Florida Day Five: A Key Largo Sunrise, Sunset And Searching For An Abandoned Nike Missile Base In Between
When I awoke early Saturday morning on my visit to south Florida I was looking forward to watching the Key Largo sunrise. Thanks to some friends I had access to a pier with a view of the Atlantic Ocean and the rising sun.
Sunrises and sunsets have always been a favorite part of my day, and I was glad to add this beautiful Key Largo sunrise to the long lists of sunrises I have observed all over our planet. Here is a link to a gallery with some more photographs of the sunrise. Florida Day Five: Sunrise Key Largo. March 14 2020.
After watching the sunrise , I drove to the Key Largo Hammock Botanical State Park. , This time I planned to hike in another, more remote section of the park, located about 5 miles north of where I had hiked the previous day.
This remote section of the park is the home to snakes, crocodiles and rare butterflies. It also was the site of a former Nike missile base. Because of many endangered species and the remoteness of the site a back country permit is required to hike here. I obtained mine the previous day at the Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park in Key Largo. As required, I placed a copy of the permit on my dashboard, took a second copy with me and called the ranger station and advise that I entered the trail.
The trail into the park follows the old abandoned State Route 905. In 1965, a few hundred yards from the entrance a radar station for a Nike missile base , know as HM 40 , was built here after the Cuban Missile crisis. The security gate to the facility can be seen from the trail. I had read on the internet that the ruins of the old buildings were in the park. I have now learned they are located inside the fenced area beyond the gate and are not accessible to the public.
Disappointed on not seeing the ruins of the base, I continued my walk on the deteriorating asphalt of the old highway which is being slowly re-claimed by the encroaching subtropical forest. Once again I found that area was infested with mosquitoes. This time I wore repellent which was only slightly effective.
The trail become narrower as it neared the ocean. I used my PictureThis IPhone app to try and identify the exotic sub-tropical vegetation growing along the trail. These berries are from the wingleaf soapberry tree. I am not sure if this is it but one species grows only in south Florida.
Eventually, the trail became overgrown with mangroves. I tried to make my way through the tangled branches but the ground became too muddy and I wasn’t able to see the ocean. I learned afterword I was near the old “dynamite docks” A pier here unloaded shiploads of dynamite for the construction industry in south Florida and Miami. The remote port was used to avoid the possibility of large explosions in the populated port of Miami .
Last time I visited there was a group of butterfly enthusiasts searching for some of the rare species that live in the park. I am not a butterfly expert so I couldn’t tell if the ones I saw were rare or not, but they sure were pretty.
I had planned on hiking more than the five-mile distance I had walked when I arrived back at my Jeep. However the mosquitoes and hot April Florida sun told me it was time to head out and grab some breakfast. Here is a link to a gallery on my website with more photographs from my hike. Florida Day Five: Key Largo Hammock State Park March 14 2020
Before eating breakfast I decided to change my lodging. I had very poor internet service at my hotel so I checked in to the nearby and beautiful Bay Harbor & Coconut Bay Resort.
I had stayed here on my prior visit and I loved both the accommodations and the lovely gardens of this resort on the bay. There were no rooms available when I arrived in Key Largo but a cottage was now available for two nights and I took it . After settling in to my lodging I drove a few miles to Harriette’s Restaurant, another of my Key Largo favorites. This small family owned restaurant makes one awesome breakfast, although it was closer to lunch when I arrived. I enjoyed a hearty Spanish omelet with one of their famous homemade biscuits.
It was late afternoon and I was hungry again so I returned to my room to shower, and discovered I got a petty good sunburn. I was surprised at the intensity of the Florida sun. I walked across the street and enjoyed a nice dinner at another great local restaurant, Sal Ballyhoo’s. The fresh grouper was delicious as was the key lime pie I had for dessert.
It was a perfect Florida sunset. Although I was tired from a long day in Key Largo I visited some friends and enjoyed the warm Florida evening playing cards, chatting and enjoying a couple of beers. Another wonderful day in paradise it was. This is a link to a gallery on my website with more photographs from my afternoon and evening. Florida Day Five: Key Largo sunset March 14 2020
“There’s a sunrise and a sunset every single day, and they’re absolutely free. Don’t miss so many of them.”