Florida Day Four: Exploring Key Largo Parks.
After a pleasant, but late evening, with friends, I was up early my first morning in Key Largo. My lodging was on the western gulf coast of the keys so I did not have a view of the sunrise. And on my last visit I couldn’t find a place to watch it rise on the eastern shore. So instead of looking for the sunrise I decided to hike in the Dagny John Key Largo Hammock Botanical Park.
I had hiked in this park a few times on my last visit. It was a failed large housing and hotel development. It was converted to a park in the 1980’s to protect the large tract of native hammock forest. It does not offer spectacular views or an abundance of wildlife but allows one to walk though a large area of native Florida woodlands. I arrived as the sun was rising in the east but it could not be seen because of the thick vegetation. However, the clouds lit by the rays of the rising sun were beautiful.
It was mostly clear and a pleasant 73 degrees, with a waning gibbous moon still shining above when I began my hike.
A stiff breeze off of the ocean kept the insects and mosquitoes away, for a while. I walked on one of the trails and encountered this wood stork.
The trail led to a primitive camp site along the shores of the ocean. My hopes of watching the sunrise here faded when I found that the trail to the camp site was not open to the public. I missed the sign at the trail head but I would obey its prohibition on future visits.
I followed the one of the trails on the west side of the park. In addition to some beautiful butterflies I also encountered swarms of mosquitoes. During my three days in the Everglades I hadn’t encountered any so I did not have on insect repellent. What a mistake this was. I was tormented by swarms of this buzzing pests for the remainder of my five-mile hike.
But hike I did, I walked on the west side of the park and was going to follow the trail as it loops back to the main trail. There were now many birds active during my walk, except for catbirds and a lot of cardinals.
There were, however, many different species of plants growing along the trails, including these pretty wild morning glories.
I am not sure if these identifications are correct, I made them with my PictureThis IPhone app., but it identifies these plant as gumhead,
and this as sweetscent. They were found in many areas along the trail.
I planned to follow the loop back to the main trail but had to turn around when I came to some flooding on the trail. I wasn’t too happy because I had to walk back through the worst area of mosquito infestation.
The sun warmed it up and the insects became even more annoying. I walked quickly through the more forested areas of the park, where there were many of my favorite gumbo-limbo trees. I love their red bark.
It was getting hot and I was being eaten alive so I left the park and made it back to my lodging where I had a nice breakfast and relaxed a bit and enjoyed the view of the waters of the gulf. Here is a link to a gallery with some more photographs from my morning hike. Florida Day Four: Dagny John Hammock park hike March 13 2020
After editing some photographs I decided to drive to the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park.
Although noted for its underwater coral reefs, kayaking and scuba diving it also has some trails along its beautiful beaches. I first stopped in the park office to obtain a back country hiking permit and then hiked on some of the trails in the park.
It was now mid afternoon and a lot of the local folks were enjoying the sunshine and warm waters.
I walked past the beach and hiked two trails, first I followed the Grove trail which was named after the citrus grove at the end of the trail. It was one of the first such groves in the area.
The grove is open to the public and attracts not only human visitors but many migratory birds. Unfortunately, I didn’t see any on this hike, only a lot of lizards scampering on the trail.
After my hike on the Grove Trail I next hiked on the Wild Tamarind. This short trail identified native trees and provided much interesting information about them and their uses.
I was able to see, and try to learn to identify poison wood, a dreaded native plant in south Florida.
It was now late afternoon and time to leave the parks of Key Largo. However, I didn’t know it at the time , but there would be much more exciting discoveries of the natural beauty of the Florida Keys that day. Here is a link to some photographs from my afternoon hike. Florida Day Four Key Largo John Pennekamp Coral Reef State park. march 13 2020
To cherish what remains of the Earth and to foster its renewal is our only legitimate hope of survival. Wendell Berry