Florida Day Five: Key Largo: My Last Day Of Exploring The Keys

Florida Day Five: Key Largo: My Last Day Of Exploring The Keys

Harry Harris Park (1 of 16)
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I was  up early on Sunday morning in Key Largo. I was again was looking for a place to watch the sunrise on the key.  And, once again I didn’t find one. So I drove about 17 miles north to begin my back country hiking adventure. entrance gate to back country trail

I was told of this hike from the staff at the  Crocodile Lake National Wildlife Refuge. I obtained my permit at the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State  park ranger station on my visit the day before. wooded trail in park

I was told that the trail was an abandoned old highway and I was excited as I began my walk. I hoped to see  some south Florida birds or exotic critters. I saw very few on my hikes on Saturday. wooded trail in park

It was partly cloudy, humid and a  very warm 79 degrees when  I began my hike  on  the abandoned road.tree lined trail

I learned the road was abandoned in the mid 1960’s and it was interesting to observe how nature was reclaiming the asphalt road. tree lined trail

There was a line of new growth trees along the old right of way. 

You could see the roots of some of the trees starting, after 40 years, to break through the surface. tree roots breaking through asphalt

It was difficult to see deep into the surrounding woodlands but where there were openings you could observe the larger trees of the original forest. large tree in woods on trail

It was a peaceful walk. The silence of the woodlands was only broken by the songs of the birds. Again mainly red bellied woodpeckers, catbirds red bellied woodpecker in tree

and a lot of cardinals.cardinal in tree

The only other sign of life were the lowly, but beautiful snails. There were hundreds of the feeding on the plants and trees. And of course the insects.snail on tree 

I walked out about two miles were the trail abruptly ended . It appears a lake was created on the old right of way. I tried to get closer but the brush and plant growth was too thick. trees obscuring view of lake

On my return hike I heard an owl in the woods and saw a few smaller birds fluttering and singing, in the  brush . It was hard to photograph them in the thick vegetation. I was able to photograph some of the wild flowers growing on the trail. blue flower on trail

The road intersected with another old road and I followed it as it ended in another small pond.clouds over pond on trail

As I approached  I  scared  a pair of tri -colored herons into a tree. tri-colored heron in tree

There were some more wildflowers growing near the lack. And a lot more insects. purple flower on trail

I returned to the main road and where I first heard, then saw,  this critter crawling up a tree.  raccoon in tree

It wasn’t  exotic like a snake, alligator or crocodile but it was  cute.I watched the young raccoon enjoying   a breakfast of leaves.raccoon in tree

As I neared my car, my solitary walk on the back country hike ended as I encountered some humans. A man walking his dog, some woman enjoying a morning hike and some rangers looking for a rare butterfly.   shadow on wooded trail

I was hoping to see more wildlife on my five mile hike but I was satisfied with enjoying some more of south Florida’s remaining wilderness. Here is a link to some more photographs from my hike. Key Largo back country hike. April 15 2018.

It was late morning when I got back to my resort. I  decided to spend a couple hours at the pool,  had a late lunch at Sal’s Ballyhoos across Highway One, and drove south to explore some more of the Florida Keys.entrance to park

It was sunny and hot as I drove through Plantation Key. I saw a sign for Windley Key Fossil Reef Geological State Park informational display on trail

Of course I had to stop. I only had about a half hour to explore the park before it closed a 5 p.m.  I didn’t have time to stop at the visitor center and began walking on the trails in the park. I learned a lot about the history of the park from the informational markers along the trail. fossilized coral quarry

It was a quarry where they extracted the fossilized corral, first for the building of a railroad and then for use  decorative  stone called “Keystone”coral quarry machinery

There was also a nature trail that meandered through the old quarry. palm fronds on trail

It was a nice walk in the late afternoon sun. It had gotten quite hot, temperatures neared 90 degrees and the lizards were very active.lizard on ground

I saw a few other critters including this spider,spider on web

and this fly catcher eating a rather large fly that it had caught.flycatcher eating insect

I was able to watch, and photograph, the bird as it struggled to swallow the large insect.flycatcher eating insect

It took awhile but mission accomplished. Here is a link to some more photos of the the flycatcher. Windley Key flycatcher April 15 2018.flycatcher eating insect

I promised the ranger I would leave the park by 5 p.m. since I was the last visitor and she would have to remain if I were late. So I hurried my walk hoping to return someday.Here is a link to some more photos from my hike on Windley Key. Windley Key Fossil Reef Geological State Park hike April 15 2018.

I began driving back to the resort when I saw the sign for another park, the Harry Harris Park on Plantation Key. I followed the signs for a few miles and came to the small beach. view of beach

Clouds moved in but it didn’t stop the many local residents from enjoying this small beach.sun obscured by clouds on beach

I spent some time watching the shore birds navigate the increasing winds before returning to my car and heading back to my room. Here is a link to some more photos from my visit to the park. Harry Harris Park April 15 2018sea gull in flight

A storm was moving in , and I joined a few other guests at my resort to watch the storm approach from our beach.We watched the lightning and heard the thunder grow louder as the storm neared. Here is a video I uploaded to my YouTube channel. Management at the resort had us leave the beach as the storm neared. I listened to it from my room. It was a good one. A tornado warning was issued and my room shook as lightning crackled and thunder boomed. I loved it. A perfect way to end my last night in Key Largo. Bogie and Becall would approve. storm clouds and pier

“You don’t like it, do you Rocco, the storm? Show it your gun, why don’t you? If it doesn’t stop, shoot it.” Frank McCloud Key Largo (1941)