To The Everglades and Beyond

Our Florida exploration continues southward and we’ve now gone top to bottom. This week we left the beautiful beaches of the panhandle and made our way across the state with one night stops at Ochlockonee River State Park, at a Boondocker’s Welcome site, and at a county park in St. Lucie

Wait, what’s a Boondocker’s Welcome? Well, it’s a membership program where people offer their driveways or land to travelers. We lucked out with our first stay! We “boondocked” with our new friends Steve and Paul at their Leesburg, FL home, which is located within the beautiful retirement community of Arlington Ridge. Their gorgeous new home has an attached RV garage that houses their 45 ft motorhome. They were able to offer us a power and water hook up in addition to a tour of their community and a great dinner at the clubhouse. Steve and Paul have traveled in their RV to all 49 states (guess which one they haven’t visited?) and were a wealth of knowledge. What a great experience!

Along our route we stopped at Biscayne National Park, which is just south of Miami. The park itself is 95% underwater and is best explored with a boat. We checked out the visitor center and took a quick little walk around the area. Next time we’ll have to plan more time here to get out on the water.

We also stopped at the legendary fruit stand Robert is Here. Since the 50s Robert has been selling produce, much of it exotic, and delicious fruit shakes. We bought the largest avocado we’ve ever seen, along with other goodies. Robert rang us up at the register by calculating our bill by hand on the back of a paper sack. Fun stop!

After our one night stands we landed at Long Pine Key Campground inside Everglades National Park and spent three nights experiencing this wild area. On the first day we did two short little walks and immediately saw alligators—like right there!

Our campground was smack-dab in the middle of beautiful wetlands which gave us the “real Everglades” experience. The best part was that there was hardly anyone there, so we had the landscape to ourselves. 

At the Flamingo area, about 30 miles from our campground, our intent was to get on the water. Immediately upon walking into the marina area we saw a giant crocodile swim right next to the docks. Minutes later we were in a kayak in the same area. Luckily by then the croc had moved along! 

During our two hour paddle we enjoyed a cool day in the mangroves with no other crocodile sightings. However, we did spot a baby manatee feeding along the side of the waterway. We followed this cutie for awhile, amazed at how peaceful and gentle he/she was. The orange color is the brackish water filled with organic material. The manatees, also known as sea cows, are actually grey as you can see when they peek out of the water with their cow-like nose. 

Luckily Steve turned around and looked the other direction just in time to see a larger manatee right next to our kayak. Again, peaceful and curious, the big manatee came right up to check us out.  We think we may have unknowingly come between mama and baby but we did our best to keep our distance and respect that this was their home. Check out our video!

My foot is now ready to be back on the bike so we tested it out on the Everglades trails. We didn’t get too far in the mud, but the roads around the campground provided a good surface for a spin.

From the Everglades we proceeded even further south—as far south as you can go in the USA. Stay tuned for our next blog from the Florida Keys and Key West. 

Twin Falls: The Final Stop

We’ve been on the road for almost 80 days and it’s been fantastic. However, there’s an end to every summer and ours was in Twin Falls, Idaho. We spent four nights in this south-central Idaho city at a local KOA. We sat right next to the highway and could hear (and smell) the cows nextdoor. It was one of our lowest rated campgrounds, but it gave us easy access to Twin Falls which was why we were there.

Our first day there was all business.  I got a new phone, Steve got the truck’s oil changed, and we did a Costco run. Once we were caught up on life we headed out to see the sights.

The big draws in Twin Falls all revolve around the Snake River Canyon. The IB Perrine Bridge spans the canyon and was at one time the tallest bridge in the world.

Now it draws base jumpers from across the world. These daredevils jump off the bridge with only a loose parachute with hopes of landing on the banks of the river hundreds of feet below. It’s quite a sight to watch!

We quickly found the Snake River Rim Trail, a ten mile trail that skirts the edge of the steep canyon edge. We rode it twice. The first time we made it to the Evel Knieval jump site, the place where in 1974 the daredevil attempted to jump the canyon in a rocket-like contraption.

His parachute engaged early and he plunged down to the river’s edge. The launch site is still there, a mini-mountain that Steve had to climb. 

The other day we rode we made it to Shoshone Falls, one of the prides of Twin Falls. Known as the “Niagra of the West,” the falls are pretty spectacular, even though the water levels were low this time of year. 

Riding along the rim provided spectacular views of the canyon and river below. 

Twin Falls and much of the region was hit with a strong “wind event” the night before we were set to leave. With wind gust of over 60mph, the RV rocked and shook for quite awhile. Luckily we didn’t have damage and it didn’t look like anyone else around us did either. Boy, what a mess.

As we drove south toward Salt Lake City it was clear that the storm was even stronger there. Along I-15 just north of Salt Lake we passed over 40 big rig trucks blown over along the side of the road. It was still pretty windy but we made it safely to our overnight stop, another Harvest Host, south of Salt Lake.

All good things come to an end and this trip is about over. We plan to be back home by the end of the week and ready to plan our next adventure!

The Sawtooth

From Salmon we drove about 150 miles south to the center of Idaho and the Sawtooth National Recreation and Wilderness Area.  Most famously known for nearby Sun Valley Ski Resort, the draw for us is the natural beauty. We’ve said lots of “Wows” on this leg of the journey.

First we headed into Ketchum, the closest town with a Verizon store. Replacing the broken iPhone is a priority but in these parts, your priorities are not their problem. After a number of calls and an uncomfortable store visit we left without a viable solution. The last photo my phone took was a call to 911, which I didn’t make.

So, we are working on one phone for the time being. The scenery, however, makes up for it.

Our first destination here was the small town of Stanley and the nearby ghost towns of Bonanza and Custer. This is gold rush country from the mid 1800s through 1960. In Custer we toured the ghost town that once held a large population, all there to work the nearby mill, built to process ore from the mines. Relics from the early miners litter the ground of this historic site.

Along the way to Custer we passed the Yankee Fork Gold Dredge, which is a 988 ton relic of gold mining from the 1940s and 50s. There are 71 one-ton buckets on one continuous chain and each bucket could hold eight cubic feet of dirt.

The dredge dug into the valley over a six mile swath to recover gold by washing and separating the rock, gravel, and dirt from the gold.  Having cut a large swath of land through a beautiful valley, the old dredge still stands as a testament to man’s search for wealth. We toured the four story dredge which over a 12 year period turned out gold valued at  $1.2 million in 1958 dollars.

The next day we hopped on the bikes and rode from our campsite to the nearby Pole Creek Ranger Station. Pole Creek is the oldest Forest Service construction in the Sawtooth National Forest and was home to Ranger Bill Horton for 22 years.

The station is on the National Register of Historic Places and shows how tough and hard working rangers like Horton were. 

The remainder of the day was spent at the popular Redfish Lake. With a lodge, visitor center, and white beaches, Redfish is popular with hikers, paddle-boarders, kayakers, and boaters.

We walked the Fishhook Trail from the visitor center and came across the Kokanee Salmon, a relative of the Sockeye in the nearby creek. It was spawning season, so the red fish were thick, having come up stream from Redfish Lake. Once they hatch and grow they will go downstream tail-first to live and enjoy the beautiful Redfish Lake. 

The Sawtooth National Recreation Area is filled with campsites, streams, and trails. We spent some time on the Harriman Trail, an 18 mile mountain bike trail that runs along the Big Wood River. We rode just a section of the trail, which was a good workout with incredible views. 

From there we headed to nearby Pettit Lake where Steve did a seven mile trail run while I rode the bike a little more. Steve’s run took him from Pettit Lake to Alice Lake. Along the way he had incredible views and scenery. 

The campgrounds were beginning to fill up in anticipation of the upcoming long weekend, which is our cue to move along. We really loved our time in the Sawtooth area and hope to return to explore more trails by foot and by bike. 

We are heading south towards Twin Falls for our next set of adventures.