Quick Update 


2016 was an amazing year! Craig and I got to visit 4 new national parks (Glacier, Everglades, Biscayne and Dry Tortugas) and revisit 2 of our favorites (Grand Teton and Yellowstone.) We also had a great camping weekend with friends in Acadia National Park and hiked a must do-the Precipice Trail.


Our plans for full time RVing are a bit up in the air now with probable changes coming to the ACA. We will keep our eye on what happens and continue to save for an RV (hopefully an Airstream) and truck. We want to have a nice cushion to buy some land soon too. 


We had a wonderful time in Florida in October and are going back in January to see friends and family. We have no other plans right now for 2017. Our Alaska trip is being put off until we have more money saved. We will see what the new year brings! We know we want to see the Pacific Northwest soon. We also want to hike more of Yosemite. We hope you all have an awesome 2017! 

Dry Tortugas National Park

The Dry Tortugas are seven islands located nearly 70 miles west of Key West. You can take the official concesionare ferry (the Yankee Freedom), a seaplane or your own boat to get there. Most visitors plan a day trip by ferry. The ferry costs about $175 per person, but check during the year for coupons. They sometimes give $25-$50 off. You should know, the Yankee Freedom ferry is very fast and several people were seasick on our trip. We took Bonine just in case and were fine. We stood out in the front of the ferry for most of the trip back and forth. I saw a huge sea turtle! You can also camp for $8 per night. The Yankee Freedom ferry will carry your gear for you. The campsites were pretty nice and some were shaded by trees. They were steps from a beautiful beach.

The Island you will visit on your day trip is Garden Key. Most of the island is taken up by Fort Jefferson. This fort was built from 1846-1875. It was built to protect an important shipping channel. In 1825 a lighthouse was built to warn vessels about the dangerous reefs. There are many shipwrecks all around the islands. The fort was also used as a prison during the Civil War. Audobon loved the islands for bird watching and Hemingway for sport fishing.

There were two tours offered of the fort. A 30 minute one and one that took an hour and 1/2. Craig and I just did a self guided tour. There are apps you can download for this. We toured the fort for about half an hour-45 minutes, got our national park stamps in the visitor center and then went snorkeling with our new masks! We rinsed off, changed and had lunch on the ferry. Then we went back out to take more pictures. I also got a new t-shirt in the gift shop. It takes about 2 hours and 15 minutes to get to Garden Key by ferry. We left at 8am from Key West and got back about 5pm. We did not feel rushed, but would love to spend more time on the islands camping for our next trip.

It was a great visit and our 18th national park! Craig and I were celebrating our 20th anniversary and we had a wonderful time in the Florida Keys and the three Florida national parks. More posts about our Florida road trip soon!

Future Trips

I have been planning three trips for the future, but I always have a list of places we would love to explore in my Midori Travelers Notebook/Journal. I try to research way ahead for our National  Park trips because lodging can sell out very quickly. When I plan, I map out routes, hikes, look up hotels, read guide books and get on the Trip Advisor forums and ask questions.  I also make an itinerary in my free TripIt account. Then it shows up on my phone calendar and App.

In summer of 2016 we are going to visit Glacier National Park for the first time. Then we will drive down to Yellowstone, Grand Teton National Park and finish up our two and a half weeks in Jackson, WY. It is our 20th anniversary this year and the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service. We decided to spend the 100th anniversary in America’s first National Park. We are so happy Craig got all of his vacation time approved. I started planning this summer’s trip last May. Even that far ahead, a Roosevelt Lodge cabin with a bathroom was sold out! I found out there are only about 14 of them and the summer season at Roosevelt is short.

We have also been planning a Florida road Trip for 2016. Craig and I lived in Florida for six years, but we have not explored the Everglades in depth. We also want to go to Biscayne National Park, Dry Tortugas National Park and Big Cypress National Preserve. At first we thought we may want to go in January, but then we were worried it might be too cold to snorkel. Now we are hoping for October. I am glad we waited because Biscayne National Park just got back their boat tours. They had been looking for concessioners for a while now. I have been using the newer Lonely Planet Road Trip guide books for planning ideas. I love the routes they suggest in these books. The hotel and restaurant info is not in depth, but I like the maps a lot. 

The third trip we are planning is Alaska in 2017. We are super excited and this trip is long overdue. We are going to be doing a Princess Cruise and land tour for 15 nights with friends. We will visit four national parks on the trip and hope to get a lot of new stamps for the National Park Passport! I will post more updates on future trip planning and things we are going to see and do. I have also found some great hotels and restaurants you may want to check out. I have been using Pinterest as a helpful visual trip planning tool. Check out my Yellowstone, Glacier, Florida and Alaska boards for more hotel, food and drink, hiking and things to see and do suggestions. 

 


Castillo De San Marco and Fort Matanzas National Monuments

Beautiful. Old. Saint Augustine was founded on September 8, 1565. The Castillo De San Marco was started in 1672. The fort was declared a National Monument in 1924 and the site is about 20.5 acres. The fort was built with limestone called coquina. Because it is so porous, canon balls stuck in the walls instead of shattering them!

Saint Augustine is a great place to visit if you find yourself in Florida.  It is a nice day trip from Central Florida. There are lots of shops, restaurants and museums. 

We really wanted to visit to see the forts and get our National Passport book stamped!

The Castillo De San Marco was beautiful and the views of the ocean were really relaxing. We spent a lot of time walking around and looking at everything.

Fort Matanzas is located about 15 miles before Saint Augustine and the Castillo De San Marco. It was built by the Spanish in 1742 to guard Matanzas Inlet and Saint Augustine. It was also declared a National Monument in 1924. You reach the fort by boat and there are timed tickets you get at the visitor center/gift shop.  We missed a boat on our way in to Saint Augustine, so we got tickets for the last boat trip of the day. This wound up being great-Craig and I were the only ones on the boat. We got a private tour! They did not rush us at all and we were even able to lower the Spanish military flag at the monument.