when I got on the road around 11:30, but I drove out of the rain in about forty miles as I traveled east toward Miami. The day never became sunny. It looked like it could rain at any minute, but so far it hasn’t started to rain again.

Once I reached the eastern side of the Everglades in the Miami suburbs traffic became heavy. The roads I traveled today had many traffic lights and turning traffic. I try to keep extra separation from the cars in front to compensate for my longer stopping distance. In heavy traffic I always seem to get other cars that want to jump into the space between me and the car in front. It takes extra concentration to deal with that kind of traffic. Once I was on route US 1 known as the overseas highway as it crosses the keys, traffic was bumper to bumper heading back toward Miami. In my direction it was only a little bit better. Two weeks from know, I may be in similar traffic.

Site 3 at the Curry Hammock State Park in Marathon Florida.

I arrived at the Curry Hammock State Park in Marathon shortly about 3:30PM. The campground has about thirty sites along the Atlantic side om Little Crawl Key. My site is not directly along the ocean. It’s on the other side of the loop, but only about 200 feet from the water. I’m looking forward to exploring the park tomorrow.

Between writing the 2nd paragraph above and this closing sentence, it has started to rain.

Last Day at Collier-Seminole State Park

Saturday October 24th 2020

Today was my last full day at Collier-Seminole State Park. Tomorrow I move on another 170 miles or so to the Florida Keys. Other than my regular thrice daily walks, most of my activities today were focused on getting ready to travel.

My biggest preparation tasks was a grocery run. I suspect that grocery stores in the keys may be small and widely separated. After today’s trip to Walmart, I should be all set for the two weeks I’ll be there. It has been over twenty years since I visited the Keys, so I could be all wrong about the shopping. Either way, it’s better to be prepared than in need.

Block house in the style used during the Third Seminole Wars was built as a residence for the park custodian in the 1940s.

The weather tomorrow could be much better. A tropical depression is forming into a tropical storm just west of Cuba. Bands of thunderstorms associated with the system are already impacting south Florida. Most of the storms missed this area today, but tomorrow is likely to be different. The worst of the weather is heading into the Gulf of Mexico well to the west of the Florida peninsula, but I expect tomorrow’s travel to be a rainy mess.

I’m really still learning about hurricane seasons. I thought south Florida was safer late in October. It turns out this is the most likely time for storms to impact south Florida. Last month I was up in the panhandle of Florida during the peak vulnerability for that area. My guess is the only hurricane safe place is north of Georgia and west of the Appellation until the middle of November. Of course, some of that area is getting an early snow storm this weekend.

As I predicted the campground is almost full this weekend. This campground is located just the right distance from the Miami and Fort Lauderdale metro area for a weekend family outing. There are a lot of tents and small RVs in the park this weekend. Perfect size units for the occasional weekend camping outing. With the weekend campers come the bicycles, scooters, kayaks, and canoes. Saturday is a very busy day at the campground.

Another Day Without Rain

Friday October 23rd 2020

I was on the edge of my seat all day waiting for rain, but it never came. This is the second day in a row without rain. Once again it went by to the south and the north. I don’t know if this is the random nature of the weather pattern or my reading the forecast wrong, but I’m glad it didn’t rain. Tomorrow has a similar forecast. I hope it has a similar outcome.

Changeable sky above the Kayak and Canoe launch on the Backwater River.
Two person kayak returning from a paddle to the ocean.

I took several walks to the Backwater River today separated by one drive into Naples. I didn’t see much in the way of wildlife or wildflowers on most of my excursions. There was something about today’s weather conditions that kept the birds away from the area. I usually see several egrets and an ibis or two in the marsh. Today I didn’t see them on any of the walks to the area.

A lurking gator at twilight.

On my last walk to the Backwater River kayak and canoe launch of the day the native alligator made an appearance. As night approaches the gator will leave the confines of the mangroves in search of food. A couple of nights ago it came out in response to some splashing in the water. Tonight it took an interest in a white dog that was getting walked out on the floating docks. In both cases it was the same drill swim rapidly into the vicinity of the noise than hover in the water with just its head out of the water watching. The dog’s people realized the risk they were putting their dog in and retreated to shore. The gator watched them all the way.

The campground filled up steadily as the afternoon progressed. For the first time since I arrived almost two weeks ago I have neighbors on both sides and across the street. It looks like the campground will be close to full this weekend. Departing Sunday morning may be a real competition for the dumping station.

A Break in the Rain

Thursday October 22nd 2020

I woke up this morning to sunshine. It looked promising that the streak of three days of rain was broken. The sun hung around for two thirds of the daylight hours before clouds started moving in from the east. So far, the precipitation that goes with the clouds has missed this area to the north and south.

Today was laundry day. This park has a washer and dryer at each restroom building. They even take credit cards. In this day of coin shortages it is nice not to have that concern. The down side is the washers only have cold water connections. You can select a warm or hot setting on the machine, but you’ll still only get a cold water cycle. It’s not a big deal for most of my laundry. Three hours later I was on to my next chore.

Clouds and storms to the south at sinset.

Since I was in a household chores mood, I followed the laundry with a little vacuuming and general cleaning. The last couple of days of dishes also got washed and put away. Everything is clean, but the place still looks lived in (cluttered).

The campground is starting to fill up for the weekend. It has been a lot quieter around here this week than last. The last couple of nights the park has been particularly empty. This afternoon about a dozen new residents have arrived. I suspect the park will be near full this weekend like it was last week. Since this is an older park without a lot of separation between sites it gets crowded and noisy fast.

Third Rainy Day in a Row

Wednesday October 21st 2020

Today was the third straight rainy day. Unlike the previous two days, today began cloudy, but dry. It was also very windy. So windy that a dead tree fell behind my RV home overnight. The tree only missed the motorhome by less than ten feet. The bulk of the rain came in the afternoon. As the sunset the clouds were starting to breakup, but not enough to create an impressive sunset.

Blossom of he day

I got a walk in during the morning before the rains arrived. At the Backwater River I was rewarded by a manatee sighting. The slow moving sea mammal was in the near the kayak launch. I was only a few feet away as it poked around on the bottom for food and occasionally poked its nose above the water for air. Despite several attempts I didn’t get any decent pictures. A brown oval in the water was the best picture I took.

Around noon I headed out in the car along the Tamiami highway east toward the Big Cypress National Preserve. A few miles after leaving the state park, I ran into the rain. It wasn’t bad at first. I was able to stop at one of the roadside areas and view an accumulation of alligators. It is amazing how close you can get from the safety of the boardwalk without the gators even showing any sign of concern. Today there were about six alligators visible. In March a couple of years ago there were many more.

Alligator patrol.

As the rain got heavier outside exploring became impractical. I turned back toward my RV home. Overall I was out for only two hours, but I managed to get back before the really heavy rain arrived. For about three hours it rained very hard. Most of the campground became covered in standing water. It looked like the swamp was overflowing its banks. About an hour after the rain stopped the water level was back down so I could once again walk on the roads and high ground. My evening walk to the Backwater river didn’t produce any new wildlife sightings.

Eye see you.

This pattern of rainy days is forecast to continue through the week. Tomorrow’s forecast reads like it will be a little drier, but I will believe it when it happens. The continued cloudy and rainy conditions are having an impact on my attitude. I’m feeling gloomy, lethargic and slightly depressed. I’m not sure what I’ll do if its a sunny day, but I need to find something fun and interesting.

Another Rainy Day

Tuesday October 20th 2020

Today was the second consecutive rainy day. Unfortunately, it wasn’t as predictable as Monday. After misty start to the day, it appear to be clearing. I took advantage of the opportunity and headed out on my morning walk. It didn’t clear and I got caught in the heaviest rain of the day to that point. The little cloud burst only lasted long enough for me to get wet heading back to my RV home. A few more heavy showers followed. Some were short and others lingered for up to an hour.

I still managed to get in two walks to the Backwater River canoe and kayak launch. The first was a quick visit between storms and the second was at sunset. The photography opportunities during the first walk were limited, but during the sunset walk I had a little more success. The gator was back in the lagoon just before sunset. It responded to noise in the water it came out of hiding in the overhanging mangroves for the middle of the open water. About the same time the sunset found a hole in the clouds to display a bright red sky. Other than the color it was only a so so sunset.

Today’s Alligator sighting.

In between the walks it was just a reading and watching TV kind of day. Tomorrow’s weather sounds like a repeat of today. I’ll need to find something else out of the rain to keep me occupied.

A Rainy Monday

Monday October 19th 2020

At breakfast time this morning it began to rain. A steady to heavy rain continued until the lunch hour. It became intermittent during the afternoon and seems to have ended completely as I start to write this blog entry. I guess rain was in the forecast, but I only expected afternoon thunderstorms.

Outside activity wasn’t in the cards for this morning. I suffered through a few obscure TV programs while trying to deal with limited access to the internet. I suspect I’m at the limit of reasonable reception distance from the nearest cell tower. The phone usually shows only a single bar and the data connection speed seems to go up and down. Not having access to the normal network morning shows on the over the air TV networks combined with difficulty surfing the internet made for a challenging and boring morning.

About the time the rain started to let up, I drove into town to restock on a few groceries. I was out of milk, OJ, unfrozen meat and worst of all sweet deserts. Two hours later I was home again with a lot more than those few things. The nearest Walmart is about eight miles away. It was well stocked for a pandemic era store. My complaint about this store was the checkouts. They had about thirty self serve checkouts and only two open human staffed checkouts. My curmudgeon self wants the checkout service I’m paying for.

During the late afternoon I managed to get out for a walk in the state park. It was an exercise in creativity dodging many of the large puddles in and around the roads. Down by the Backwater river boat launching there was a little wildlife activity. The birds were sheltering in the trees and for some reason the mullet were jumping out of the water. It was almost like the fish were having a jumping contest.

Blossom of the day.

I just edited my first paragraph to read “ended completely as I start to write this blog entry”. As I’m finishing writing the blog the rain has returned. The sound on the roof of my RV home is equivalent to a dull roar. I wonder what tomorrow will bring.

Balancing act.

A Lazy Sunday

Sunday October 18th 2020

My day started lazy and relaxed surrounded by the bustling chaos of weekend campers packing up and leaving the state park. Next Sunday I’ll be part of the chaos, so I was interested in how the line at the dump station formed and other logistics of leaving. It is going to be tricky getting the car hooked up in the tight confines of the campground.

Today’s blossom of the day from a random bush in a store parking lot.

After all the weekenders departed I took a drive toward Naples and found more chaos on the road. A group of motorcyclists filled the road for near a quarter of a mile. They were two and three abreast in the lain approaching my direction of travel. It was loud, long and confusing as it approached. I guess this club didn’t make the three hundred mile run to Daytona Beach for Biketoberfest this weekend.

Most of the day I spent waiting for the weather to change. It started as a nice sunny day with a good breeze and a few fluffy clouds. Based on the internet and weather channel forecast, I expected thunderstorms during the afternoon. They never came. The day ended the way it started as a nice day with a few fluffy clouds. Since I don’t receive any local television stations, I don’t know if that was in the local forecast or not. As much as I complain about the quality of local TV weather forecasts, I feel a little out of touch without them.