The van is loaded, gassed up and heading down US 17, out of South Carolina and into the great state of Georgia. The Bearded Man will be stopping in Brunswick, Georgia to break his 10 hour trip to south Florida in half and pick up a few moon pies. According to the Brunswick Chamber of Commerce, "The vibrant city of Brunswick which rises along the southeastern coastline of Georgia is one of the most unique, historic and visually stunning places in the world." So those of you planning a trip to the south of France or Bora Bora perhaps...no need.  Just mosey on down to Brunswick, try the jerk shrimp tostadas with pineapple salsa at the Indigo Coastal Shanty on Reynolds Street and pocket the airfare.

The Florida Keys is one of the most famous and most visited archipelagos in the world. Contrary to what most people think however, the Florida Keys do not begin at Key Largo. To the north lie nearly 50 more keys (ancient coral reef islands) that are, for the most part, unspoiled and undeveloped. Part of that chain, located just miles from Miami is Biscayne National Park.  Protecting a rare combination of aquamarine waters, emerald islands, and fish-bejeweled coral reefs, Biscayne NP, which is 95% water, also holds evidence of 10,000 years of human history, from pirates and shipwrecks to pineapple farmers and presidents. The park is home to many threatened and endangered species including the West Indian manatee, eastern indigo snake, piping plover, American crocodile, peregrine falcon, Schaus' swallowtail butterfly, least tern, and 5 species of sea turtle. Here is a link that details Biscayne's efforts to preserve the sea turtle.  https://www.nps.gov/bisc/learn/nature/sea-turtle-information-and-conservation.htm

While at Biscayne, The Bearded Man will be camping on Boca Chita Key, one of the most unique campgrounds in the National Park system, with views of the bay, ocean and its signature lighthouse.  He will be joined on the key by 100,000,000,000,000,000 mosquitoes.

Tuesday morning The Bearded Man will make the short one hour drive across state highway 9336 to Flamingo Campground in Everglades National Park.  Essentially a big open field with few trees and strong breezes coming in from Florida Bay, Flamingo will serve as his home base. The Bearded Man will spend Tuesday and Wednesday morning exploring the park via kayak. With ample opportunity to see crocodiles, manatees and the occasional tree climbing grey fox, Everglades is a paradise of wildlife.  Unfortunately some of the park's indigenous wildlife is endangered, but there are several concerted efforts to reverse this trend.  Here is a link to a list of Everglades threatened and endangered species.  https://www.nps.gov/ever/learn/nature/techecklist.htm

Everglades National Park was the first national park dedicated for its biologic diversity as opposed to its scenic vistas. Therefore, it is no surprise that when one thinks of scenic vistas in national parks, the flat-lands of Everglades does not exactly spring to mind.  To help overcome this, Everglades built the Shark Valley Observation Tower, which gives visitors a panoramic 360-degree views of the River of Grass.  The Pahayokee Overlook also provides views of sweeping vistas and as an added bonus you can push a button and hear the echolocation calls of the Seminole bat.  Many visitors think it sounds better than Kanye without auto-tune. 

Wednesday afternoon, The Bearded Man heads back across Hwy 9336 to Homestead, before turning southwest on Route 1 toward Key West.  He will spend the night in Truman Annex - looking out at Ft. Zachery Beach - before boarding a seaplane Thursday morning for the 70 mile jump to Garden Key and our most inaccessible National Park, Dry Tortugas.  

Located in the Florida Straights that connect the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean, the Dry Tortugas were discovered by Juan Ponce de Leon in 1513 and is home to countless shipwrecks.  In 1822, the United States began plans for a large coastal fort and in 1847 construction of Fort Jefferson began on Garden Key.  Although never finished, it continued in use as a military prison during the Civil War and afterward until 1874.  It remains one of the largest 19th century American masonry coastal forts and is the focal point of Dry Tortugas NP.

The Bearded Man, an avid birdwatcher, is hoping to see a brown or black noddie, a frigatebird, or perhaps a sooty tern.  Most nest along the beaches of nearby Bush Key, but birders with binoculars or spotting scopes can watch the nesting activity from Fort Jefferson.  The Bearded Man has packed both binoculars and a spotting scope, not to mention a spare false eye.  He is truly, The World's Second Most Interesting Man.

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