Florida Keys

January 24 – February 7, 2017

Florida Keys

The Florida Keys, the distal point of our travels, was certainly expected to be a major highlight.  We had snagged a 2 week reservation at Long Key State Park on our 5th attempt at precisely 10 seconds before 8am on my birthday, January 24, 2016.  Yup, turns out the key to getting a hot ticket reservation is to click “Book Now” 10 seconds before the proper time.  Good to know.  You’re welcome.

Sunrise at our site in Long Key

It was a manageable 3 hour drive from our Everglades campground to our spot at Long Key State Park at mile marker 67 as measured from Mile Marker 0 in Key West at end of the chain of islands. We stocked up on groceries, water and gas in Homestead, realizing correctly that everything in the Keys would be more expensive.

#nofilter This is the actual colour of the water in the Florida Keys! James took this photo from a bridge in Islamorada on the way from Homestead to Long Key.
We saw a dolphin from a bridge about 10 minutes from our site!

Long Key State ParkOur stay in the Keys did not disappoint: we had a lovely ocean view right out our back door and afternoon shade from the trees!  The no-see-ums were only mildly annoying around dusk and somehow the ants did not find their way into our trailer this time. Phew!

We camped at Long Key State Park, about halfway down the Florida Keys
Our ocean front site at Long Key State Park

Our waterfront site had an access point for our canoe in the shallow waters which turned to mud at low tide.  Swimming was possible but only after wading out a few hundred feet – the water was so shallow! 

We came across this homemade boat which was used by Cuban refugees to come to the US! There is a policy here whereby you are considered a refugee if you land on US soil.

Key West

Key West was almost an hour and a half’s drive; we managed 3 trips down during our 2 week stay.

Woohoo! We made it to Key West!
Sadie sat in her buddy rider which helps her stay safe when traffic is too busy for her to run alongside safely

The first time we went with Sadie in the van so we could ride our bicycles around town. We find this is the best way to really get a feel for places as you scope it out quickly and easily.

Sunset at Mallory Square is popular every day in Key West
Even skimmers love to watch the sunset at Key West!
We got caught up in the moment!

Our next 2 visits to Key West were by motorcycle.

James was so proud to have ridden down here, he had to get a pic with the motorcycle at the Southernmost Point
James waiting in line for his photo with his motorcycle at the Southernmost Point. Some people were annoyed, but he explained he rode down here from Canada. When we took our photo, some people even cheered!

We spent several hours at the Ernest Hemmingway House (designated as a US National Historic Landmark), by far the most popular attraction in Key West.  Not knowing much about Hemmingway, we were at first a bit taken aback by some of the more unsavoury aspects of his life: his multiple divorces for newer younger wives, his rampant alcoholism and his ultimate suicide by gunshot. 

However, once we learned of his bipolar personality disorder, also known as manic depression, the disparate pieces of his life made sense.  His worldwide travel adventures and amazing fraternizing with important people despite humble beginnings seemed consistent with the manic side, while his difficulties in maintaining long term relationships, his alcoholism and suicide related to the depression. With my background in psychology, I (Margot)often reflect on how various psychological conditions have real impacts on people’ lives; in Hemmingway’s case it was both for the better and for the worst.

James also liked the polydactyl (more toes than normal) cats
Look at all the toes on these mittens

At the Audubon House Museum, we were amazed by the artful yet lifelike depictions of different bird species, the first ever attempt at a scientifically accurate cataloguing of breeds by John James Audubon for his “Birds of America” elephant folio (so-called for the large sized 39.5” x 28.5” handmade “elephant paper”) in the early 1800s. In all, some 435 depictions were reproduced, printing off copper plates and hand painted in both life-size poster depictions and smaller prints. His observations of each species while very specific, were very wordy (here’s a 500 word description of the Booby Gannet). The Audubon Society name was inspired by the works and contribution of J.J. Audubon.

Original Booby Gannet print by John James Audubon
The museum, house and grounds were beautiful, however it’s interesting to note this was not John James Audubon’s house. In fact he didn’t even live in Key West!

Being amateur birders, we were happy to bring home a pocket-sized book of all 435 of Audubon’s pictures, especially since it meets the trailer criteria of fulfilling 2 purposes: being both an art book and a species reference guide.

The Key West Aquarium, though small, is a mainstay of Key West, having been established in 1935.  We actually loved it for the variety of animals they had including sharks in an open ocean enclosure, large sea turtles recuperating from injuries, alligators, stingrays and so many fish.

Baby alligators just hanging out at the Key West Aquarium

The highlight however was seeing their octopus actually feed on some live shrimp – such an otherworldly creature with his skin flashing different colours and his body forming a dome from above as he engulfs his prey.

Ocean Adventures

The Florida Keys gave us access to the ocean and we made good on this: We took our little canoe out on the shallow bay waters at Long Key and along the canals near Sombrero Beach marvelling at the beautiful canal front homes.

Beautiful Sombrero Beach in Marathon, FL. Parking was free, and we were able to launch our canoe

Sombrero Beach is a lovely, public beach mid-Keys at MM50 (Mile Marker 50) with free parking and is entirely dog-friendly! A great place for swimming and we even tried a little snorkeling in the clear waters.

Canoeing in the canals by Sombrero Beach. These canals are like streets made of water for the houses that line them

We also got out on a fishing charter though Robbie’s Marina at MM77 one day with James catching 3 fish we cooked up for a tasty dinner that evening. 

James doesn’t fish, but he caught 3 fish on our boat tour
We loved the colour of the waters here. What a beautiful day for a cruise!

Our travels along the Overseas Highway crossed our path with an iguana who had been hit by a car but was still very much alive in the middle of a lane as cars flew over it.  We picked him up with a small blanket and whisked him over to the Florida Keys Wild Bird Centre Bird Emergency Clinic where they will accept any local injured wildlife.  The prognosis was good as his jaw wasn’t broken and his external injuries appeared minor.

We picked this iguana up off the Overseas Highway yesterday – he had been hit by a car and was bleeding and stunned. We brought him to the Wild Bird Rehabilitation Centre where vet tech Kayla said his wounds appeared superficial and his prognosis was good. Yay! After he recovers, they will release him in their sanctuary. 🙂

Unfortunately, we learned on a subsequent visit to the bird sanctuary that he succumbed to his injuries the second evening.  At least we gave him a chance and he didn’t have to die on the road…

We had A LOT of key lime pie! Our favourite was the chocolate covered key lime pie served on a popsicle stick atop a paper plate from the Blue Gecko in Key West.

While we didn’t eat out much, we did eat a lot of Key Lime Pie!  My favorite was the chocolate dipped frozen on a stick from the Blue Gecko in Key West.  I had that one 3 times!  Hey, when in Rome…

More Photos

There was so much to see here!

 

A beautiful snowy egret
A great white heron is actually a white morph of the great blue heron that occurs only in the Florida Keys. Neat!
We’re those nerds that actually read the plaques and go to museums. Mangroves are able to thrive in saltwater by excreting salt through their leaves. Very cool.
Golden orb spiders are common in the Florida Keys.
Had to do the kissing pose at the Key West Museum of Art and History

Bonus Music Video! Recorded at Sombrero Beach

2 thoughts on “Florida Keys

  1. I’m so sad that the iguana didn’t make it 🙁 At least he didn’t die alone. Chocolate covered key lime pie sounds AMAZING!
    Sounds like using the “excuse” that you’re Canadian works for a lot of things 😉

  2. Hey Jenn, it is so good! The pie is sweet and tart and the chocolate is … chocolately. The whole thing is frozen, but not rock hard, so it’s easy to eat. I think you would like it! Well, minus the lactose, but you could always have a bite!

    -James

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