Old Ingraham Highway

The more we get outdoors, the more we disconnect from our everyday life.  Not the great everyday life that includes our friends and family (although I guess that depends on your family), but the stuff that everyday living is made of.  We rush through our days, wishing for the weekend, then wishing for the next weekend, then the summer, and forward to the next holiday or vacation.  We do this over and over, and before you know it, years pass. . .many years pass.  You begin to think about your life and suddenly those things you covet, that house, that car, those sexy must-have pair of high-heeled pumps, becomes a shallow reminder of a life missing something that isn’t measured in material possessions.

And here we are, it’s the weekend, and time to disconnect once more to experience life in its simplest form.   We set off to hike one of the many trails in Everglades National Park, Old Ingraham Highway.  Prepared with our hydration packs, sunblock, and insect repellent, we are well equipped to manage our weekend hike.

Ingraham Highway was completed in the early 1900’s and was named after James E. Ingraham, president of the Model Land Company and vice president of the Florida East Coast Railway.  He worked together with Henry Flagler in the development of South Florida.  Ingraham Highway ran the distance from Homestead to Flamingo.  Flamingo, once thought to become a booming town with the prospect of Henry Flagler’s plans for the East Coast Railway to Key West, is today no more than a ghost town.

Map of Ingraham Hwy, Homestead, FL

The abandoned highway in the middle of the Everglades now offers an interesting biking and hiking trail.  The views are typical South Florida. With sawgrass, cypress trees, and hardwood hammocks in the distance, this serene environment is home to alligators, wading birds, snakes, turtles, amphibians and more.  We heard the deep growling sound of several alligators, but none joined us on our walk.  If you have a fear of bugs, the flying kind or any other, you will need to keep an eye out and walk briskly.  We found many of these toxic insects on our hike— the lubber grasshopper.

IMG_8980 Since we started late in the day, we hiked no more than four miles of this trail.  It was a perfect warm, breezy, and sunny day.  Thoughts tend to wander in the serenity of our surroundings.  Thoughts of friends, children, grandchildren, what I’m making for dinner, my dad, my husband, where we’ve been, and what the future holds.  I can’t help but smile and feel completely at peace, and looking forward to our next hiking adventure.


Fisheating Creek Outpost

A few months ago we decided that we wanted to go camping.  Real camping with a tent, sleeping bags, lanterns, canteens, everything true campers would carry on a camping trip. There was just one small problem with our plan.  This Miami couple had no camping gear.  No gear, no problem. . .a trip to Walmart would fix that.

When I say real camping, I mean of course camping at a campground.  A campground is primitive enough for a Miami couple that just purchased all of their camping gear, and packed it nicely in a large plastic container, tags and all. All of our camping gear, so shiny and new, was perfect for our camping adventure at Fisheating Creek Outpost in Palmdale, Florida. My favorite purchase for this trip was a Weber  wannabe tabletop  grill.  I couldn’t wait to take this grill, with its lovely shiny red dome lid, out of the box to cook our first camping meal.

Our camping weekend had finally arrived, and after loading our Jeep with all of the essential new gear, we set off on a Friday late-afternoon to our camping destination just 2.5 hours Northwest of Miami. We would be there before sunset to pitch our tent, and get acquainted with our campsite.

Map to Fisheating Creek

Did I mention how much we love road trips? We were so excited to get on the road. But before we could begin singing along to our eclectic playlist of 80’s and 90’s tunes, with Pitbull, Michael Jackson, The Eagles, and the occasional crooners young and old mixed in, the car begins to stall, and was most obviously dying on us.  Where were we at this point?  Not five minutes from our front door!  We were lucky enough to turn back home, unload our ailing Jeep, load our Toyota Camry with our shiny new camping gear, and get on the road again to the tune of Sweet Home Alabama.  So what if we were a little behind schedule! Our fake Weber grill would be smoking at our perfect little camping site in no time.6777_10203545918557292_2615398627809341850_n

Back on the road, two urbanites prepare to morph into country folk in the span of a 2.5 hour drive to central Florida; Miami Friday night gridlock had different plans for us.  Leaving the city lights behind would take a bit longer than expected, and a few more Skynyrd and Zac Brown songs to ease into our weekend getaway. 

We are now way behind and into the night, and about forty minutes from our destination. We spot an ever so enticing Walmart Superstore in the distance.  We have to stop.  We need some food and duct tape (duct tape is a must have according to the Mestre Camping Survival Checklist.)  Perusing the merchandise displayed in the camping section of the store I find another item that, in my expert opinion, is essential.  “Look honey, a shiny little red lantern to go with our shiny red Weber imposter!” I say to my husband.  Little red lantern now joins the rest of our shiny new gear.  Morphing is almost complete.  We are ready to camp out!

We arrive at the campground after hours and have to enter a code at the entrance gate to gain entry.  A campground map with our campsite marked to easily locate our site, is left in a mailbox on the office/shop porch.  As we head down the path to our site, we see huge campers, motor homes, and a few scattered tents grouped relatively close together, with lights strung between the trees.  It’s very dark, but from what we can see, we are thrilled at the picturesque and perfect surroundings of this campground.

Further down a more isolated road we find our site, nestled deep within grounds surrounded by bushes and trees.  We could see that the space led out to some type of water, a creek or lake maybe.  It was pitch black, with no light of any kind except for the car headlights.  This “always up for adventure” girl was starting to feel a little nervous. My husband pulls out of our neatly packed camping container two new headlamps he had purchased for the trip.  Now we look like miners, and as we stood in the darkness laughing at each other I thought. . .I’m so glad we brought these headlights!


As we struggled with our tent, that comfortably accommodates two people and a queen size air mattress (yes I know, we’re roughing it), it begins to rain.  We finish inflating the mattress, place it inside the tent, hang our shiny new little red lantern from a hook inside, and lay down our exhausted bodies before a monsoon, together with thunder and lightning serenade us to sleep.

Greeted by a misty and cool morning, we could finally see where we settled the night before.  What a beautiful campsite!  We were on a lake, isolated from other campers, although we could see a group of tents in the distance.  Already the peacefulness of our surroundings began to ease the tension of the workweek.  We set out to cook our first meal of the day on our phony Weber.  But since we are all about the raw camping experience, we decided to use the fire pit instead.

For the rest of the weekend we enjoyed the trails, canoeing, exploring the beauty of the grounds, grilling, and just relaxing.  Fisheating Creek was everything we expected it to be…a serene and beautiful campground that enchants even the most amateur camper.

Aerojet Dade Rocket Facility

This morning we set out to explore an abandoned rocket facility located in Homestead, Florida, just 5 miles from Everglades National Park.  We have been looking forward to this hike for months, a total of six miles to and from the facility, on a paved road.  A paved road hike is not all that exciting, but what awaits at the end of the road is.

In the early 1960’s, Aerojet General, a major rocket and missile propulsion manufacturer, was funded by the U.S. Airforce to build a testing site Southwest of Homestead, FL.  Aerojet was contracted to propel the U.S. Space Program with its fuel technology, and send astronauts to the moon.

A metal shed was constructed, 150 foot deep silo holding the largest solid fueled rocket ever built. The rocket was tested only three times from 1965 to 1967. The project was later cancelled by NASA, and the facility closed in 1969.  Incredibly, the rocket was left behind.

We arrived at 232 Avenue, later renamed Aerojet Road.  We were a little apprehensive after seeing the NO TRESPASSING sign when we turned into the road, but we continued on.

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We didn’t expect to have company on this trek.  We drove into the part of the road where we could park our car to begin our hike, and found five other cars already there.  About seven men were preparing their bikes, backpacks, and camera gear.  They had a lot of stuff; we had our phones and a GoPro.

We began our hike down a long paved road flanked by water on one side, and dense trees on the other.

I should mention that before we began our walk we encountered two snakes slithering across the road.  You never know what kind of wildlife will cross your path.  We were respectful of these creatures, had a heightened awareness of our surroundings, and prayed that we didn’t meet a Florida panther or alligator.

Our journey to the abandoned Aerojet Missile Facility begins.

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Notice the bullet holes on the firearms sign!

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Today was an extremely hot day.  We were excited about reaching the missile site, and that excitement kept us going without focusing on the fact that we had no water for the hike ahead. We reached a midpoint, and to the left found the first remnants of a security facility.  A gated entrance, complete with barbed wire, warned trespassers to keep out.

We continued down the road and had our first glimpse of the Aerojet compound in the distance.

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As we walked this isolated road, with abandoned graffitied buildings looming in the horizon, we felt as though we had been transported to an episode of The Walking Dead.  I must reference one of our favorite shows, as we now call this hike our “Walking Dead Trek.” One could easily imagine Daryl, Rick, and Michonne fighting off the walkers on this apocalyptic like landscape.

We walked about another two miles from the first barbed wire structure before reaching the first building.  I don’t know about most people, but when I’m in a historic place, I can’t help imagining myself going back in time.  Walking through the hallways and dilapidated rooms, I began to think about the people who walked these hallways, and worked in these rooms.  What top-secret NASA missions were conceived within these walls?  Albeit creepy, we are fascinated by our surroundings.  The graffiti lends a surreal layer to these concrete structures made mysterious by their abandonment.


To walk through this fascinating place in the footsteps of people who lived in a pivotal time in our country’s history, a time of great political, technological, and cultural changes, was a memorable experience. If you can get through the long hike on Aerojet Road, and the occasional snake crossing the road, the Aerojet Missile Facility is worth the walk.

Here are some more pics taken along the road.  Buen camino. . .Buen Camino Logo