Florida Day Six. Key Largo. Not Much Wildlife On A Morning Hike On The HM 40 Abandoned Nike Missile Base Trail.

Florida Day Six. Key Largo. Not Much Wildlife On A Morning Hike On The HM 40 Abandoned Nike Missile Base Trail.

Florida Day six Key Largo morning hike (37 of 42)
Previous Post
Next Post

On my second day  in Key Largo during  my recent visit to South Florida I decided to hike on the HM 40 Nike Missile Base Trail in the Dagny Johnson Key Largo Hammock Botanical State Park. On my last hike on the HM 40 Nike Missile Base Trail, two years ago,  I required a back country hiking permit.  I stopped for my permit at the Ranger’s Office  in John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park Sunday afternoon.  I was told  permits are no longer required.  On my last hike there  I was attacked by swarms of mosquitoes, so,   when I  awoke early  Monday morning I had my coffee, applied an enormous amount a insect repellant and was  on my way to the trail  located about 8 miles north of my hotel.

This remote section of the  is the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park is home to snakes, crocodiles, bird,  rare butterflies and mosquitoes. It also was the site of a former Nike Missile base HM 40. The trail is located about 7 miles north of Key Largo  into the park follows the old abandoned State Route 905.  In 1965, a few hundred yards from the entrance  a radar station for a Nike missile base , known as HM 40    was built  here after the Cuban Missile crisis.

It was party sunny and mild when I arrived at the trail and  entered the through the  open gate.  The trails took me  through the canopy of trees  that now hang over  the remains of the old highway. 

I was  only familiar with a few of the many tropical trees  along the trail including the cabbage palm

 gumbo limbo trees,

and of course, one I want to avoid, poison wood. Contact with the trees  causes severe skin rashes. There is a lot of it in southern Florida and I learned to identify it when I first started visiting southern Florida. .

After about a 1/4 mile  on the trail I came to a fence that surrounded the abandoned Nike Missile Base. On my last visit there was a gap in the fence but  there were signs  posted stating there was no trespassing on the property. The signs were gone and the gap still there. I knew from seeing other posts on social media that people have been entering the base so I did too.

I walked past the abandoned guard post,

and old buildings,

many covered with graffiti.

I walked on an abandoned road, now overgrown with trees,

passing  some more buildings ,

and came to the old radar towers.  I imagined how it must have been here during those tense years after the Cuban missile crisis.  I headed back to the main trail. 

As I was leaving the abandoned base I saw this gray squirrel,

and northern cardinal.  There was little other bird activity on this windy morning

I did see a few butterflies including Julia butterflies  and

zebra longwing  butterflies, that are always fluttering around and rarely land on a branch to leaf ,  making them difficult to photograph. 

There were also a lot of dragonflies darting along the trail including blue dashers,

 great pondhawks, and

this species I had never seen before I believe a seaside dragonlet. What I didn’t see were mosquitoes. I was very surprised.  I did not see or hear one mosquito on my five mile hike. In fact, I fact I had seen very few mosquitos on my  trip. I later learned it was a dry Winter and that this kept the mosquitoes from breeding. The ranger who told me this assured me they will be here soon after the recent heavy rains. I was hoping I would be back in Pennsylvania when they make their appearance.

The only birds I heard were the northern cardinal and white eyed vireos although they were difficult to photograph in the thick vegetation, I finally was able to capture an image of this one.

What were easy to photograph were the snails  attached to the tree branches along the trail,   mostly endangered liguus tree snails.

There discarded shells were everywhere along the trail and I gathered all of these in a small area.

I  hiked on the trail for about a mile when I came to a side trail which i had followed before. The  trail map shows it takes you to the bay but the thick mangrove trees prevent you from getting there.  I hiked it anyway since I have seen ospreys perched in the trees near the ocean.

After about a half mile I approached the bay and  I left trees of the hardwood hammock .   I was now in thickets  mangrove trees ,

with  coastal plants growing along the trail.

I did see a few mushroom, growing  here.

However there were no ospreys or  other birds  in the trees near the coast. I was close to the shoreline, I could hear the waves splashing, but the mangrove were to thick to get t0 the ocean.

I hiked back  to the main trail and followed it out for about another 3/4 of a mile.

Here I took another side trail which led to a wetland.

Here I saw this  graceful reddish egret wading in the waters of the wetland,

until it became aware of me and flew off.

I had hiked  almost miles and decided to head back. I was a little disappointed, again, that I didn’t see more song birds or other wildlife.

On the hike back I did see a few  brown anole lizards scampering along the trail,

and this beautiful  giant swallowtail butterfly.

There was also a small   flock  palm warblers on the ground, and

in the trees along the trail   but that  was it.  Here is a link to a gallery with some more photos of the birds I saw on my  hike. Florida Day Six. Key Largo Nike Missile Base Trail birds March 25 2024.

Although I didn’t see as much wildlife as I had hoped on my five mile hike.  I still enjoyed being in the hardwood hammock and have of the fun  is just hiking and looking  for the beauty that exists in nature. You never know what you will or won’t see, but even if it is nothing, half of the fun is just looking and enjoying the peace and quiet of nature. Here is a link to a gallery with some more photos from   my  hike. Florida Day Six. Key Largo Nike Missile Base Trail  March 25 2024.

As usual,  I worked up an appetite on my hike and I decided to stop for breakfast at a small restaurant near the shore, the Hideout. I ate here last year and had a good wholesome meal

and I did again this year. a vegetable omelet with toast and    home fried potatoes  with lots of onions.  After breakfast I returned to the hotel and was planning to relax a bit at the pool. See how that went in my next blog.

“Leave the roads; take the trails.” Pythagoras






This is my first post