Everglades National Park


A few years ago, I made it my ’passion project’ to visit all the US National Parks, and all of the Georgia State Parks – and Jeeptographer was born. Shortly after, the world came to a staggering halt as COVID-19 ravaged any semblance of our previously social lives.

In the 2+ years that have followed, I have longed for the beauty, solace and wonder that my soul has found in exploring new parks. After the holidays this past year, with the advent of booster shots and declining numbers, I felt like we were finally ready to step out and adventure again. And then, like they have been many times before, these tender hopes were crushed as Omicron raged through our community.

I’m bone-weary tired of continuing to live in a delayed-state. With all respect to this wicked virus, and to all of the countless faces that have been lost to its grip, I can’t stop living. Take every precaution? Weigh our options carefully? Make decisions to minimize risk where available? Yes. Stop living? No.

With that, my husband and I packed our bags for a short weekend getaway to Everglades National Park. We opted to fly, booking an afternoon flight from Hartsfield-Jackson (ATL) to Miami (MIA) because the flight time was short and the masks were required.

We always arrive to the airport with more than enough time to navigate through security and then walk around all the airport shops. My husband likes to build lots of time for the unexpected into our schedules, and I’m an overly nervous flyer who needs some time to settle. I am particularly nervous when flying with all of my camera gear, and since the last flight I took, I have replaced every piece of my camera equipment including my primary adventure pack (which is now an Atlas Athlete!) Due to these factors, we arrive to our terminal with over 90 minutes before our flight, so we headed to PF Changs for a nice and comfortable seat coupled with delicious food – chicken lettuce wraps and honey chicken. I know we’re not supposed to eat our feelings, but the delicious flavors definitely helped ease my nerves.

After our light dinner, we headed for our gate, shopping around as we made our way through the terminal. I always find the book stores particularly interesting, taking the time to peruse the various best sellers, always on the hunt for my next read.

Arriving at our gate, the stewardess was just beginning to board our group, so I only had a few moments to appreciate the amazing golden light streaming in the windows, reflected off the body of our plane.

One of the things that had brought me some anxiety about our air travel was my new Atlas Athlete. Ive taken it on countless hikes and outings, but not yet on a plane – and though I knew from the measurements that the pack should easily slide under an airline seat, I still had some anxiety about the execution. Would it really fit? Would my pins get caught on everything? Would anyone hassle me about it? All of my anxieties were completely unfounded – not only did no one bat an eyelash, it slid under the seat with perfect ease, and even had room to spare.

Our very short flight was the best of both worlds – a beautiful afternoon view of our beloved metropolitan area, a gorgeous sunset, a picture perfect view of the crescent moon over the wing, and then a shimmering welcome from sprawling Miami. The Miami airport was easy to navigate, and we quickly grabbed our checked luggage and picked up our rental car, heading just South of the city to Homestead, FL, which is the gateway to the eastern side of the Everglades. I unloaded my Atlas Pack from my day of travel and packed it carefully for the next day of adventure, and then slipped into bed for a sound nights sleep.

I usually pick several local-favorite restaurants when we travel, and typically find absolute gems, but I had a complete miss on this trip – I had picked a local restaurant renowned for breakfast, but when we arrive it was closed, despite the posted hours and website hours. Since I don’t do well with absolute on the fly planning, hubby made a quick executive decision for us to swing into Cracker Barrel right next to our hotel, which was a good choice – we made up for a little lost time by being fairly familiar with the menu, and the food was consistently good. Hubby tried one of their new hash bowls, and I settled on the tried-and-true pancakes.

Then we were off! The eastern gateway of Everglades has the Ernest F Coe Visitor Center where we stopped in to collect my lapel pin, and much to my delight, grab the lapel pin for Biscayne that we missed on our last trip to that park. I also chatted with the park rangers, getting some invaluable tips for spotting a local croc – my highest goal for the trip. From Ernest Coe, we would drive the 35 mile main road to the southern side of the park in Flamingo.

I spent weeks leading up to this trip doing research and pouring over the best way to utilize our time, since I only had one day inside the largest wilderness in the Eastern US, and 3rd largest park in the contiguous US. The miles and miles of grassland are roughly the size of Delaware, over 2300 square miles. Unlike many of our National Parks, Everglades does not boast unique grandeur or geographical wonder; instead, the Everglades are unique in their ecological diversity. There are over 700 species of plants, 360 species of bird, 300 species of fish, 50 species of reptile and 40 species of mammal that call the rivers of grass home.

I have broken my post out into the various stops that we made along the way, and you can find all of them here:

Needless to say, by the time we reached Flamingo, we were pretty tuckered out. I had a camera full of amazing images, and my heart was happy, but my tummy was running on empty and my body was tired!

We didn’t have a particular place picked for dinner, and had contemplated heading into the city for some fine dining but decided to head to the Keys to catch the sunset on a dock somewhere instead. My hubby spent some years in the keys as a teen, and it’s one of his favorite places on earth, so we never overlook an opportunity to visit – and if we can, grab some Key Lime!

Our bellies full, we drug ourselves back to our hotel, and bedded down for the night. I was glad that we had a midday flight the following morning, so we had a chance to sleep in a bit.

After a full nights rest, we packed our bags and headed back to Miami. The day was beautiful and sunny, and there was a distinct lack of traffic – something we’re not used to in our neck of the woods! I even spotted a beautiful double rainbow over the interstate.

I found MIA to be pretty easy to navigate, though it does involve a lot of walking, even with the assistance of the MIA Mover train. We made pretty quick time through the security checkpoints, and then spent the rest of the morning getting our 10,000 steps in. I walked every bit of our concourse – which was the only concourse we could access – and shopped in every nook and cranny shop that I could find. I found several new books to add to my Goodreads, and eventually it was time for boarding.

I had a lot less anxiety on the trip home – either because it was far more familiar and fresh in my memory, or just because I was so exhausted, but either way, it was a short and easy flight back home. I think I could get used to this quick little National Park tours!

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Adventurer / SysAdmin / Photographer

Hello fellow adventurer! I'm Jessica Jones, or just Jess if you'd like. I'm a driver at Jeeptographer.com, primarily with Blue, my 2021 Jeep Wrangler 4xe Rubicon . I'm 36 years young, and I enjoy adventuring to beautiful spots with the primary intent of taking photos. I *love* capturing our natural world.

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