Adventure in the Florida Keys (Day 4)

On Day 4 we started off the day looking for the local beach. The closest beach was Sombrero Beach. There was a quaint little park with a strolling path, picnic tables, and a wonderful little playground. The beach was long and skinny with a few clusters of shady palms to camp out under for the day. Like most of the places we encountered during the week, however, the shoreline was thick with seaweed. It is a bit unpleasant to walk over, but once you get to the water everything is good. Other than the seaweed, the beach was very nice and clean. We arrived a bit too late to get the shady spots, so we decided to wander about a bit and explore before heading back to the resort. As we wandered about, we found some fireworks frameworks from the previous weekend’s festivities (4th of July). My husband recognized what they were, because he has helped with the fireworks extravaganza in our hometown a couple of times.

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The beach wasn’t very big, so exploring didn’t take long. Soon we returned to the resort. When we returned, I decided to head over to the lounge chairs on the dock and get a little sun. The iguanas apparently had the same idea, so I snapped a few photos of them while we were all basking in the sun.

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Eventually, my husband came out to join me, and we decided that it was a nice day to be out on the water. Therefore, the search for a place to rent or charter a boat began anew. After scouring the internet for a bit, we finally booked an outing on the Catamaran Echo. It would be a four hour tour with snorkeling and a visit to a shipwreck, so we ate a bite of lunch and headed back to Key West for our boat excursion.

On arriving in Key West, I saw my first Key West chicken, a lovely red rooster who was making quite a fuss.  I snapped a few photos of this guy too.

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After a bit of wandering around and a couple of phone calls, we finally found where on the docks we needed to be. We met our captain,…

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his first mate,…

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and our excursion companions…

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and set off into the great blue.

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The salt spray and wind were a welcome change from the sticky heat. We rode around for quite some time, eyes peeled for signs of dolphins or sea turtles. We passed between sand bars with water birds wading and looking for small fishes and crabs to eat.

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Bubba and Rainbow, the sock monkeys, joined us on this outing. They had a blast riding on the boat and hanging off the sail.

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We went out with two other families. Eventually, the youngest member of our crew spotted the first dolphin. His father was a fellow photographer, so he and I both got cameras ready to photograph these playful cetaceans.

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The pod we encountered was especially friendly, coming right up to the boat, swimming underneath and splashing us. They swam about, jumped out of the water, and put on quite a show. We kept up with them for quite some time, and eventually, another boat took notice and joined us in watching the show.

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After a while, our captain determined that we needed to head on out to our snorkeling spot. This was my first snorkeling adventure, so the captain helped me get ready and told me what to do. Before long, I was out in the water. It took a few tries for me to get accustomed to breathing through my mouth with the snorkel, but once I got into the rhythm, I was out there snorkeling with the best of them. I saw tropical fishes of all sorts, amazing looking brain coral, plenty of seaweed, and an awesome sunken ship. I swam around for quite some time exploring the ship and watching the fish. The water was a bit rough, however, so occasionally a wave would dump water into my snorkel. The water was super salty! Whenever I began to fear I was drifting too far from my group or the boat, I would lift my head and look around to find everyone. Every once in a while, I would begin to worry that there might be sharks. Thankfully, we never saw any. All went well, and soon I began to grow tired, having not yet recovered from my summer cold, so I swam back to the boat. I watched for a while as the others explored, and after a short while, everyone returned to the boat and we began the ride back.

The ride back was nice, but I didn’t want it to end. I wanted to spend the rest of the trip out there, but sadly, I was not comfortable with that little bathroom down in that hole in the side of the ship. However, I loved the feel of the wind and the splash of the waves.

After returning from our catamaran adventure, we headed for the dessert place my husband wanted to try. It was an interesting place. On arriving, the room we entered was small, quite dark, and seemingly devoid of wait staff. We were quite confused, but we sat down at an unoccupied table.  When a hostess finally appeared from behind a door, we realized that we must have come in through the wrong door. The hostess noticed us, however, and said that it was no problem and sent a waitress our way. We ordered and consumed a creatively prepared dessert while admiring the decor. The most fascinating piece in the room was an ivory grandfather clock with an owl where the clock should have been. After we finished eating, our waitress gave us the grand tour of the establishment and a little history behind it. It was very nice, and each room was very interestingly decorated.

After dessert, we headed back to the resort. And that my friends, was Day 4. Stay tuned for the rest…

Adventure in the Florida Keys (Day 3)

So, I’ve finally finished editing and sorting through the Day 3 photos, so now it’s time to write.

On Day 3 of the Florida Keys adventure, we spent the first part of the morning checking out the resort, as we still were recovering from the long ride. I walked out to the dock overlooking the water and noticed that there was a little lighthouse a couple of properties over.

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Later, after a little Google search, I found out that this little lighthouse was a restaurant.

Then I decided to check out the comfort-quality of the hammocks around the corner while my husband checked out the checkbook-quality of the on-site boat rentals. After frightening off the poor little iguanas with my approach, I found the hammocks to be quite comfortable. The one I chose was stretched between two palm trees, and the sky was perfectly blue.

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My husband and I decided to take pictures of each other across the boat launch.

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After a bit of loafing around and taking more iguana photos…

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…we decided it was as good a day as any to head out to Key West.  In order to get to Key West from Marathon, you have to cross the Seven Mile Bridge, so we did. When we arrived at the opposite end of the bridge, we decided to stop and walk back across on the walking bridge for a little bit. We saw many a fisherman, novice and expert, along the way.

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We stopped every now and again to watch the water for sea-life and photograph some boats and islands in the distance.

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Then it happened! I spotted a ray! Between the pointing and excitedly yelling “Look!” and trying to get my camera ready, I’m afraid my poor husband was confused…until he finally caught sight of it too.

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After spotting the first one, we soon realized there were several of these guys swimming about.  We watched them play and search for food, and I got several decent photos.

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The water is just so clear out there. It’s beautiful, and you can see so much.

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Finally, we moved on from watching the rays, and we encountered a school of long-nosed gar near one of the columns.

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Eventually, we realized that if we were going to make it out to Key West, we would have to mosey on along. The drive to Key West from Marathon takes approximately an hour. With the sight-seeing at the bridge, we finally made it to our destination by lunch. After walking around a bit in the ridiculous heat and humidity, we decided to stop and eat at the Southernmost Beach Cafe. Kudos to the bartender there. He makes a fabulous Mai Thai (I had two). It’s a mostly open air establishment, so the pigeons and gulls frequently decide to dine with the human guests.

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We had a wonderful lunch by the water and a wonderful view of everyone having fun on the beach and water…and even in the air.

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After lunch, we walked out on the dock for a better view of the area.

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We decided to forego the touristy Southernmost Beach Buoy with its long line in the heat. Instead, we decided to venture on to the Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory. Now, this destination was definitely on my list of must see places. I don’t think it would have made my husband’s list, but I asked him to come with me, and he gladly accepted the invitation. The moment we stepped in the door, I was in butterfly heaven. We spent quite some time in that hot, humid little greenhouse watching and photographing butterflies and birds, but here I didn’t mind the heat and humidity (though I did find the need to go in search of those refreshing air conditioning vents on occasion). We saw so many beautiful specimens here, so I’ll just share some photos now:

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After pulling me away from butterfly heaven, my husband wanted to go check out a dessert place that he had read about. Unfortunately, it was closed on this particular day, so we decided to head on back to the resort. On the way back, however, we decided to take another detour. As we were driving, I noticed a big white blimp-like balloon in the air.

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We were both curious, so my husband took a detour down Blimp Road to find it. We followed the road until we reached the ocean. There was an officer parked at the end of the street, so my husband decided to ask him about the curiosity in the sky while I took a few photos.

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Apparently, the blimp served as something like a giant windsock for low-flying aircraft. It worked together with the equipment on the island, and all of these things were, from the stories told to the officer anyway, things left over from the Cold War and the Cuban Missile Crisis…radar, tracking, and such.

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He did tell us that we could wade into the water from the boat launch, however, and go for a swim. He said it was all public land out there. We weren’t quite prepared for swimming, but we did wade into the clear refreshing water a bit, though. It was just enough to cool off and make the rest of the day nice.

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After cooling off in the water, we hopped back in the car and decided to check out a little more of the island before heading back. We found that the residents out that way weren’t too keen on visitors with all of the NO TRESPASSING signs and BEWARE OF DOGS signs (too many tourists being disrespectful I suppose…or maybe theft problems…either way, can’t blame them).  I did manage to get a few pictures in a marshy-type area though.

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Eventually, we made our way back to the resort and headed for the tiki bar to watch the sunset. We found that sunset was somewhat of a daily celebration in the keys, and everyday at the tiki bar, they fired a cannon when the sun touched the water (well, a replica canon anyway with a 10-gauge shot). On this particular evening, the sunset was spectacular!

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And that was our adventure for our first full day in the Keys. Stay tuned for the rest!