Hello fellow Adventurers! Happy National Pet’s Day, which just so happens to be the Bark Ranger’s Gotcha Day! I saved my Bella Brown from a kill shelter 11 years ago! She’s still going strong, too! So the last 2 months have been a bit quiet. I have only done some local Florida traveling in March (see below!) with the Bark Ranger and the Sidekick, although I am still working on some new things for the page and still avoiding organizing some stuff! Until about 2 weeks ago I thought there would be no “big” trips until my first trip to Alaska at the end of May. A Southwest Airlines sale and a favorable weekend itinerary are getting me to hit a couple national parks in Utah in the end of April/top of May.
First off though: some Florida travel with the Bark Ranger, and also with the Sidekick and her Bark Rangers. On the first day of our Spring Break I took Bella down to Southwest Florida. For those who are unfamiliar with Florida, the stretch along the bottom of the state is pretty much all remote swampland with only some small native settlements holding on. Cell signal, gas stations, and any services are less available that the gator (literally) crossing the road. Anyway, the reason for the trip was I wanted to take Bella on a short road trip somewhere new (to both of us!) that could get her another Bark Ranger tag! While Biscayne National Park (also has a Park Ranger program, but too far a drive for this trip) sits off the east coast just south of Miami, there are actually TWO national park units that pretty much encompass the entire tip of Florida: The Everglades National Park and Big Cypress National Preserve. The Everglades does not have a bark ranger tag but Big Cypress does! (Sadly they were out of them and as of the time of this post, nearly a month later, I have yet to receive in the mail.
We first went into Big Cypress and drove around a while. We checked out the country’s smallest post office. We stopped at a dinky convenience store/live animal display and saw the Florida Skunk Ape. After driving down a sketchy gravel road for awhile, we found a boardwalk trail to view gators. Probably a good thing that even though this is a Bark Ranger park, they aren’t really allowed out of the car much…for obvious reasons! After stopping in the Visitor Center and failing to secure a badge we left and headed about 20 minutes away to Everglades City, which has an entrance and visitor center to the National Park that I had not been to yet.
At this point I should note a couple things that I learned. It is much more remote down there than I anticipated. There are actually very, and I do mean, VERY few things to down in this part of Florida except boating and swamp airboat trips. This part of the Everglades is entirely explorable by water only. There are no trails, no drives…the visitor center here is even a temporary one to fill in for the one destroyed by Hurricane Irma 5 years ago. The Miami side of the Everglades is very much more worth your time and effort. I think Big Cypress is probably in the same boat…even though there were some drives and a proper visitor center, there is a much better area closer to Miami. I do not want to discourage anyone from exploring Florida, but really…this section of the state is very uninteresting and you should skip it if planning an outdoors trip in Florida.
Later in the week, the Sidekick, her dogs, and myself got into our respective vehicles and headed north from the Tampa area for two nights in Cedar Key to enjoy some quiet dog time for St. Patrick’s Day. This is another very remote location about 2/3 up the Florida Peninsula on the west coast. About an hour from Gainesville, and 2 from Tampa you will find Cedar Key as a throwback to Old Florida, about 20 miles away from a main road. In contrast to the earlier trip this area is indeed much more dog friendly. The whole town seems to be welcoming to the pooches, including most bars and restaurants. There aren’t many to be sure, but I think we only saw one place with a no dog sign. The hotel we stayed in even allowed all three dogs with no issues and no fees! We found ourselves in the middle of a charity pub crawl, if you will, and generally just enjoyed the gorgeous Florida March weather and not dealing with the hustle and bustle of the Tampa area. While there were no a ton of things to do here, it was a nice change of pace for sure. And, if you don’t have dogs there do appear to be a lot of other things you can do as well, mostly water based.
Now, for the rest of my post points! I am still trying to decide on what to do in Utah and if anyone has suggestions, I’ll take them! An easy idea is to stay near Moab and that gives me easy access to Canyonlands and Arches National Parks, with potential to swing out for an hour drive to Capitol Reef. The problem with this one is that I never made it to Mesa Verde in southwest Colorado and I was sorta planning on doing that one plus those Moab parks in one go. This trip doesn’t offer enough time to make it to Mesa Verde, so I would have to make a trip just for that one park, although I would love to get back to Telluride again some time! The other option would be to swing down to Capitol Reef for a day and then spend a day in Nevada’s Great Basin National Park. This plan gives a bit more drive time, but does eliminate a park that was also looking like a logistical problem being several hours in the wrong direction…if I get it now, I will not have to worry and I can live Bryce missing because the Sidekick wants to go there some time. Any thoughts?
And lastly, if anyone has some good Bark Ranger pictures or stories to share I am in the beginning stages of something new and I think exciting on the topic of our fur kid rangers!
And with that, a fond farewell until next time!