Friday, March 6, 2015

Dry Tortugas National Park: Day 1 - Camping in Paradise

Travel Date: Tuesday, Dec 09 2014

I got up really early and drove out to where kiosk guy told me I could find free parking.


And I parked my car.


I got all my camping supplies out. Yes my car has license plate AL1 BABA.


There she is the Ferry that is going to take me to the Dry Tortugas National Park.


The story goes that when I was planning to visit Key West I asked my friends via facebook if they knew anyone I could stay with. My friend Marcus suggested that I sleep on the beach. And my Chris suggested that I visit the Dry Tortugas National Park, take the ferry there 70 miles west of Key West and camp out for the night (on the beach). That got my intrigued and the more I researched it the more I decided it was an opportunity I could not pass up.


Yeah baby, ready for the Yankee Freedom Ferry.


Am I the only one going to be on the island?


#18. Since I'm camping out I have to go out and drop off my stuff with the Ferry crew.


Now everyone shows up.


We begin boarding.



I go upstairs and sit with this dude in a hat.


Flag waving.


Nasty cloud cover.


Just in case we have life boats. It is only 70 miles of paddling. We will be fine.


There is some sunlight through the cloud cover.


Guy in the hat and I start talking. Craig is pretty cool guy with great story. A aspiring lawyer who graduated and is taking sometime off - One Hopeless Wanderer style.


Much better skyline. Although the boat ride is quite choppy and makes a few people sea sick. You can see the park faintly in this picture.


There is it is: Dry Tortugas National Park and Fort Jefferson.

Almost 70 miles (113 km) west of Key West lies the remote Dry Tortugas National Park. The 100-square mile park is mostly open water with seven small islands.  Accessible only by boat or seaplane, the park is known the world over as the home of magnificent Fort Jefferson, picturesque blue waters, superlative coral reefs and marine life,  and the vast assortment of bird life that frequent the area.
Source: National Park Service website


The other side.


One of the crew member preparing to dock.


The other guy actually doing the work.


While everyone leaves, all the people camping overnight are asked to stay behind for a briefing by the National Park Ranger. Oooh we are special! :-)


I leave the boat. That is the view. JUST AMAZING!!



Place where I have to deposit my $3.00 cash for the campsite.
Private boat ride: $190.00.
Government camping fee: $3.00
Who is really raping me with their prices??


After talking with a few people who are getting back on the boat from camping, I get some quick tips, and I walk quickly before everyone else to find the most secure and protected spot. Why? You wouldn't want to deal with wind and rain without some tree cover. I feel like I am on Survivor!!


Find a perfect spot.



I setup my tent. And make sure that my food items are secure from the rats that come out at night. YES, there are rats that come out at night. Harmless as long as you don't have food in your tent.


Time to walk back to the fort.


Time to enter Fort Jefferson.


Walking past the moat.


I wonder what is hiding under there?


Time to walk around for the self tour.















Walking upstairs. There are three levels: ground floor, first floor and the roof.


Different looks of the surrounding area through the inner darkness of Fort Jefferson.




I continue walking.





Waves crashing at the moat wall.






Time to go to the roof.


Cannons baby!!



They actually have a trail on the top level.


Loggerhead Key and the lighthouse in the distance.


Various views of Fort Jefferson, the Dry Tortugas National Park and the picturesque ocean.












The light house on Fort Jefferson


And my buddy Craig just relaxing,


Panoramic view.


I walk to the Flagpost. And open the secrety "locked" box.


Love this picture.



I walk back down to the beach.


Buy this time everyone that is not staying on the island is back on the Ferry and they leave. Only a few people are staying on the island. Probably a count of 10 people. Feels like Survivor!!

Time to walk towards the Bird Sanctuary




Look it's a  bird.





You can only walk so far before you see STOP signs to prevent human contact with the bird sanctuary. You can see lots of birds in this picture.


Proof I was there - besides the few pictures on the this blog.


A view of Fort Jefferson from where I am standing.


Up close and personal.


I walk into the fort and meet one of the Rangers who briefed us on the Park.


Since the entire fort is practically desolate I decide to walk around again. What else do I have to do?
















I love the view from the top of Fort Jefferson.




Inside the lighthouse.


Priceless.


A view of the dock.





I walk back down to my tent. Now that the Ferry is gone, the porta potties are accessible.


I meet my camping neighbors: Cindy and Steven.


We walk over to the beach




And we all watch the sunset together.








While there is still some light I head over to the dock. And find electricity - so I charge my phone. :-) for more pictures tomorrow.


I take a look at the Marine Forecast.


Sign in the log.


GPS still works. That is how far I am from Key West and Miami!!


I meet some of the National Park Service staff and talk to them while they fish for food.




Yes, you can catch your own fish and cook it. NICE!!!


It is getting late and I decide to head back to my tent and go to bed.


I have to say, that because everything is so dark here, you can see the entire Milky Way. It is beautiful. It is intensely gorgeous. I wish my camera could take a picture.

Reflections:
Today, the Dry Tortugas National Park made my favorite list of National Parks. It is absolutely beautiful and camping out was such a treat.

The parking spot I got was money - where as everyone else was paying the unnecessary parking fee. The ferry ride was great minus the choppy weather, and they had breakfast and lunch served.

It was fun meeting a fellow adventurer in Craig to share this experience and to talk about our travel adventures.

My camping neighbors were absolutely cool as well. I enjoyed meeting Emma talking about the National Parks she's traveled to. I enjoyed watching the sunset with Cindy and Steven. And I enjoyed talking to Duncan and Caitlin. Duncan went kayaking, fishing and caught some fish and shared it with me. I wish I had some pictures with them. They are planning to stay for a few days.

The National Park Rangers and staff I talked to: about 7 were friendly and great. They do SUCH AS GREAT JOB providing a service to us.

Watching the sunset was pretty, but I really wish there wasn't too much cloud cover. I would have loved to see the sun sink into the ocean. I am appreciative of what I have rather that what I want.

I wish I could sleep on the ground and just look forever at the sky. The Milky Way Galaxy was just so beautiful, just so beautiful.

This place is so simple, so beautiful, and so amazing.

I LOVE IT. I LOVE IT. I LOVE IT!!! Coming back here again.

Chris, you are the MAN. This was one of the best recommendations I have ever received on my trip. Seriously... one of the best. Thank you Josh for jumping on it and reinforcing the recommendation.

Expenses: $188.00
Ferry: $185.00 (Yankee Freedom Ferry)
If you do not have a National Parks Pass it is $190.00
Camping Park Fee: $3.00

7 comments:

  1. Hi there. I enjoyed reading your post. Thank you for the valuable information you shared. I'm planning to go camping by myself and I have no idea what to bring. Lol. I'll be there for 2 nights. And I've been told there's no electricity , where did u charge your phone. Thanks

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Walk to the dock facing the water. There is a wooden rack for sitting inside the dock shelter. There are two electric outlets on either side. Use either.

      Note there is no cell phone reception, but the charging definitely helped me take more pictures the next day.

      Delete
  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thanks for all the great info, this will definitely help out on my trip in the spring. The parking you found is on the side of the road, where the blue dot was on the map you provided above?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes. Parking is the blue dot. For legal reasons I have to say "park at your own risk." :-)

      Delete
    2. Thank you! Your car was still there when you got back from camping?!

      Delete