During the long, cold Maine winters we often thought longingly about visiting the Florida Keys. We imagined them to be a tropical destination where we would sit by the water and watch the palm trees sway in the comfortable breeze. Turns out that like most romantic visions of a perfect destination we were wrong. Our first stop was the famed Bahia Honda State Park, home to one of the top ranked beaches in America. As we drove to our campsite we could not avoid the sight or smell of the overflowing garbage dumpsters. We continued on towards our site trying to keep our spirits positive. After nearly suffering from heat stroke while setting up the tent (the Florida Keys are seriously hot with very few shadey areas) we headed off to the raved about park beaches. The white sand beaches would have definetely been inviting if they weren’t covered with garbage. Seriously we have never seen so much trash on a beach especially in a State Park. The sad part was that there were trash cans located near every beach entrance. We spent our walks back and forth picking up as much trash as we could carry. If the many other visitors did this as well the beach could have been trash free in no time. The kids actually enjoyed this part of the trip and even came away with a plastic doll arm which Five Ball has now affectionately adopted as his “baby”.
The water at the beach was very, very warm (think a hot bath) so it offered little relief from the heat. However, we did get to introduce the kids to their first snorkeling experience. The boys enjoyed playing in the sand more but Five of Hearts really took to the wonders of the many aquatic species just below the surface of the water. In retrospect we should have probably spent the night just hanging out in the water but instead we headed back to our campsite where as the sun went down the no-see-ums came out in full force. In our opinion no-see-ums give both black flies and mosquitoes a run for their money. This nearly invisible bugs pack a powerful bite that leaves a ugly looking red splotch. We had encountered them before but never in this number and soon made the mistake of opening the tent to make a final trip to the potty that ended with all of us itching wildly. Things that night didn’t go much smoother as we experienced the hottest night of camping so far. Honestly there wasn’t the slightest bit of breeze unless a big truck went by on Route 1 which by the way was just yards from the campsites and housed a steady stream of traffic all night long. In some respects the noise from the speeding trucks offered some distraction from the many campers that spent the night fishing directly in front of our campsite. On a positive note we did discover that the kid’s bedtime books make great fans which we used throughout the night to provide the younger Fives some relief from the heat.
After a sleepless night we packed up in record time the next morning and hit the road. The amazing vegan frozen treats that we found in Key West and the thrill of finshing Route 1 revived our spirits enough to try out another night of camping on the Keys. This time we headed to Curry Hammock State Park, a much smaller campground on one of the quieter keys. The campground itself was beautiful with wonderful amenities including electric at every site which allowed us to use our fan in the tent. While the beach didn’t have the same tropical allure of Bahia Honda they were trash free and still offered a great opportunity to explore the marine life. Like pretty much everywhere on the Keys it was unbearably hot but we utilized the park’s covered picnic area for our meals which looked out over the Atlantic and offered a bit more of a breeze then we had felt in a long while. Our lesson learned about the no-see-ums, we made sure to be inside our tent before the sun went down. Unfortunately things went downhill from there when we suddenly became aware of an obnoxious, very loud beep that sounded every 30 seconds. After checking the very few electrical items that we had Five String decided to scour our campsite in case the previous campers had left something behind. Turns out that the alarm was coming from the RV the next site over and the owners just happened to be out for the night. The campground staff said that they couldn’t enter the RV without permission so we spent another sleepless night on the Keys. Needless to say we packed up camp in 93 degree heat the next morning and for the first time sped up Route 1 North putting the tropical fantasy of Key West out of our heads. In retrospect the Keys are one place where we should have booked a room in a well air-conditioned resort and looked out over the blue waters while sipping ice cold drinks. Lesson learned.