Florida Day Six: Key Largo: A Hike On The Wrong Side Of The Aerojet Canal

Florida Day Six: Key Largo: A Hike On The Wrong Side Of The Aerojet Canal

Florida Day six Key Largo morning hike (19 of 26)
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I  learned a lot about the Aerojet Canal and the Southern Glades Trail my first few days in Florida this year.  As I explained in my previous blogs, this canal was used to transport rocket engines from the  the city of Homestead to Cape Canaveral vis the Atlantic Ocean  during  space race in the 1960’s. Well I also learned that the Aerojet canal  ended at the Manatee Bay near  Key Largo. And along it was the Southern Glades Trail. So, of course I wanted to hike  and explore this new area when I returned to Key Largo, as I have these past three years. 

I left my resort early, it was about a 25 minute drive to the trailhead located on Highway One. I wanted to get there before sunrise. I was told  by a friend to park at the boat ramp  parking area and cross over the Highway One bridge over the Aerojet Canal to access the Southern Glades Trail. I did and it wasn’t a good idea crossing the bridge with the heavy traffic on Highway One.

And when I  did get across, and walked down to the trailhead, I found it was fenced off and closed. I wasn’t happy. 

I walked  back over the busy  bridge and returned to the boat ramp parking as the sun was rising in the east. It was partly cloudy, windy and a mild 70 degrees. 

There was a trail on this side of the canal. But, as I walked on it I learned it was only an access road to some communication towers. I decided to  follow it anyway  and hopefully see some wildlife. 

As would be expected, since the access road was just built recently a lot of invasive plants and trees grew along the trail including invasive boat lilies and

a lot of invasive Australian pine trees. I had never seen these trees before. 

Well, it seemed the red-bellied woodpeckers like them.  There was a number of them squawking in the trees. One, it looks like a juvenile flew  closer to the trail allowing me to get some nice close up photos of it’s pretty red head, 

and, it’s seldom seen red belly. 

I love seeing these beautiful birds at my suet  feeders at my home in Northeastern Pennsylvania. 

Nearby,  hopping on the branches of  the mangrove  trees and seagrape plants  near the ground was another pretty, but much smaller bird, a blue gray gnatcatcher. 

And there was also a few palm warblers in the trees near the trail. 

Growing along the Aerojet canal were red mangrove tree  with there roots extending into the water. I was disappointed  there weren’t any wading birds on the waters of the canal. It was quiet. 

I  saw many of these pretty yellow sea oxeye  flowers as I walked toward the tall communication towers.

The trail paralleled Highway One so I heard the noise of heavy traffic on the entire 4 mile hike. 

I noticed a few more flowers growing along the trail including seaside gentian,

and bay cedar flowers. 

As I got near the two large communication towers I found flocks of turkey and black vultures perched on the towers, there were dozens of them.  It was a good opportunity to  compare the two species. This is a close up of a pretty turkey vulture,

and this of a handsome black vulture. Not pretty birds in my opinion but then, beauty is in the eye of the beholder and I am sure other vultures find them attractive. 

The access road soon ended. Another canal joined the Aerojet canal preventing me from reaching the Manatee Bay. I considered swimming across but decided it wouldn’t be a good idea because I had my camera and iPhone and, there may be alligators swimming in these waters too. I turned around hoping to find a way to access the Southern Glades Trail on the other side of the Aerojet canal before I left Florida. 

I didn’t see many birds or other critters on my return hike

but, near the boat ramp I did see a mockingbird and a few of these familiar birds,

red -winged blackbirds. They are very common in the wetlands near my home in Northeastern Pennsylvania. In fact, large flocks of these birds should be migrating through  my area any day now. They are noisy but a sound of warm weather that I love to hear. Here is a link to a gallery with some more photographs of the birds I saw on my hike. Florida Day Six morning hike birds February 17 2022. 

As I was photographing these birds I noticed a gate  in a fence that surrounded a bridge over the canal. I didn’t see in when I walked past earlier in the morning.  I walked through it and found that you could access the Southern Glades Trail this way. It had red markings on both side of the the canal indicating to me it was open to the public. I knew where I’d be hiking the  next morning! I was going to see Manatee Bay!. Here is a link to a gallery  on my blog website where more photographs of my hike on the Aerojet canal can be viewed. . Florida Day Six Key Largo morning hike . February 17 2022. 

It was late morning now so I returned to my resort, showered and drove a few miles on Highway One  to Harriette’s , know their  great breakfast.  And it was a good breakfast.   After editing photos and  checking in with my office I spent some time at the beach at the resort. It is a great place to relax. But not for too long. I was soon off on an afternoon hike. And one final note, as I was finishing up this blog, I was watching the heartbreaking news of the suffering of the people of the Ukraine from the brutal and unjustified invasion by Putin the evil dictator. So sad.  I am  1/4 Ukrainian. My thoughts are with this brave people as they fight for their freedom and independence. 

“Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt.” Ed Viestrus 

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