We have some creatures in our campground. Some lizards and a few land snails.
The lizard took off and Shawna put the snail just into the wooded area behind the RV site so it would be safe.
Today, we go on a boat trip out the reefs off the coast of John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. Leaving the park involved passing through weaving channels of mangroves until we got out into open water.
The ride out was pretty smooth.
The reef was 2 miles offshore and filled with fish and coral.
The reef is surrounded with sand and grass about 15 feet deep. It was very shallow in some areas almost to the surface in places. We saw so many fish and coral.
We were in the water as long as we could and relaxed on our trip back to the park.
First stop is the Windley Key Fossil Reef Geological State Park which was formerly a quarry for Henry Flagler's Overseas Railroad in the 1900s. After the railroad was built, the quarry continued to operate until the 1960s producing decorative stone called Keystone. The visitor center had some information on the railroad.
Once the quarry closed, the property was going to be sold for apartments. Locals found this out and decided to promote protecting the site.
Today, there are 1.5 miles of trails with lots of signs for plants and trees.
I was starting to get winded from the climb up to the highest point in the keys. We were at 18 feet above sea level. Whew! After coming down off the peak, I need to take a pause to recover.
I am so easily amused and 'yes' I did laugh at myself when I wrote this.
Seriously every foot in elevation matters in the Keys.
The quarry’s cut large blocks of limestone. Some of the walls were 8-foot tall. In the walls were ancient coral.
The coral fans were huge and very well preserved.
Quarry machineries are still in the park
We visited another brewery. Nice place. Good live music and food.
The primary beach at the park is called Cannon Beach not only because there are two 17th century cannons on the shore but also there are several sunk offshore as a simulated shipwreck along with an anchor and dedication plaque.
There is also a trench that starts about 50 feet offshore and most of the width of the beach. We started on the south side of the trench and swam over the trench to the north side to see the shipwreck.
It was fun. A bit freaky swimming over 100 feet over a 20 plus deep dark trench but fun. Duuun-dun. Duuun-dun. Dun-dun-dun-dun… We had no idea what was below us.
At the very end of the video, I got a few seconds of a lobster hiding under a rock then suddenly a CRAMP!
We had to end our snorkeling trip. I got a horrible cramp in my left calf. It was so bad that we headed back. It took 3 days to recover. I have had bad cramps before, but it has never taken more than a day to recover. Getting older is not for wimps.
There are several trails in the park, and we walked them all today. First, we walked to the furthest point where we thought we would walk over the mangroves.
Much of the Mangrove trail still being repaired.
Another trail is the Grove trail which ended at the remains of an old farm.
The Wild Tamarind Trail is focused on the trees and plants found in the Keys.
It was a nice walk.
Today, we visit a bird sanctuary but first how about some Key Lime Pie and Ice Cream.
Life is short - Dessert first.
We arrived at the Bird Sanctuary and to see the birds that they are rehabilitating.
We were able to see several hawks, owls, and other birds. All were here because they had been injured some accidentally and some deliberately.
It is sad to know that these birds can never again fly free but at least they will be well cared for here.
At the end of the trail was the bay. It was a nice view.
Hey, let's go see the huge Lobster. It is a really big lobster.
Time for a midafternoon dinner and our view is pretty interesting. The restaurant is on a dock over the bay. Some people still have some boat problems they need to fix.
Today we visited a museum, brewery/distillery, and have lunch.
The Islamorada Brewery and Distillery was our first stop to get a lunch and something to drink. First, let us practice how to say Islamorada. I-La-Morada. I know, what happened to the S? No matter what you find on the web the locals do not pronounce the 'S'. I cringe anytime I hear someone pronounce Mobile Alabama wrong too.
Shawna tried the beer but was not super impressed. The food was really good. We did a tasting in the distillery side and did purchase one bottle.
Time to go to a museum. The History of Diving Museum was fun and very informative.
Exhibits from the earliest time we have documented of diving to the current equipment is on display.
There was a short film on diving history and in that room were a couple of displays.
They have an interesting way to enter the museum from the gift shop.
A lot of the early history displays are reproductions.
Wow, these do not seem very safe.
Firemen have similar issues as divers. The need to be able to breath in a hazardous environment.
On to more diving displays
There was even a “personal” diving helmet. This was actually sold to the public and used. I am not sure about this but maybe it worked.
More diving helmets. The museum has the largest collection of diving helmets and other displays.
A section was dedicated to recovery from shipwrecks. They even had a silver bar that if you are able could be picked up. I looked it up and the bar is currently worth over $20,000.
They had real recovered coins and other items.
A real treasure chest was on display. It was amazing to see the complexity of the locking system. Three keys were needed to open the chest. One on each of the front locks and one to release the lid lock. They tried to fake out any thief by making a false lock opening on the front while the real key slot was under a cover in the top of the chest.
A small hallway was dedicated to 20,000 Leagues under the sea.
On to the world helmet display.
More modern equipment was also on display and some seriously deep-water equipment.
Time to go. Even the exit was unique.
On our walk to the water, we stopped to see this well. It is artesian but the water is not something you would want to drink.
Snorkeling near the mangroves.
Iguanas at the campground.
We moved down to the Keys. The John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park is great. Mr. Pennekamp worked hard to get both the Everglades and the State Park established. This was named after him for his efforts as it would not have existed otherwise.
The park is enormous and when combined with the adjacent Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary its over 178 nautical square miles of coral reefs, sea-grass beds, mangrove swamps, campgrounds, and trails. The park extends 3 miles into the Atlantic Ocean and is almost 25 miles in length. It includes three protected swim areas and two small sand beaches one of those with a simulated shipwreck. It was established in 1963 and is the first undersea park in the United States.
The visitor center at the park has a 30,000-gallon aquarium and several small aquariums along with a lot of educational information.
We also decided to visit the city visitor center. The staff was incredibly helpful. Without his help, I doubt we would have found some of the interesting things in the area. He also taught us about the numbering system for the overseas highway. The first digits are the mile marker and if the address ends with an even number then it is on the Bay/Gulf side and if it ends in an odd then it is on the Sea/Ocean side. Thank you to whoever came up with that idea. It really helps when looking for a location or how far you are from one.
We will try to get by to see the African Queen. Yes, the original boat used in the filming of the 1952 movie with Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn. Maybe we will even take it for a ride.
I am an unofficial member of the Conch Republic.
On our last day in the Everglades, we decided to take a bike ride. It was not a great idea.
Later, we came to a turn in the trail and the left side was burned and the right was not.
It is clear that there is very little soil here. The limestone shows up as soon as the leaves are burned away.
Plants are already starting to recover.
Our big problem was that the horse flies were relentless. We decided to make a quick trip back to the campground where we were not having problems with them at all.
This guy was crossing the road about 20 feet from our RV from one wooded area to another. Yes, this is a poisonous snake! We gave it plenty of room to get off the road, but we will be even more watchful when walking around the RV.
We are a couple who have started on a new adventure...