Sunday, February 28, 2010

A nice break from sailing

Before we hopped on a motor cat at Robbie's Marina this morning for a visit to Indian Key and Lignumvitae Key State Parks, we really had little knowledge of the significant history of the many Keys. Obviously, we had already been impressed by the efforts of Henry Flagler to construct a railroad all the way to Key West. But we didn't understand that he accomplished this (just before he died, by the way) by dredging the bottom of these ecologically sensitive waters to build the entire railroad on a causeway because bridges were too expensive to construct. No "environmental impact statement" to worry about then, and he had the dollars to do what he wanted.

But good ole Mother Nature gave her answer during the Hurricane of 1935 when she blasted her way (200 mph winds do blast!) through these causeways and reconnected the ocean side of the keys with the bay side. Thus the MANY bridges of the Overseas Highway from Key Largo to Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville.

Indian Key
The two keys we visited today are only accessible by boat and controlled by the Florida Park Service. Indian Key reminded us of Jamestown because only foundations of the town where 40-50 folks lived are left. The successful hotel (and bowling alley) can only be imagined since they've been entirely replaced by trees. The nearby dangerous reefs turned this 10 acre key into the center of the "wrecking" industry and the original seat of Dade County.

There were only 5 streets, and I loved the sign for "Forth St.".

After the self-guided tour of Indian Key, we motored to nearby Lignumvitae Key, where we really enjoyed an hour and a half tour with an extremely knowledgeable park ranger. This is what the Keys would have looked like if Flagler and future vacationers never arrived. After out tour, we recognize trees such as lingumvitae, gumbo-limbo, poisonwood, mastic, and strangler fig. Perhaps "Tropical Trees" that will be a category on Jeopardy some day and we can look intelligent!

Lignumvitae Key
After whining so much about the colder than average temps here in the Keys during our time here, we rejoiced today when the ranger told us that the mosquitos are a terrible curse here during warmer weather. Today we wore foul weather gear because the 58 degrees this morning felt like 40s with the wind chill.

We bought "Charlotte's Story" on the way back to the marina. Charlotte Niedhauk and her husband Russ must have been something. They lived in this coral home as caretakers on isolated Lignumvitae Key and Elliott Key in the 1930s, including during the Hurricane of 1935.

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