Dry Tortugas National Park 05/09/2020

Last year when we visited the Castillo de San Marcos National Monument in St. Augustine we purchased an annual pass to the National Parks.    After doing some research into National Parks in Florida I found that you can camp at the Dry Tortugas National Park (they allow limited reservations for primitive tent camping).  This park happens to be the most remove National Park in the country and while the Dry Tortugas are closer to Havana than Orlando, I thought it would be a good adventure to take the RV-10 and circle overhead while everything is still shut down from the Covid 19 pandemic.  Never wanting to miss an opportunity to social distance in an airplane I asked John if he was interested in an air tour of the park.  John being the only person I know on earth that might possibly love flying for the act of flying more than I do was happy to make the trip.  John and Amanda departed Kissimmee about 20 minutes before we took off from Orlando in their Mooney “Lady” (“Lady” – below you can see their nose art in the picture of them off our left wing ).  As they departed sooner and from an airport that is closer to the destination they kept the throttle pulled back so we could rendezvous before hitting the park.  Flying across the ADIZ requires a minimum of a DVFR flight plan.  A call to FSS at 800-WX-BRIEF informed us the Warning areas off the coast were all cold.  Its best to call FSS to get the most accurate information over just using the NOTAMS.  When filing the DVFR flight plan over the phone they were able to issue the discrete squawk code that would allow us to cross the ADIZ.  We filed our DVFR flight plan from Orlando Exec to Orlando Exec via direct KISM, MOOKY, EYW 270 Radial at 60 DME, 15 minute loiter, MOOKY, KISM, KORL.  Ground control at Orlando was unable to find our flight plan and the Mooney was already airborne so we took off and opened it in the air on 122.2 with flight service (St Petersburg Radio).  A short while later we picked up flight following with Ft. Myers approach near Punta Gorda.  After flying out over the Gulf of Mexico with Ft. Myers approach we were handed off to Miami.  Miami informed us that we would lose radio coverage during our descent at about 5,000 feet into the Dry Tortugas.  Miami also told us to squawk VFR, enjoy Fort Jefferson, and upon our return climb to raise them back once at 5,000 feet to pickup the squawk code again.  This worked great.  We began our descent, made a few circuits around the fort, flew out a few miles further to the Loggerhead Lighthouse on Loggerhead key, then began the trip back to the mainland.  We packed a picnic to eat on our way back.  X06 Arcadia was almost directly en route on our way home so we decided to stop there.  We knew from our prior camping trip there that they have first class camping spots with a fantastic covered seating area with picnic benches, bench swing, and clean restroom facility.  After landing there we taxied over and enjoyed their facility to eat lunch.  The girls found a soccer ball someone left there.  They played with if for a little while when I taxied over to top off with fuel at $2.69 a gallon.  Not the cheapest we have paid but certainly not far off.  Loaded back in the -10 and made the short 35 minute hop back to KORL.  Don’t forget to call FSS and cancel the DVFR flight plan as cancelling flight following will do nothing for your flight plan.

Off the cost of Ft Myers headed direct MOOKY.

“Lady” making an appearance.

Fort Jefferson.

Fort Jefferson.

Loggerhead Lighthouse on near island, Fort Jefferson on far island.

Really nice camping facility. Camping sites are around this covered pilots seating area (with power at seating area) and off to the right of this picture.

X06 Arcadia.

X06 bathroom/shower facility.

X06 short list of rules and requests.

The “Honeymoon Suite”.

Sign was sitting next to the tent.

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