Even after we finished playing with all the gators and snakes at Everglades Alligator Farm in Homestead, it was only early afternoon. We continued heading south and stopped at Everglades National Park; we finally made it! Back in 2010, we had tried to come here, and Elliott’s employer had some silly emergency, and he had to work instead of getting to enjoy our vacation. Dumb employer. So glad we don’t have to deal with those anymore.
Elliott wasn’t feeling great and was pretty sure he had the beginnings of a cold, so we were happy to find there were a couple of short, easy hikes he’d be up for. There were two loop hikes, each under a mile. The first was the Anhinga trail, 0.8mi, on a boardwalk through marshy swamp areas, with alligators, turtles, anhingas, herons, egrets, and many other birds. We could tell a lot of people were just quickly walking by, wondering where all the animals were. But we stopped a lot and leaned way over the boardwalk rails and found some animal or another to look at every time!
The second trail was the Gumbo Limbo Trail, 0.4 mi RT through some woods to observe newer growth forest after a hurricane destroyed the old growth forest some 20 years ago. It was jungly with a hammock of lots of gumbo limbo trees, royal palms, ferns, and air plants. Elliott enjoyed it but was sorry to find there was no actual pot of gumbo on the trail.
At the Visitor Center they had told us about a spot in the park where, if you’re super lucky, you might get to see both American Alligators and American Crocodiles. North of this spot you will only find alligators, and south of it you will find the crocodiles. It was a 20 mile drive and I wasn’t authorized to drive the rental car, but the road was a quiet road that dead-ended in the Everglades so I was willing to do it. Well, we weren’t super lucky! Elliott did have a nice nap in the car while I enjoyed the breezes with the windows open the whole way; but suddenly when we got there and Elliott woke up and we noticed the car was filled with mosquitoes! FILLED!! They were everywhere. And opening the doors made it worse, so we had to close up everything and just kill all the damn suckers. It was, honestly, pretty gross! After we were pretty sure they were all dead, we got out and walked around a bit. But there were still a million mosquitoes, so I had my entire body covered (even my hood was up) and was sweltering while we searched. No alligators OR crocodiles. Bummer.
We turned around and drove back to the park entrance and main road with the air conditioning on! And then it was down to the Keys. Only, our timing wasn’t really great for views or anything. It was already dark when we drove across to Key Largo. And it took us forever to find our Hilton Hotel, as it was set way back off the road and the sign wasn’t lit!
We made up for it by going out for a nice dinner at a famous local place called Mrs. Mac’s Kitchen. We were thrilled with the local delicious fried shrimp and fish & chips.
We even bought a whole key lime pie to go! (It cost the same as four slices of pie, but it had eight slices, so it was very economical, you see.)
Normally, Elliott and I like to think we have very good luck with wildlife sightings, and weather. In Key Largo, it rained all through our first night, and we were thrilled, thinking the sky had gotten all the water out so it could be beautiful for us the next day! No such luck. We woke up to more rain and a sick Elliott. We went to have some breakfast, Elliott rested some more so as to muster up some energy, and we tried to go for a bike ride using the hotel’s free bikes. The employee laughed at me as the rain started up again and I insisted on continuing to fill out the required paperwork. But since the rain had been starting and stopping all day, I was determined to find a rain-free window. As soon as it stopped again, we ran to the bike guy and took off without delay! And wouldn’t you know it, we did get a good 1.5 hours without rain to ride along Route 1 in the Florida Keys.
Despite taking it slow, poor Elliott was exhausted and was only up for lying on the cloudy/rainy beach or lying in the huge hot tub. I teased him that I can deal with rain on vacation, or him being sick on vacation, but not both at the same time. What fun things are there to do on your own when it’s raining? And what fun is staying inside when your playmate is too sick to feel like playing games? Thank goodness for the hot tub! The beach bar and pool bar were never open, by the way, probably due to all the RAIN, so we couldn’t even get our free drinks in the ten minute hiatuses from the rain.
So no drinks, but that night we went to a restaurant with a terrific name – Tower of Pizza!! Now who wouldn’t want to eat there? Not only was the food great, there were awesome scenic paintings all over the walls. (I still want an actual tower of pizza, which I did not get.
On our last day in Key Largo, Elliott was feeling worse, and it was still raining. I tried to go on a bike ride on my own but the rain just would NOT STOP. As I watched the bike guy help a bride load up all her post-wedding paraphernalia into her car, I thought, “At least this wasn’t my wedding weekend!” We went to the inside hotel bar, asked them for our free fruity drinks, and sat at our same breakfast table, watching the rain fall softly on the canopy in front of us.
Some people might sum up these couple of days on our trip with the following math problem:
Cold + Mosquitos + Darkness + Rain = Ruined Vacation
Looking back, I’ve decided to sum it up a different way:
Hikes, Animals, Hot Tubs, Bike Rides and Key Lime Pie = Still a Great Vacation!