We've started planning our family vacation for this year and we've decided to take a road trip down to Key West. The other night I got the bright idea that I would like to spend at least one night camping in the Everglades on our way to the Keys so we could take an airboat ride through the Everglades, do a little hiking and visit an Indian village. Sounds fun, doesn't it? The Island King thought so and we added the Everglades to our list of plans. Last night I sat down at the computer to do a little research for our trip and I started with the Everglades. Imagine my surprise when I read that camping in Everglades National Park is free in the summer. Yes, that's right - Free. Wow! Free fits my budget really well. It took a minute for me to wonder why it's free. I mean they don't charge anything at all during the summer but they do charge in the winter so there must be a reason it's free. I kept reading the Park's website and found out about the "Wet" season. According to their official website the temperature averages over 90 every day with 90% humidity and a heat index of about 100 and it rains, hard, every afternoon. Ok, we're natives so the heat doesn't really bother us and because we live right on the coast we're used to the afternoon thunderstorms that roll through and we are actually good at camping in the rain and staying dry so none of this sounds like too much of a problem. It looks like we'll be taking advantage of that free camping, I think to myself. I continue reading and see that in the wet season the natural wildlife disperses some so it's a little harder to see as many gators and other swamp critters. That's still ok. We'll do some backcountry hiking and it's the Everglades for Pete's sake, I'm sure we'll see something. Everything is looking good until I get to the next paragraph. "Mosquitoes and biting flies are in an overabundance during the wet season and cause inhospitable, unpleasant and downright intolerable conditions". This is straight from their website! We have a lot of mosquitoes here at home and I knew mosquitoes would be thick in the Everglades but we've got good bug spray and mosquito netting for our hats so I had already anticipated the mosquitoes and decided we could handle them. But it was the biting flies that stopped me in my tracks. I don't know anything about flies in other parts of the country but the biting flies around here are vicious and relentless and will send you running for cover faster than anything you've ever seen! They fly in swarms and come in on different winds so you never know when or where they'll be. They seem to like the barrier islands and down in the swamps the most. I looked over at the Island King and told him that camping in the Everglades would be free but that we would have to deal with heat, high humidity, afternoon rain and mosquitoes. He really likes the word "free" so he was nodding his head and saying we could handle it until I said "Oh, and conditions are considered downright intolerable due to the biting flies" He burst out laughing and said that he knew there had to be a catch to the free thing LOL
He and I were camping on an island south of Pensacola one night and just as the sun rose the next morning the wind shifted and within minutes our tent was covered with those flies. The zipper was closed and we didn't think there were any holes in the tent but within 2 or 3 minutes the flies started getting in. They were biting us and we were jumping around trying to get them off of us and when we realized we were completely surrounded by a swarm of them and that they weren't leaving we jumped in our boat and drove off as fast as we could. The flies followed us for a long way as we drove offshore. We were a mess too! The flies woke us from a dead sleep so we went from sound asleep to up and jumping around waving our arms and trying to keep the flies off of us while we threw our clothes and then a mad dash to the boat and across the Bay. We ended up in a coffee shop in a marina not far from where we were camping and I know that waitress must have wondered what was up with us because we had wild hair and a wild look in our eyes and all of the Island King's clothes were on inside out LOL We had to wait about an hour for it to warm up (the flies go away in the heat) before we could go back to camp.
So when the Island King heard that there were biting flies he cancelled all Everglades plans LOL We've decided to make that a winter camping trip next year. So all Everglades plans are on hold because if the National Park Service thinks the flies are so bad that they can't charge you to camp there I'll just have to pass on this freebie LOL