Key West: sun, food, and animals

Oh, the fruit. Fresh squeezed orange juice. Mangoes. Papayas. Key limes (well, pie made from key limes). I tried fruit I have never heard of before: cherimoya and sapote. So delicious. Fish is on the menu everywhere. We had snapper for brunch, shrimp and hogfish for dinner. Mahi mahi tacos were on the menu at The Cafe, a wonderful vegetarian restaurant where our kids found lots of choices. I’m not a rum drinker, but Tim enjoyed the offerings at the Key West Rum Distillery.

The chickens and roosters are everywhere. I read that they were brought with Cubans moving to Key West. When cock fighting was outlawed the chickens were left to roam free creating the “gypsy roosters.” I can’t vouch for the authenticity of this story.

We woke up to pouring rain one morning. A perfect day to visit the Key West Butterfly & Nature Conservancy.

About an hour north of Key West is the Turtle Hospital. On the site of the old Hidden Harbor Motel, the non-profit hospital rehabiltates injured sea turtles. Some are released and some who cannot return to the wild become permanent residents.

Turtles that have been injured by boats can suffer from bubble-butt syndrome. Air gets trapped under their shells and they cannot dive. Weights are attached to the shell to help the turtle dive, but they cannot be released to the wild and will spend their lives at the hospital. Considering green sea turtles can live 80-100 years, that is a big responsibility!

Why are the Dry Tortugas Dry?

The Dry Tortugas National Park is about 70 miles west of Key West. The park is 100 square miles, but it is mostly water. Seven small islands make up the park. The islands are only accessible by boat or seaplane. Garden Key is probably the best known as it is the home of Fort Jefferson.

Spanish explorer Ponce de León was the first European to discover the islands in 1513.  He gave the islands their name, Las Tortugas (The Turtles) because of all the sea turtles. The lack of springs are responsible for adding ” dry” to the name.

After the war of 1812 the fort was built to help protect the southern coastline of the US.  During the Civil War the fort remained under Union control. Fort Jefferson was never completed by the US. It was used as a prison until 1874. The most famous prisoner was Dr. Samuel Mudd, the doctor who treated John Wilkes Booth after he asasinated Lincoln.

As part of the ferry package, snorkeling gear is included. What a wonderful experience.img_7558jpg

 

A Time in the Sun

As a native Michigander I am very well acquainted with the term “snowbird.” Many of our retired friends take off for warmer climates during the frigid winter months. Going south in the winter has never been at the top of my list. But this year our son had a school break at the end of February. His wife had not yet begun her new job and we decided to take a quick trip together to Florida. Truthfully, Jessica and I wanted to go to Iceland, but neither of the guys were very excited about Iceland in the winter. We agreed on Key West.

Flights, condo and rental car secured we left from Michigan and Massachusetts crossing our fingers that the travel gods were watching over us. A few lessons learned about car rentals in Miami and we were all settled in a Miami hotel for the night. Bright and early we headed for the Everglades.

So many birds!

Anhingas

Wood Storks ?


Egrets

We spotted a few turtles and a couple of ominous looking snakes.

And, of course, a plethora of gators….

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Tim, a craft beer enthusiast, requested stops at a couple breweries. Great beer at Islamorada Beer Company. At the Florida Keys Brewing Company we enjoyed a mini music fest, beer and guacamole from a humongous avocado!


Fish or Frond??