Back in November when I found out that The United States Secretary Of The Interior David Bernhardt made it free for life for U.S. Veterans to enter America’s National Parks, Wildlife Refuges, and other public federal lands – first of all I was extremely grateful. It’s probably the best gift that has ever been given to me as a Veteran. After all this is a gift that keeps on giving every single day – not just on Veterans’ Day.
I live between two U.S. National Parks – Biscayne National Park to the east – and Everglades National Park to the west. Both are about 10 miles away from my home. Biscayne does not charge an entry fee. It’s free for everyone. Everglades charges $30 per vehicle for a 7 consecutive day pass, or $55 for an annual pass. I no longer have to pay either fee. I’m free !
I actually got in to Everglades National Park for free during 2 consecutive winter seasons (2015-2016 and 2016-2017) when I worked out there as a volunteer (in uniform) giving tours at the NIKE Missile Site (HM-69). I worked 31 Saturdays out there showing hundreds of visitors from around the world a sampling of authentic military history from the mid-1960s to the late-1970s (when it was an active duty base out in the middle of the Park).
Back in November I said to myself that I would visit the Park on a cold day this winter season, and so last Saturday was that cold day. With temperatures in the upper-40s and lower-50s at dawn I entered the Park for the first time since my last Saturday working out there in March of 2017. It was like a homecoming for me. I actually drove the entire 38-mile main park road down to Flamingo on Florida Bay. It was my first visit there in nearly 7 years. I took a fun 90-minute organized boat tour up-and-down the waters north of Flamingo. I took the same tour almost 8 years ago.
After the boat tour I did a lot of walking all around Flamingo and then at a couple of stops along the way back up the main park road. I took a lot of pictures. I walked over 13,000 steps / 6 miles.
The Park was packed on that Saturday / day after Christmas. Everyone else had the same idea as me to visit during a rare cold South Florida day.
Now I need to figure out what my next fun cold day out will be here in my local area. Maybe Vizcaya ? (also free for life for U.S. Veterans)
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