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Camping in the Keys

So ...

We've been planning another trip to the Florida Keys for months.  Mostly, so I could forget about office life and all the stresses there.  But also because our first trip down was so exciting, when we got to go snorkeling with the girls.  We knew, we just had to try it again.

So, this past week, we were finally able to make it happen.  In order to save money, we chose to camp at John Pennekamp State Park.  Here's a little bit about the experience, and what we would suggest for anyone thinking about doing the same thing in the future. 

First of all:
We came in early May (10-13th) in an effort to beat the heat.  WRONG idea!  Maybe in another epoch Florida was cooler ... but not now.  The first day we were there was in the 90's, and even though the other days were cooler, it was still blazingly hot.  There is NO WAY you could possibly sit in your campsite exposed to that heat all day, and enjoy yourself. 

I suggest planning your vacation so that during most of the heat of the day, you are out doing other activities.  You'll want to leave the campsite by about 10 AM, and plan on returning after 5-6 PM.  In fact, the heat was so bad, the first night none of us slept well.

Here is out campsite - just to prove we were there.



Point Two:
If you are going to camp at this campground, during the months of May through October, I would suggest you have air conditioning.    Otherwise, your camping trip could be miserably hot.  We were able to survive the next two nights by buying an oscillating electric fan, so that it blew on us all night in the tent.  If we didn't have the fan, none of us would have slept for three nights straight.  While that's certainly survivable, it's not really a benefit, when you're on VACATION.

Third Point -
When you look at the picture above, you'll see a couple of blue mosquito repellent devices sitting on the picnic table.  We were fully expecting to do battle with swarms of mosquitoes on  this trip.  Surprisingly, there were hardly any mosquitoes.  There were, however, thriving colonies of 'no see 'em' bugs.  These are tiny, little fly like creatures (almost to small to see with the naked eye), that bite like piranha.  The scariest part is that they come out during the day.  From dawn to sunset you will get gnawed on by some invisible force that you can't defeat.  Unless you are wearing long sleeve shirts and pants, you will get bitten by these God-forsaken creatures.  And unlike mosquito bites which stop itching after a day or two, these bites keep right on itching for days.  We have been home for three days now, and we are ALL still scratching as if we have chicken pox or some other rash like illness. 

And remember this, about these bugs, no matter if you stay in a tent or an RV ... when you walk outside ... they are waiting.  You will NOT be immune from their powerful onslaught.  So, even if you stay in an RV with the coolest A/C on the planet, you will have to face the 'no see 'ems' eventually.   This is simply a friendly word of warning. 

All that being said ... John Pennekamp State Park is an outstanding campground.  It's a little bit pricey, but compared to the other options in the Florida Keys ... it's a bargain.   And the campground itself is superb. 
  • The bathrooms are large.
  • The bathrooms are clean and well maintained.
  • The bathrooms have excellent showers.
  • There is running water at the campsites.
  • There is electricity at the campsites.
  • There are dozens of activities right at the State Park
    Including scuba, snorkeling, glass-bottom boats, kayak rentals, public beaches, a great visitor center with aquarium displays, and boat rentals.
  • Killer breezes on the beaches of the park.
In general, this State Park is a top notch park, with amenities that are superior to most parks we're seen in Florida - BUT you have to be able to get over the three hurdles above to enjoy the campground to its full potential.

And finally, there are some additional visitors to the campground.  These were also very cool to see, right by our campsite. 

The first one ... if you look at the picture above, you'll see a tree just over Kaitlyn's left shoulder.  Just beyond that tree, about 8 feet, is a small creek.  This lovely creature was right back beside the creek one morning as we were getting ready to head out for the day.

I would guess this iguana was about 4 feet long.  Chris wasn't going anywhere near this thing.



I wouldn't want to meet up with one of these out walking on a trail.  I was standing about 10 feet away from it, and I didn't want to get much closer. 

And this little guy was pretty cute.  They build massive holes in the ground, and come crawling out about sunset.  Every time this one tried to come out, he saw us standing there ... and quickly ducked back into his hole. 


Al

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