Part 5, Florida trip
I left Key Largo and headed back up north to a spot I’d missed on my way South, Coral Castle. Coral Castle is a classic Florida tourist attraction that’s been on my list forever. My friend Hamrah reminded me that legendary exploitation Florida filmmaker Doris Wishman shot NUDE ON THE MOON there in 1961. I’m going to have to watch it again! Coral Castle has been there since the beginning, the epitome of Old Floridian tourist attractions. It was even moved when a major road was planned, placing it in a better tourist trail location. Its creator was clearly a genius.
This was a SUPER weird tour – the first tour guide was a major weirdo, and the second was a minor weirdo. I had to cut out before the tour ended, due to the oppressive sun and heat, even with the parasol they provided. In any case, it was a great stop. I only wish they’d had better postcards.
I went back to ROBERT IS HERE for another milkshake and some more mangoes, which unexpectedly stank up the car. It was a Saturday and way more crowded than my previous visit, so this stop was quicker than the previous one.
Next up, the Everglades! You know, the biggest park in Florida. ROBERT IS HERE is at the gateway. The road into the park is through farmland and industrial areas. It feels VERY not Everglades (not surprising, since this industry is actually destroying the natural Everglades. Sigh.), even though it’s technically part of the Everglades.
Farming creates an incredible amount of environmental damage in this country. In Florida, it eats up fresh water, diverting it from places like the Everglades where fresh water is (perhaps unexpectedly) at a premium. Farming also is responsible for animal waste runoff from cattle, polluting fresh water all over the place. I was surprised by how much agriculture is happening in Florida. Orange farming was not surprising, but I didn’t see any groves. The surprising things were cattle and sugar cane. (Sugar cane is also destroying land in Egypt, btw.)
I pulled into the park just as the last boat trip of the day was leaving, so I hopped on. Why not? This boat was way more full than the early morning glass bottom boat trip in Key Largo. We had a captain plus a tour guide, and mostly we were looking at birds and talking about the natural and social history of the land. We got some good tips from the tour guide, which led me to some manatee viewing at sunset on the shore!
The campsite was a nightmare of mosquitoes. I won’t saw I wasn’t warned, but it was intense. I did some walking around and boating in the park, but the campground was the WORST spot for mosquitoes. The park has turned the “walk in campground” into some glamping. There doesn’t seem to be as many bugs there. The diy tent camping area was INSANE! I set up my tent before sunset and took off down the road to see some sights and escape the bloodsuckers. When I got back to hit the hay, some boy scouts or something were trying to set up their tents at dusk, and were getting eating alive. They were freaking out!
So the good side of off-season camping is, of course, the lack of crowds, but the bad side is the bugs. But did I mention how cool the vultures were? SO COOL! And honestly, the only time the bugs bugged me was at the campsite. Which I put up and struck very quickly.
In the morning, I went to some trails. One spooky one, devoid of humans, but full of vultures, had some very broken boardwalk due to hurricane destruction. I had a lovely solo walk.
The Everglades is a BIG park. There are many places to stay if you can hike in. It’s beautiful and important. Nixon wanted to put an airstrip in there! Farmers and industry threaten this important place.
I say we’re all doomed because places like the Everglades could be saving our land and our people from destruction, but we are letting heavy industry and industrial farming destroy them.