My First Visit To Big Pine Key, The First Of Many, I Hope

My First Visit To Big Pine Key, The First Of Many, I Hope

Florida Day Two Dig Pine Key evening (1 of 3)
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After my breakfast at the Duval House in Key West I was on my way to Big Pine Key. It is located   about 30 miles north on Route One also know as the Overseas Highway. I love driving this scenic and historic highway. This time I was driving a black Ford Explorer. I enjoy driving different automobiles on my visit to the Everglades and South Florida. 

It was a  pleasant  drive on the Overseas Highway,  recalling  the first time I drove it with some friends  while I was in college. It’s hard to believe that was 46 years ago. It was a reflective and restful drive, it has been a busy and stressful few months and, it was Winter. I needed a change of latitude and so I had made the last minute decision to  leave the cold and visit Florida.  And I decided to visit Big Pine Key , instead of my usual visit to the Everglades to look for key deer.   It was a good idea. So after taking a slow drive  I arrived on Big Pine Key and  visited  the “blue  hole”  in the National Key Deer Refuge. 

The “blue hole” is an old quarry that was  dug to build the famous Henry Flagler Railroad that connected Miami with Key West. It filled with fresh water and now attracts wildlife. 

It was a beautiful sunny day when I walked along the short nature trail.

It was nice to walk the trail. I loved  seeing the saw palmettos again. They always remind of southern Florida and the Everglades.  I was hoping to see my first key deer. 

There wasn’t much wildlife  on the trail but at a viewing lookout their was an alligator lurking in the clear blue waters. 

It was   good to see an alligator again. They are like the whitetail deer in Pennsylvania, they are everywhere. The only other wildlife I saw was an  an anhinga or “snake  bird” perched in a tree.

It soon flew off into the clear blue sky.

There were some pretty Florida wildflowers in bloom along the trail, a welcome sight after a few moths of flowerless , brown and drab  woodlands  up north. I saw  spurred butterfly peas, and

coffee senna flowers. Here is a link to a gallery with some more photos from my first visit to Big Pine Key. Florida Day Two. Big Pine Key January 11 2023 

The nature trail wasn’t very long, and it was mid day, around 1 p.m.  not a good time for wildlife  watching, so I decided to drive to the National Key Deer Refuge visitor center     located on Highway A1A. Here a  pleasant volunteer named  Bill provided me with a lot of information about the  Big Pine Key and showed me some hiking trail where I might see the key deer.  I also got some tips on where to  eat. My options were limited on this very sparsely populated key.  Much of the land is part of the Deer refuge and undeveloped. My kind of place, for sure,  I left the visitor center and drove out to isolated  Long Beach where I was staying at the Barnacle Bed and Breakfast. I immediately fell in love with the place. 

Jane, who with her husband Tim met me when I arrived and gave me a tour.  My room was on the private beach. It was a nature lovers paradise. I learned more about area and the key deer which Jane told me were regular visitors to the neighborhood. She also told me about the manatees that have been visiting the boat canal across from there property. 

After unpacking and settling in my beautiful room I walked over to the canal hoping to see the manatees. 

Sadly, they weren’t there,  there was no wildlife activity but it was mid-afternoon sunny and a warm 75 degrees, 

I decided to hike one of the nearby trails recommended by the Bill at the visitor center. I found the gate to the trail, 

and as I walked into the mangrove and salt flatland I saw a small pool with dozens of wading white ibises and,

tri-colored herons. I knew seeing  see these birds here in the afternoon heat was a good sign. I  was hoping there would be a lot more in the morning or evening. when it is cooler. 

I made my way to the beach. Once again, I fell in love with this isolated shore line. 

I knew there wouldn’t be much wildlife activity  this time of day but I still saw some least sandpipers wading along the shore. Another good sign that I may see a lot more wildlife in the morning. 

I walked along te beach and the lush groves of bay cedar growing about the sand line 

There were also some hardwood trees growing here, above the seaweed covered sand dunes,  including my favorite, the reddish gumbo-limbo tree. 

I saw one of my favorite, and my dad’s favorite, birds, a northern mockingbird. It was unusual for me to see this bird along the shore. 

A brown pelican flew along the shore. I had  already walked 7 miles ,  so, as much as I wanted to I didn’t walk far, I finished my 2 miles hike along the beach and headed back to my lodging I knew I was going to love this place at sunrise. Here is a link to a gallery with some more photos from my afternoon hike. Florida Day Two Big Pine Key afternoon hike January 11 2023. 

It was now late afternoon. So I  returned to my room , showered and drove about 8 miles to one of the closest restaurant, Boondocks. The meal was good, I had a good Caesar’s salad, then fried hogfish with mashed potatoes and mixed vegetables for my main course.  

I was talked into trying the chocolate chip mint ice cream, their specialty . I didn’t realize it served four. It was good and I had it in my freezer  for dessert for every evening the rest of my stay. 

I slowly  drove back to the Barnacle Bed and Breakfast, hoping to see my first key deer. I was disappointed and didn’t see one. I also missed the sunset.

However I enjoyed the peace and quiet of my own private beach. It was a relaxing evening. I was tired and slept early but got up in the middle of the night to enjoy the stars. They were spectacular. And the solitude of this secluded beach was the perfect place to rest. I made a good last minute decision to visit Big Pine Key. 

On a crowded beach, you see the crowd, not the beach; if you want to experience the beach, find an empty beach!”
― Mehmet Murat ildan

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