Florida Day Four: Key Largo: Trees, Birds And Flowers Under The Florida Sun.
I spent some time last Friday evening in Key Largo researching Google maps . I decided my best bet to see the sunrise Saturday morning would be at the John Pennecamp Coral Reef State Park. It had a beach on the eastern side of the key. I was up early and at the park 15 minutes before sunrise only to find the park did not open until 8 a.m. No sunrise for me here . I drove about four miles further north to the Key Largo Hammock Botanical State Park.
I was hoping I could get to the bay and still catch the rising sun. A woman walking her dog said the park trails did not lead to the ocean. So no sunrise for me here either. I decided to stay and began my walk through the largest tropical hardwood hammock in the United States.
This area was going to be developed for condominium housing but the development project failed and, thankfully, the area was preserved as a park.
I walked the wide paved trail, which was originally was a road in the planned development. There were many native species of trees in the park and I wish I had more time to learn to identify them all.
The trail was lined with thick trees until I came to a clearing which must have been associated with the housing development. It was here I finally saw the sun rising over the lower trees of the bayou near the bay.
The trail now wandered through some lower plant growth and wet lands.
I was surprised that there was not a lot of bird activity. There was a few red bellied woodpeckers. some catbirds
I came to some flooded portions of the trail and had to cross them on this rocky bridge. I was a little concerned about an encounter with an alligator or crocodile. I crossed without meeting one. I soon met three people walking their dogs. I learned they built the stone bridge and that there were no alligators here and crocodiles were rare. They never had seen one, anyway.
I continued on the outer loop of the trail as the sun climbed higher in the sky. It was a nice morning with pleasant temperatures in the mid 60’s.
I was a little disappointed not seeing a lot of wildlife on my walk. However, I was still rewarded with the exotic sub-tropical vegetation,
and some beautiful wild flowers.
I continued on the loop trail and found a side nature trail which I followed under a canopy of larger trees including the rare, and valuable mahogany tree.
I returned to my car after having walked about three miles on the trail. I wished I had seen more wildlife but it was still a nice hike in the sub-tropical forest. Here is a link to some more photographs from my walk in the hammock. Key Largo Hammock Botanical State Park. April 14 2018.
After leaving the park I made a quick visit to the Crocodile Lake National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center. The center was closed but I had a pleasant chat with some volunteers tending the butterfly garden. They advised me of a back country trail a few miles north. A permit is required to hike in this area and they told me how to obtain one.
Their advice led me to the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park were I obtained a back country permit for the next morning. I also got to explore this wonderful park.
The park is noted for it’s spectacular coral reef and some of the best snorkeling, kayaking and other under water activities on the east coast can be found here.
I was just looking for another place to hike . And there were of couple of short hiking trails. I first hiked the Wild Tamarind Trail which took me into another hardwood forest.
There were a number of different sub-tropical trees, many of them marked with identification tags, including the dreaded poison tree.
I next hiked the Grove Trail which took me to an old citrus fruit grove.
I walked to a third trail, the Mangrove Trail and found it to be closed as a result of damage from a hurricane.
As I walked through the park I saw a few birds, including this kingbird,
and these brown pelicans. It was now near noon and, once again, it was hot, I was getting tired and hungry so I decided to leave the park. Here is a link to some more photographs from my hike in the park. Key Largo John Pennekamp Coral Reef Park. April 14 2018.
I stopped at Mrs. Macs, recommended by a friend and had a hearty breakfast before returning to my resort. When I returned I relaxed at the beautiful private beach for a while.
The waters of the bay were clear and I saw many species of fish,
and this crab in the pristine waters.
I tried to lay at the pool in the hot sun. I soon got restless and decided to explore the beautiful and well maintained flower gardens of the resort with my macro lens.
They were so many exotic flowers and they looked even more exotic up close.
There were also a lot of lizards scurrying on the ground as I photographed the flowers some big and.
I was surprised I saw no insects on any of the flowers. I am not sure why but it could have been because of the mid afternoon.
It was hot, even in the shaded gardens so I retreated to my air conditioned room for a rest and to edit some photographs. Here is a link to some more photos of the flowers in the resort. Key Largo Coconut Bay Resort flowers April 14 2018.
I was tired and decided to have dinner at a nice restaurant across from my resort, the Ballyhoo. I had a nice wholesome meal and returned to the beach at the resort to watch another beautiful sunset.
A group of guests gathered to watch the bright orange disc of the sun slowly approach the horizon.
As it got closer it moved more rapidly and quickly disappeared, to the applause of the small crowd who witnessed the end of another beautiful day in this south Florida paradise. Here is a link to some more photos of the sunset. Key Largo Coconut Bay sunset April 14 2018
My love for you is like a Florida sunset. Orange, coral, pink, and lavender, it exists to warm your heart through the inevitable darkness. Jarod Kintz