Florida Day Six. A Morning in Marathon And Off To the Conch Republic, Key West.
I awoke early Sunday morning at my hotel in Marathon in the Florida Keys. Marathon is not a key, as I once believed, but rather a city located on several keys half way between Key Largo and Key West. A large city, too, for the Keys. It has a population of almost 10,00. people. My hotel was in the middle of Marathon on Crawl Key Number Two. I chose this location to visit Curry Hammock State Park with the intent to observe and photograph the birds migrating from South and Central America and the Caribbean Islands to North America and my home in Northeastern Pennsylvania.
But first, before my visit to Curry Hammock State Park I had to find a place to watch the sunrise. I left my hotel and saw a beach nearby and drove to it. When I arrived I realized I was here before. It was Cocoa Plum beach, a scenic , quiet beach. There was a small crowd already gathered on the beach to watch the sunrise so I walked north along the beach into a wooded area. Here I found a trail along a wetland and followed it.
It was a nice trail and a great place to watch the sunrise. I wasn’t alone, this double crested cormorant,
watched the beautiful Florida sunrise with me.
As always it was worth getting up early to to enjoy the wonderful rising of out sun.
And I wasn’t the only one who found this perfect location to watch the sunrise. There was what looked like a little campground with seat aligned to watch the rising sun.
I walked the trail observing the many shore plants growing along the trail including salt heliotrope,
and beach naupaka or beach cabbage.
There were a few coconuts, future palm trees, also washed up ashore. I wondered where they grew, a few miles away, or Cuba or Jamaica. Coconuts can travel over 100 days and 3000 miles in the ocean and still germinate. And they can still be edible!
The beach was covered with, what I heard many tourist describe, as “disgusting seaweed”. This seaweed is actually organic matter and other debris deposited along the beach at high tide. It is called the wrack line. It consists of uprooted seagrasses, algae, seeds, mangrove leaves along with sponges, soft corals and shells. It is very beneficial to the eco-system. It provides homes for small crabs and other crustaceans which provide food for birds and other wildlife.
I saw some shore birds roaming along the trail feeding on the wrack line , including a greater yellow legs, and,
a family of white ibises, this is the female
and the two strolling the beach together.
I saw tri-colored herons stalking prey.
I heard belted kingfishers and an osprey but didn’t see them. I did see a few red bellied woodpeckers looking for insect on the dead tree branches,
and this one found some type of worm.
I also heard the familiar calls of a few red-winged blackbirds and saw this one perched in a tree. It was unplanned but it was a wonderful place to watch the sunrise and observe nature along the beach.
I could have roamed this beach for hours but I wanted to also explore the Curry Hammock State Park. I had planned to hike on the coral hardwood hammock trail on the bayside of the Overseas Highway and then hike the trail on beach on the Atlantic Ocean. Once again, I had hoped to see some migrating birds on the trails.
I began my hike in the hardwood hammock. The hammock was created by the fossilized coral that was higher than the surrounding sea. The trail was a little difficult to hike as it meandered through the thatch palms and hardwood trees over the many protruding fossilized coral rocks
and the roots of the hardwood trees.
I recognized the poison wood, with a notice to the consequences of coming in contact with it’s bark, leaves or sap,
and my favorite gumbo-limbo trees.
But thatch palms were be far the most common tree on the trail.
Once again I saw few birds on the trail. I only saw a few northern cardinals singing in he treetops,
and this white eyed vireo. Here is a link to a gallery on my blog website with some more photos of the birds I saw on my morning hikes. Key West Marathon beach and Curry Hammock hikes birds April 2 2o23.
I also saw this cool spider. My inaturalist app identifies it as a banana spider and,
I followed the trail to a clearing along the Florida Bay were I enjoyed the beautiful scene in the morning sun. The trail looped back to the entrance. It was about a 1 1/2 mile trail. It was now around 10 a.m.. I wanted to hike on the beach in Curry Hammock State Park but I had to check ouy of my hotel and move on. Here is a link to another galley with photos from my morning hikes. Key West Marathon beach and Curry Hammock State Park April 2 2023.
I was soon on the road again, on my way to Key West. But first I had to stop and eat. As usual I looked for a local diner or restaurant and found the Cracked Conch Cafe just before left Marathon. It was a good choice. I had one of the best bowls of conch chowder since I was in the Bahamas.
And a very tender fried conch sandwich. It was a great meal and I was soon on the road again.
I had to one more stop to make. When I reached Big Pine Key I had to hike the Long Beach trail I came to love on my visit here in January. It is located about one mile on the Long Beach Road as soon as you enter the key.
It was now mid-day and the hot April Florida sun was intense. Temperatures were in the mid-80’s and none of the wading birds I saw on my last visit were in the lagoons and ponds along the trail.
The only critters I saw in in the slat flats were butterflies and flies.
I walked to the scenic remote beach, where I watched so many peaceful and beautiful sunrises, and enjoyed the desolate shore line.
Here I saw a few double crested cormorants drying their wings in the sun,
It flew off as I approached giving me an opportunity to photograph it’s beautiful wing span.
I retuned to the salt flats and walked along the trail I saw my first key deer. There was nothing stirring in the mid day sun and heat so I returned to my SUV and drove to Key West. I was looking forward exploring this wonderful Key which locals refer to as the Conch Republic. Here is a link to a gallery on my blog website with more photos from my quick hike on Big Pine Key. Florida Day Six Big Pine Key April 2 2023.
“Every time I stand before a beautiful beach, its waves seem to whisper to me: If you choose the simple things and find joy in nature’s simple treasures, life and living need not be so hard.” ~ Psyche Roxas-Mendoza