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Day 127 - Heading Slowly Back up Florida Keys

We only made it about 1/2 way up the keys as we stopped for deer, bridges and beaches...

sunny 68 °F

Logistics:

Miles Driven - 81
Weather - Sunny, Pleasantly Cool (high of 72 by late afternoon)
Camped at Long Key State Park, about mid way in the Florida Keys

Narratives:

While there are undoubtedly more things we could find to do in Key West, we had visited the places that were important to us and were ready to move on. I stayed up late writing that long blog entry (we did a lot of things yesterday), so got moving a little slowly this morning - but we finally got back on Hwy 1 heading towards the mainland again.

Since we'd rushed a bit to get down to Key West to our campground reservation, we wanted to head back up the Keys a little slower and see some of the other places along the way. The first of these was the Key Deer NWR on Pine Key. We tried going to the Visitors Center, but they're closed on weekends so we just drove up Key Deer Ln. Key Deer are the smallest subspecies of Virgina White Tailed deer and were amost extinct at one point. They are making a comeback now that they're protected and it is estimated there are between 600 and 700 animals in total, mostly on Pine and No Name Key's. We did see two but weren't able to get a picture.

While trying to find them, we stopped at a place called the blue hole. This is a former limestone quarry that filled with rainwater and now provides habitat for various wildlife species. A volunteer ranger was at the site to assist visitors, so I asked some of the questions that were on my list. One thing we learned is that a lot of the birds we've been calling Great Egrets may not be Egrets at all but Great White Heron, which is just a morph of a Great Blue Heron. We also learned the the smaller white birds we've been seeing in fields a lot are Cattle Egrets, which are not a native species to America but are doing just fine now that they're here.

We also found this rock formed from ancient coral on No Name Key, which is similar to the types of coral blocks used to build the Hemingway house and lighthouse on Key West.

Day_127_-_Coral_Rock.jpg

Scientists believe that the Florida Key's started forming about 200,000 years ago when the Earth was in a warmer period. Coral Reefs grew in the warm waters on the Florida Platform along the Continental Shelf. When the climate cooled during the later ice ages, the sea levels dropped and exposed the reef and much of the shallow plateau, killing the coral and exposing a great deal of dry land. Beginning about 15,000 years ago the planet warmed up again and the ice receded, sea levels rose and flooded much of the exposed reef. The small Florida Keys are the hightest elevations of the once exposed coral reef.

There aren't very many beaches on the Key's but there are some. We found one of the nicer ones on Bahia Honda Key State Park and decided to eat lunch there.

Day_127_-_..a_Beach.jpg

There is also a section of old road extending out from the SP, I still don't understand why they leave this thing up but I guess they are very proud of it. They have even had this bridge listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Day_127_-_Old_Bridge.jpgDay_127_-_..w_Break.jpg

The State Park also has a Butterfly garden. These critters are terribly hard to photograph, I think they just like to tease - sit still until you get the camera turned on, then flitter about madly so you can't ever focus on them again. There was a large, red/orange butterfly I never did capture. These are the ones I could.

Day_127_-_..tterfly.jpgDay_127_-_Butterfly.jpgDay_127_-_..__Small.jpg

On the east end of Bahia Honda Key is the famous "Seven Mile Bridge". I pulled over in a small "Veterans Park" just before the bridge to get some pictures of it, but found it to be a nice little park in it's own right. We loved the little grass roofed picnic shelters. The water was very still here today however, no waves at all, not even little ones.

Day_127_-_..ns_Park.jpg

Then of course, the bridge. It's not as long or scary as I'd expected. You drive across at 55 mph and are across in about 10 minutes.

Day_127_-_.._Bridge.jpgDay_127_-_..ridge_2.jpg

Day_127_-_..___Sign.jpg

Now see what you can do if you don't care about sleep... While we drove across the bridge, I set the camera to movie and asked Mom to just point and shoot. Tonight, I tried adding a couple of titles and replaced the wind & road noise with some Windows sample music (after finally figuring out how to do this - yes, I will try to take the tutorial someday), and it's not too shabby (or maybe I'm biased)

We stopped again at Home Depot to get screws to add to the door in between the existing screws. So far, the second patch job is holding but I figure it wouldn't hurt to add a few more preventive steps.

As we drove across Long Key, we saw another State Park. So far, every SP we've checked has been full as far as campsites. In the Key's, folks make reservations for SP Campsites as much as a year in advance. Most are booked up for months, especially for the popular season (Dec - Jan). But just for fun, I stopped at the ranger station here and asked. The Ranger laughed and said that something must have gone wrong, since when he went to lunch there were not sites available - but now there was one site open. It was still a little early to stop for the night but I grabbed it. Then while I was filling out the registration form somebody else stopped in to inquire about a campsite. The ranger promptly informed him that their sites have been booked for months. Perhaps, but if people cancel and you just happen to stop by at the right time, you might get lucky like this also.

Day_127_-_Long_Key_CG.jpg

(No that's not an optical illusion, the ocean is only about 15 feet from where Mom is sitting).

Posted by jl98584 16:13 Archived in USA Tagged family_travel

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Comments

Yes, those buttlerflies are pesky to shoot, aren't they? 72 is "cool"? since when? If Seattle were 72 degrees, we'd be in t shirts and shorts. It will maybe be a high of 41 today, snowing a lot in the Cascades and Olympics and Eastern WA. A lot of schools sout of here were starting an hour or 2 late due to snow and icy roads. It sounds like you two are enjoying yourselves. I never knew you liked lighthouses so much, Jeanette, we'll have to walk out to the one on Dunguness Spit when you get back. I've been wanting to do that for quite some time. HAve a lovely warm winter. Que

by drque

This looks like so much fun. Having never been to the Keys myself, I find that your entries are giving me a real picture of them that I never had before. It is easy now to understand what a mess a hurricane could make and why cars would be backed up for miles trying to get out of there.

It's been 65 here in SW MI today--a record--and 4 days ago it was zero. Margaret said on the phone that it was 70 at their place in OK today, and when I picked Laura up at the South Bend airport this evening, she said it was 85 when she left TX this morning. It's good to have her back for another semester.

by msj

It looks like except for a lingering storm out west, the rest of the country finally got out of that deep freeze! Glad everyone is OK.
I'd never given lighthouses much thought before this trip either, but we've enjoyed learning about them. I guess it makes sense that we'd see a lot of them, afterall a circumnavigation is largely a 'coastal' trip!

by jl98584

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