Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Getting out of Key West for a day

If you have the time it's great to get away from the small island which is Key West and take a day on the Lower Keys where there's lots of interesting stuff to do - and that's exactly what we did today. The requirements were: getting away from Highway 1, not too much time in the car, "getting close to" nature, and getting salty wet.

We've also done a fair number of things up and down the Keys already. So we didn't want to do the Turtle Hospital again, or Theatre of the Sea - even though both are excellent.

Here's what we did today. First stop Publix in Key West for picnic provisions. Then out on Highway 1 to Sugarloaf Key, coming off the main road onto Sugarloaf Blvd. and drove for a few miles amongst the mangroves. I wanted to take Old State Road 4a north to do the loop and rejoin Highway 1 but it was closed. So we took the Old State Road 4a south for a little while, to where it crosses Sugarloaf Creek, turned back and came back the same way we came.

The view from the bridge over Sugarloaf Creek
You can just see Highway 1 in the distance 
Looking north from Sugarloaf Creek before Old State Road 4a turns into dirt track

I like stoping randomly along Highway 1 to take a few pictures. This time I chose Park Key.

Back on the road and the next major destination, this one chosen deliberately, not random, was No Name Key. It's a road to nowhere. But we did see one Key deer (highly endangered) on the way (on Watson Blvd) there and one on the way back (on Wilder Road). Which was a real bonus.

Welcome to No Name Key

No Name Key is a long road with this at the end
Behind this the path (walking only, obviously) goes on a tiny way and you get a great view of the open ocean.

Time to depart No Name and head to our main destination: Bahia Honda State Park and awesome beach, at MM36.

Click below for more.

We've been here several times in the past, including one memorable visit when I was trying to get back to Miami in a rush (to catch a plane home) when I had a flat in the park.

I love this place and today was no disappointment.

Main items on the agenda was the short walk at the end of the park (northern end): the Silver Palm Nature trail. Which was really excellent and I totally recommend it. Very easy but fun and educational.

Silver Palm trail information. Not very strenuous! It's actually downhill by 34 feet

This is one of the Silver Palms which give the Silver Palm Nature Trail its name. The palm is endangered

And finally a real dose of nature on the nature trail... a surprise waiting for me just above head height...It was HUGE!!

More pics and video of this Nature trail in a few weeks.

And second major agenda item was a swim in the ocean, when we were buzzed by a pelican at very close range which was fantastic.

So we were 36 miles from Key West and time to head back. One final stop off, at a place I had wanted to visit for many years - the Bat Tower at Sugarloaf.

Nesting at the top of the bat tower in Sugarloaf - can anyone identify this bird?

The bat tower at Sugarloaf Key in the Florida Keys

Bat tower close up
I will post a video of the bat tower in the coming weeks.

What a day! Only 36 miles there and back but so much nature, weather, skies, animals, ocean, and fascinating things to see.

Now back home to Key West.