Part of the fun of camping is that you leave the comfort of your home to experience the “Great Outdoors”. While this is often a rewarding experience, you are ultimately at the mercy of Mother Nature. Our camping trip would take us from Cincinnati to St. Augustine, then to the Everglades on the outskirts of Miami, and ultimately to Key Largo. Little did we know that we would never make it to Key Largo.
The skies on the way to Miami were overcast, with occasional drizzle here and there. It was nothing to dampen our spirits, though, as adventure awaited. The privately owned campsite was located near the edge of the Everglades, about thirty miles from South Beach. We arrived too late in the afternoon to make it to the beach, so we just decided to set up the tent, have dinner, then relax at the pool for the evening.
Setting up the tent proved to be difficult because a strong, persistent wind kept blowing it over. We finally resolved that by tying the top of the tent to an overhead tree branch. Once the tent was set up, it was already time for dinner. There was a small camp store on premises, so we decided to order pizza from there and enjoy the pool.
It had been a very long day driving from St. Augustine and we were tired. While swimming, I struck up a conversation with another camper.
“Are you the guys in the tent?”
I felt a bit of pride at that question. We had camped at that location before. In the midsummer Miami heat, camping can be less than comfortable and I was impressed that the man should find it remarkable that anyone would attempt such a thing. As it turned out, the heat was not the issue.
“The other campers were just surprised that anyone would be in a tent with the storm approaching,” the man replied.
The prospect of a storm did not concern me, although it should have, had I only known. The thing that the man did not mention was that the National Weather Service had given that storm a name.
During the night, as the winds picked up, we had to open the windows of the tent to prevent it from blowing over. The roots under us were shaking as the storm threatened to topple the tree that was over our heads. At about 4:00 in the morning, the rain moved ashore all at once. We quickly realized that it was prudent to abandon ship. Standing knee deep in water, we collapsed the water-filled tent and stuffed it inside the car. Without any means of drying out our belongings, we had to drive all eighteen hours home.