February 14 - 25 Chokoloskee Island - Everglades National Park
We left Greg's and headed west, across "Alligator Alley" toward Everglades City and our next campground, Outdoor Resorts - Chokoloskee. This is the third year we have stayed here and each year we seem to extend our enjoyment - this year for almost two weeks! We first became aware of the tiny (0.3 sq miles, population 404) Chokoloskee Island back in 2004 when we went on a guided kayaking adventure that departed from Everglades City. Chokoloskee Island is essentially a very large shell mound built over a period of 2,000 years by Native Americans who lived in the 10,000 Islands Area. It has a maximum height of 20 feet above sea level. There is causeway (built in the mid-1950's) that connects it from Everglades City about 4 miles north.
After settling in and relaxing on Tuesday, we ventured out to Naples where we met our friends, Jean and Fred Lindenhovius who were staying in that area. We shopped and had lunch on a beautiful afternoon. On our way back, we stocked up on food at Publix since there is no real grocery store in the Chokoloskee area - a drawback of being in the wilderness!
The community at Outdoor Resorts is warm and welcoming with many of the residents of this small village staying for the winter. We again had picked our stay when they have their annual bazaar, white elephant sale, and cookout. We were treated to a full moon which shown right into our back door. We had always been fascinated by a State campground and park about half way to Naples and we set off one morning to Collier - Seminole with our kayaks. The Blackwater River is another mangrove-lined stream that twists and turns. It would have been a peaceful paddle, but the nearby airboat businesses outside the park sent out a constant buzz of noise that made us turn around less than halfway on the route.
Eating out in the Everglades is an adventure. Most restaurants are of the "order here and pick up" style. A highly rated one is the Camellia Street Grill and we ate there twice. The crab cakes and grouper were excellent but the herb salad - stone crab bisque first course was fantastic. A country band played for our entertainment one night and a one-man band played and sang the second night when we were treated to a brilliant sunset. There is one restaurant on Chokoloskee Island and it is right across from our campground. Their Cuban sandwiches are renown and Tom rode his bike over one day to get one.
We did a short kayak trip out into Chokoloskee Bay. We had planned an excursion through a mangrove tunnel, but the iPhone app that was supposed to turn the iPhone into a gps failed since it was necessary to have an internet connection! There is no cell phone signal beyond the resort in this remote wilderness. We did see dolphins and later on that same day, out next-door neighbor took Tom out fishing in the same area we had paddled earlier in the morning. The fish were not biting, but the boat ride that got to the same place we took 45 minutes to get to in our kayaks was a short 5 minute ride!
The temperatures have been in the 80's during the day and the humidity is near saturation with fog in the morning. A pair of dolphins played near our dock one day. We feel sad to leave this tranquil setting and head home to the cold.
Next stop Tampa to visit Tom's sister.