We did it!We completed our goal of traveling to 58 of the 59 designated National Parks (sorry American Samoa).Dry Tortugas, a small island park 70 miles southwest of Key West, in our home state of Florida was set aside as our final park.This paradisiacal park consists of largely of ocean, coral reefs and seven tiny island.Garden Key, the largest island, is the most popular and easy to visit.It is home to historic Fort Jefferson, used in 1800s to protect the Gulf trade route and home to slaves and prisoners in the Civil War.
Boat or sea plane are only transportation Fort Jefferson and Garden Key.Andrew and I opted to camp on the island for two nights, which left us with the ferry as our only travel option (sea planes can’t transport camping equipment).If looking for a little serenity, camping is highly recommended.During the day, 175 people disembark from the ferry and smaller groups come by plane.However, after 3 o’clock the boat sails into the horizon, leaving only a few dozen campers behind.
While Garden Key doesn’t have much for amenities, it offers a peaceful paradise with a small beach for snorkeling, historic architecture to explore, beautiful ocean vistas to reflect upon, and marine wildlife to watch…not to mention an occasional visit from the salt water crocodile who likes to sunbath in this idyllic spot!
The next stop in our National Park journey was Acadia National Park.Acadia has been at the top of our list for the past few years.We originally had reservations the summer 2013, but were called back to Florida early.This time around Andrew and I thought we’d avoid the summer crowds by waiting until after Labor Day when schools were back in session.Our reason for picking October was see the full moon from the top of Cadillac Mountain.I thought for sure it would be the perfect quiet time to visit.I was wrong.I left out one part of my great equation to Acadia solitude…the leaves.We arrived in time for peak colors.While it was absolutely beautiful, it extremely busy around Mount Desert Island, home of Acadia and Bar Harbor.Cruise ships lined the waters and people flooded the streets.
We didn’t let the crowds slow us down.We filled our time exploring the island and Acadia, while spending a little quality time visiting family and friends.Andrew’s aunt and uncle met us for nine days; and some Airstream friends, Dianne and Duane, happened to be in the area too.It was great news for us that Mount Desert Island was pet friendly for trails (except ladder and rung trails), towns and boat rides, so Ame got to enjoy the island also.
Some of our adventures included hiking the sand bar out to Bar Island and the rocky cliffs along Park Loop Road, taking a Schooner ride around Frenchman Bay and sampling various lobster themed foods.A couple of days we enjoyed a few longer hikes around Eagle Lake and Cadillac Mountain.We even experienced our great views of October’s full moon from Cadillac.Acadia became another notch in our quintessential autumn tour.
Our attempts to visit Shenandoah in the past have been met with some challenges.Originally we had reservations at Mathews Arm Campground back in fall of 2013, but had to cancel when we had to head back to Florida early for funeral.Again, we had camping reservations for this past June, but cancelled when we discovered sub-floor issues in the Airstream.Well, I delighted to write that we finally made it!
Shenandoah National Park’s layout is based along one 105 mile road, Skyline Drive.While this road has switchback curves, as well as ridgeline ups and downs, it is to a beautiful (yet manageable) drive for RVers.Since we’ve arrived a little before leaf peeping season,traffic along Skyline Drive was light, allowing us to ease our way down to Big Meadow Campground at milemarker 51.
For five nights we called Big Meadow home.Our days were spent trying various trails around the area, such as Lewis Falls and Mill Prong.We even spent one very foggy morning exploring the wildflowers, spiderwebs, and caterpillars of Big Meadow, which is appropriately name area across from our campground located at 3500 feet elevation.
Our visit to Shenandoah was well worth the wait.Andrew and I were overjoyed that most of Shenandoah’s trails were pet friendly and the wildlife, bobcats and bears, came out to greet us.