Spending the day at Long Pine Key

We spent our second day here in the Everglades cleaning the Long Pine Key campground. It’s on one of the Florida Keys – but it’s not an island at this time of year. Like the other Keys, Long Pine Key is on a limestone deposit, but it only becomes an island when the coastal prairie surrounding it floods in the west season.

Our job was to help out the campground hosts, a retired couple named Bob and Dell Ford who live in the campground and volunteer taking care of it for part of the year. Many of the campsites were getting overgrown and unusable. Our group cleaned 38 campsites. We cut away the grass growing over the driveways and used loppers to clip back the brush (mostly saw palmettos with a sprinkling of poison ivy and poison wood) that was starting to encroach on the area. Bob and Dell were very grateful and surprised us with some home-made brownies and a pizza party, which we greatly appreciated!

On the way back from work, we made a quick stop at a pond by the road to watch roseate spoonbills, some of the prettiest birds in the park. The campground we’re staying at is called Flamingo Campground, and ironically flamingos are very rare here, but the pink spoonbills that fly around the camp from time to time make up for their absence.

Aside from work, we have a lot of fun around our campsite playing games like Huggy Bear and Captain On Deck, which can be kind of ridiculous but help us get to know each other. We also use our free time to go for walks along the bay shore, or to a marina where the manatees sometimes show up, or to a pond where a dozen or so black-necked stilts probe the shallows.

One of the best parts of the past few days has been our dinners. People are sometimes surprised that “camp food” can be good, but with a little planning ahead and some talented cooks, camp dinners are delicious. Our meals are cooked by our official chef Toby and the crew members who signed up for the dinner chore that evening. Tonight we had burritos and no-bake cheesecake and a lone can of green iced tea making its way around the table caused a lot of excitement.

After dinner we listened to a presentation by Ted, an SCA staff member, about all of the programs that SCA offers, which range from backcountry trail crews to internships helping non-profit organizations go green. The park also puts on some interesting presentations, including one about constellations, one about flamingos, and one by a woman who kayaked throughout the backcountry of the Everglades by herself.

Tomorrow our work will take us out to Lake Chekika, which is about two hours from camp. Unlike a high school SCA crew, we will have work at a different location every day, which is nice because it allows us to see neat places all over the park!