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Slowing Down in the Keys

Wednesday-November 4 and Thursday November 5, 2015                   Previous Post:
Curry Hammock State Park                                                                
First Stop in the Florida Keys – Curry Hammock
Marathon Florida




We’ve been here since Monday and so far my favorite time of day is Sunrise.  It’s cool, relatively speaking, at 81 degrees  and often has a breeze.  This morning the sunrise is hidden behind dark clouds.  Maybe that means rain  but often not.  The best color is reflected in the west.






David and Ruby have to go back to the clinic in Key West, 55 miles one way,  so I’m here by myself.  I  take a walk down the trail that runs between the ocean and the ranger’s station.  It’s not very long but I see several giant sand crabs scurry back into their holes so fast and so far in advance of my coming near that it is completely impossible to get pictures of them.   Bummer! 

I have never seen a sea grape on the plant until today and there were only two of the long dangling cluster left.  I love the leaves with their pink veins.  We had sea grapes in Virginia Beach.  Pretty sure they have sea grapes in Maine.







It is a very short walk but the sun is a blazin’ when I return.  So I take my chair out by the water under one of the trees near the campground picnic tables.  I’ve got my book and think I’ll read some in the shade with the nice breeze




I don’t get much reading done as I get caught up in watching the kite surfers and then the willets.  The technique on the board and with the ropes seems the same as water skiing which I love.  So I wonder if I could do this too.  Problem looks like it would be that when you get tired, you can’t just let go of the rope and the boat will circle back to get you.  I guess you just have to get yourself back to shore and take a rest.






The willets are busy at the shoreline.





Time to go in for lunch and out of the humidity.  I get caught up in vacuuming and making more hummus and next thing I know, David has returned and it’s nearly sunset.  Of course with sunset now being at 5:40pm thanks to the beloved time change, it comes around much faster than I am expecting.

The sunset colors are muted but at least there are some as opposed to this morning’s sunrise.





On my way back to Winnona in the near dark I see the willets still in the water.  When do they sleep?  Or do they take turns just to fake me out?








Like I said, when do these willets sleep?  They are out before sunrise today gathering together.  You can just barely see them in the predawn light.  They are on the rock in the lower right.  I didn’t see them at this point and so they are almost out of the picture.



The first two apparently lead the way for the rest.


With a little juggling they get themselves all perched up there together.  What a hoot they are to watch.



There are plenty of other birds out in the early light as well, sanderlings, sandpipers and plovers.  Happy to see them all.



Not so happy to see this jelly fish washed up on the shore.  Karen advises that I get a skin suit for snorkeling to protect me from the stings.  Apparently it’s lighter than a wet suit.  Sounds like it would be good for snorkeling in the fabulous Florida springs too.


We had thought we would go kayaking around the “grand tour” this morning.  This is a route suggested that takes you from the day use area around the island and then out and around a nearby island before returning you to your starting point.  It’s about 5 miles.  But as you can see from the effect of the winds on the coconut palms, this is not a good morning for kayaking in the Atlantic.





So instead, we get on the bicycles and take the bike path across the road from the park entrance up to the state park’s Nature Trail about a mile away.



We lock up the bikes and off we go.



The trail is a mile and a half long on the bay side and takes you to bay views twice along its length.  The trail is particularly known for its Florida thatch palms.  They were nearly cut down to extinction for thatching roofs and Curry Hammock  is a premier place to see wild and endangered thatch palms

The first view of the Florida Bay is very near the beginning of the trail.  We share it with a little plover who is quite busy.

Because the keys are actually coral reefs, the edges of them looks a lot like coquina.  Definitely hard as a rock.




There are interpretive signs along the trail talking about the formation of the keys and the plants in this hammock.



The very first sign warms us of the Poisonwood Tree.  It’s the foreground of the picture below.  The Poisonwood Tree is just that - poisonous.  Touching any part of it, bark, leaves, berries, will create an itchy  blistering rash within a day.  It’s in the same family as poison ivy only much more toxic.  Luckily it is easy to spot.  The trunk is reddish, brownish,


or gray, easily flakes off and often has black patches of resin..


While these trees are a serious danger to us (especially you Al Lueck), their fruit is the favorite food of the endangered white crowned pigeon.  Boy would I love to see him.  But he doesn’t show up today.  This is the picture from the information sign.


Walking this trail feels totally like I am in a jungle; one with coral on its paths.  In many sections of the trail erosion and hurricanes have revealed the coral bedrock of the island.



Those of you still hanging out in the deserts, come on down there is cactus among the coral.



We are on the back half of the trail when David spies this giant crab scurrying along.  He’s hustling along for a crab that is and I have time to take a number of pictures of him.  I cant’ figure out why they are not sharply in focus until I realize I have left my camera on macro setting from the last picture I took.  So this is the only good shot I have of him out of about a dozen that were from much better angles.  But trust me he is seriously ‘cool beans’.   That is one big shell he was toting around.




One of my very favorite trees in south Florida is the gumbo limbo.  It’s also known as the tourist tree because of its red and peeling bark.   I think this one is particularly great with its root crossing the trail and looking a lot like one of the invasive giant pythons.  Glad we don’t see one of those but this sure looks like a place where we might.




And then, speaking of snakes, David spots this too.  A really beautiful corn snake is hanging out across the trail.  We stay and watch him for quite a while until of his own volition, he moves off into the forest headed for a tree.   He’s hard to see among the trail debris.  He really blends in with the fronds and the reddish tree bark.



I have to zoom up to really appreciate his pattern and colors.  He’s not poisonous, just handsome.




You can see why people might have wanted snake skin boots.  Pretty sure we don’t do that sort of thing any more thankfully.



Not only is there a great deal of coral on the paths and all around but the whole place is strewn with thatch palm fronds in various stages of decay.  You could thatch a mighty many tiki huts with what’s lying around in here.



Even though it’s only 1.5 miles long, this is a very interesting trail that will make you feel perhaps continents away from Route 1 and enable you to forget the constant background noise.




Back home for lunch, I open the door to step outside and there are the kite surfers back again and  right out my door.




Today there are 9 of them here at one time and I can’t figure out how they keep from becoming entangled.  Clearly Curry Hammock is a kite surfers mecca.



You may recognize the two mangrove clumps below from my sunrise pictures on the campground beach.  The rules for kite surfers posted on the board in the day use area clearly state that they may only launch from the day use area and they may not come within 10 feet of the campground shore.   Clearly no one is obeying the rules and no one is enforcing them.   There are so many kites out and they so often fall out of the air that it is very lucky someone on the ground at either the day use area or the campground isn’t hurt today.

7 of the 9 are visible in the picture below if you look closely and you can see how close some of them are to the shore.











This is all the campground beach where they are not allowed to launch or approach.




But even a scrooge like me can enjoy this show off and his flips.



But then oops he’s down and that kite hits the water with a very loud SMACK.



Shortly he’s back at it jumping up in the air and flipping over.






It’s a Wednesday, how do they all have the entire day to kite surf?

They are out there until dark and nothing rains on their parade. 
They don’t even notice the sunset is a wash out. 


  1. I have wondered the same thing, as I watch 20 somethings physically fit, having a blast all day. I really enjoy watching, but wonder if they work a night shift or perhaps just rich and able to play all day.
    Nice pics

  2. Love your sunrise and sunset photos -- I think your tree was our favorite tree on the beach at Curry Hammock, too. :-) We saw a few kite surfers off the beach two years ago, but nowhere near the numbers that you're seeing. Your snake is beautiful, but I don't believe it's a coral snake -- which is a good thing, because although they're unlikely to bite, their venom is a deadly neurotoxin.

    1. Well that's what I get for doing a post too long after I did the hike. Why I put coral snake - coral on the brain I guess - when it was a corn snake, who knows. But I did get the handsome and non venomous right at least. Thanks so much for bringing it to my attention. I've fixed the post thanks to you.

    2. I only knew that because I grew up in Miami, and was taught from an early age what a coral snake looks like. :-)

  3. Thanks for the heads up on the poisonwood tree, Sherry! Nice shots of the coral snake. :)

  4. I guess rules are meant for some people, while others feel they are exempt. I like the photos of the willets.

  5. Glad you pointed out the difference between the gumbo limbo tree and the poisonwood tree. Stupid me, I'd probably touch the poisonous one and live to regret it. Once again, I learned something new from you! :c)

  6. What fun the wind surfers are! But it sure always looks like a lot of work. Glad they put on a show for you:)

    The poisonwood tree looks like a bad case of poison ivy! Thanks for showing us! But that gumbo limbo tree is very cool! Nice hike!

  7. Love the sunrise and your reading spot! And the water! It looks so inviting- That one tree that you like really does look like a snake and then there was the snake! You got a great shot of him! I like the picture you took of the 5 birds sitting on the rock. Kite surfing looks pretty difficult to me- have fun! xxxooo

  8. I believe this coming week you will get some great kayaking weather. Winds are definitely diminishing. Great photos of the crab and snake. When we were at Curry, the rangers came out and enforced the Kiteboarding rules. However, it was on a weekend so perhaps they are more vigilant when there are more day use folks there??

  9. Whatever kind of snake it is, it's pretty :) I don't know how anyone can tell the difference between certain kinds of trees, poisonous especially! Thanks for letting us know!

  10. As far as snakes go it's a pretty one. Not being a snake fan I now have to get used to them, they have them in the nature center of the regional park we've moved to. My arms get tired watching the Kitesurfers, looks like a great workout though.

  11. Kite surfing looks like wonderful exercise. What a great way to get your exercise just skiing along at high speed across the water in the warmth of the Autumn sun.

  12. NIce to be so close to the shore for sunrise and set. Your closeups of the birds are superb. Think the kite-surfers just like to show off so need to be close to a beach with people?

  13. Love the early morning as well, although our highs are lower than your morning temps right now. What a wonderful little hike, so full of delightful discoveries. The little crab is very cute, and the snake is beautiful - that Dave really has keen vision! I've never seen coral beds along a path like that, must make for interesting walking. Glad you could enjoy the antics of the flyers. I too get all scrooge-like about rule breakers and tend to let them ruin my experience rather than just letting it go. No need to mess with my own karma when theirs will sort it out on that end :-))))

  14. 81 degrees at sunrise??? I imagine there's humidity to go along with that...yuck! :-)

    But despite that, it looks like you are in one very beautiful place! Love the corn snake!

  15. I don't recall ever seeing a grape on a Sea Grape plant but Al thinks he has. Wonder if they are edible?

    Wind is always an issue in the Keys for boating and kayaking, since there is not enough land to block any of the wind. When we used to stay on Sunshine Key, we found there were places around the island that you could kayak that were blocked by the wind when you couldn't get out any place else. There are pretty little coves and lots of places to get out of the wind around Sunshine Key.. We spent many afternoons in the boat or kayaks anchored there just enjoying the pretty water and being outside. They used to let you launch your boats there for a fee. I'm not sure if they still do, but you might check to see if you can launch your kayaks there because you might be able to find some calm water to kayak, and it's real pretty there.

    There are lots of dive shops all along the Overseas Hwy. Stop in one and see if they have skin suits, so you can see what they look like. They are made from thin lycra like a woman's swimsuit. I have always used them, even if the water is in the 80's. It protects you from stingy things, and also from the sun. They aren't hot, they dry quickly, and are very easy to put on. They also have little hoods for your head, which Al needs since his hair is thinner and his scalp burns when he snorkels. I hope the temps and wind drops, and you get out on the water. Try the swimming holes I told you about. They are all protected from the wind. Wish I was there!

  16. Wished I was there sitting next to you enjoying a front seat view of these kite-surfers and the busy Willets.

    I did not know about a poison tree, just glad I did not touch them accidentally while hiking in Florida years ago.

  17. Surfer boys...wonder if some skip school...? But I bet those kites aren't cheap and they're big too. Neat tricks! I liked the tropical trail. Good eye for the snail and snake. I had no idea about the poisonwood tree. Don't touch that! Pretty sunrise & set. Great view from the coach too.


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