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Lignum Vitae Christmas Open House

Saturday December 5, 2015                                                              Most Recent Post:
Curry Hammock State Park                                                               1st Plan Fails for Attack Bird
Marathon, Florida

Rain is predicted again today, but we've all about had it with rain and so when it looks like there might be a break for even a couple of hours, we plan, with Laurel and Eric, to leave about 9:30 to catch the boat to Lignum Vitae Key for their annual Christmas Open House.

We walk over to their site and while we are waiting for Laurel we get to see their picnic table neighbor.Can you see him coming out of his hole there to the left? Remember this is the same site we had two weeks ago but we never met this neighbor because our tow dolly was parked in that corner. Today he’s sitting in his doorway no doubt thrilled that the drowning of his residence by rain water has ceased at least temporarily.

Eric drives us all in his truck over to Robbie’s marina where we catch the boat for the one mile ride out to the Key. Robbie’s is another one of those Key West places. Lots of colorful “stuff for sale” and many fishing birds hanging around for tidbits from fishermen cleaning their catch.

Snowy Egrets are the table to the right and left of the man cleaning fish.

Pelicans are everywhere.

Is this a pelican yawn?  Too much to eat?

Laurel is quite surprised at this great egret who allows her to walk right up to him. She says she has never been this close to this bird.

We’re not the only folks going over on the boat and we enjoy chatting with them as we wait in line for the boat to arrive.

It's a fast and short ride over to Lignum Vitae. The island is located due north of and less than one mile from the easternmost tip of Lower Matacumbe Key.  end of off shore at the end Laurel holds on to her hat.  Mine fits snug on my head.  Nicely designed Minnie.

We arrive at the dock where two people waiting to come back are standing in front of the Merry Christmas sign.  Doesn't look  like winter Christmases in Virginia, that's for sure.

David takes a picture of me taking a picture of them walking toward the house.  Guess there is no putting pictures side by side in Blogger unless I'm willing to make them the smallest size that you couldn't possibly see.  

Canons and line the water facing lawn.  They and the trees are decorated with red bows.  The canons came from some wreckers salvaging old Spanish ships which wrecked on the coral reefs.  Some people have flamingos in their yards, the original owner here had canons.

There is no electricity other than a generator and no water other than rain water from cisterns here on the island.  But there is a large osprey nest in use by the same pair for at least 5 years on an old windmill tower.

Lignum Vitae is one of the few Keys that never became a settlement, probably because the railroad never crossed over it.  It has an interesting history that you can read here.  The Key has had several owners.  John Matheson constructed the current coral rock house for his full time manager.  Matheson, the developer of chemical dyes and  President of  Biscayne Chemical Company never actually lived here.
There are some great stories about things his son Hugh did to and on the island.  Ultimately it became a state park along with also undeveloped Indian Key.  All those stories are also in the above link.

We're greeted by Santa himself in miniature.

 Apparently a LOT of volunteers baked a LOT of cookies for this occasion.  David's got his hand on them right away

A lovely shell/palm frond wreath decorates the wall with Sea Grape leaves spelling out Happy Holiday above.

One of the park rangers announces a tour of the trail on the key and we four head outside.  Ranger James tells us about the history of the Key and explains that now Lignum Vitae Key is a Biological State Park, all except for the small area in lawn around the house, it can contain nothing but native vegetation and anything else that grows, like coconut palms, is removed but may stay in the yard.    

Lignum Vitae is a rare tropical hardwood forest nearly untouched before it became a state park.  I've read that it is a "virgin forest" but Ranger James wouldn't go that far.  He did say that these trees are hundreds of years old.   He was able to identify everything he saw or anyone asked about including the namesake tree Lignum Vitae, the dangerous poisonwood  tree and the "tourist tree" Gumbo Limbo. 

There were quite a few empty tree snail shells on the ground.  They are a protected and endangered species and we didn't think we'd see a live one until eagle eye David spotted this one on a tree.  They can have amazingly beautiful colors.  Sadly, this one seems to have a cracked shell.

The island is only accessible by boat and you may not hike its trails without a park ranger guide.

Ranger James only took us about a half mile up the trail before turning back.  The trails go quite  a ways through the park but he said no one but the stewards ever walk them.   We were nearly back when the rains came again and folks put on their rain coats or got out their umbrellas as we approached the house.

Upon returning to the house we of course had more delicious cookies and the area appropriate Lime Lemonade.  
The house consists of the entry porch where Tiny Santa greeted us, the main room with the delicious cookies, a kitchen, a bathroom and three bedrooms.  One of those had a lovely hand made, not machine made, quilt.

I used to be a quilter and have several quilts made by my grandmother Cecilia and her sister my Great Aunt Carrie.   I love those quilts and all hand stitched quilts.  I know how long it takes to make them and how careful you must be in keeping your stiches teeny as you stitch the quilting pattern.  They are works of art.

A second bedroom has information including interesting pictures of the island and its pre-park caretakers.  The third is being used today a craft room.  Laurel and David are creating ornaments.  They have all kinds of paints and oyster shells, sea beans and sea grape leaves to be decorated.

David chooses a sea bean, Laurel an oyster shell.

The craft room volunteer shows what detailed things can be painted on sea grape leaves.  I love the manatee.


It's time for us to leave and we start the walk down to the boat when the skies open up and it pours. We sat outside on the way over.  Not on the way back. Can you see how wet David is.  Maybe that's what he gets for being "naughty".

As we pull away from the dock the rain is so heavy it looks like fog, but cheery smiles remain.  It has rained off and on all day but we got out and were able to have a fun afternoon.

By the time we get to the dock the deluge has ended but everything is clearly soaked including the pelicans gathered around like a flotilla waiting for scraps and feeding by people who come to Robbie's to feed the tarpon.  I'm not much in favor of this artificial feeding of wild animals by humans and probably would not have come to Robbie's had it not been the only place to get the boat to Lignum Vitae Key.

 wet feathers

The flotilla

You really can't see the water on the white feathers of the golden slippered snowy egret.

This was the most interesting of the "stuff" for sale at Robbie's David and I both thought.
Some very nice metal work.

After all those cookies, we feel we should eat some real food and it's near 2:00 so we stop at Midway.  It's a place Laurel had seen on previous trips and always wanted to visit.  Or perhaps they'd been here once before, I can't remember for sure.

Eric doesn't look up from the menu.  He's serious about making his choice and it turns out to be a great salad.  Both Laurel and Eric have salads, David and I have sandwiches and I have no pictures of the delicious food.  But we would definitely return here again. Great choice.  Thanks Laurel.

Midway is also a bakery - various croissants, fruit scones, muffins and quiche are in the case today

Not long after we arrive back home, it starts raining AGAIN and there's no sunset to be seen.
The gang is all lined up watching it rain.

David and I both really enjoyed Midway so I'll leave you with a picture memory he took from there and one I took.  See if you can guess which is which.   I'd really like to put the pictures side by side but blogger has made that nearly impossible to do without making the pictures so small they look like thumbnails.   Blogger is SO frustrating.


  1. Seeing those bakery items, I'm reminded that I haven't had a delicious spinach quiche in years!

  2. I'm so looking forward to holidays in "new" places and seeing your Florida Christmas is such a treat. That pelican yawn is so intense!! Love the Sea Grape garland and all the details paintings on the ornaments. Not something you see in SoCal :-) Wonderful history and stewardship at this spot. Always love you and David in your Christmas hats - makes me miss my pink one from years ago! Wonderful colors at the eatery, looks like a fun place. I suspect the cup is David's and the sign is yours - both are delightful.

  3. Despite the rainy days you have really lived up to that last message, wonderful things happy each morning.
    What a fun day with Laurel and Eric! Did you get to bring home the ornaments ?

  4. loving all of your adventures. ..rain or no rain. . .

    am in agreement with you about the feeding of wild animals. . .was just having that discussion with the next door neighbors about the feeding of the deer. . .thankfully, that is not allowed in this park, and we can just enjoy them in their natural habitat without worry we will be mowed down by one of them when someone shakes a feed can. . .

    Had no problems divining who took which pic. . .LOL!

  5. Interesting story about Lignum Vitae Key. That is the name of a very hard wood that was used for a great many years in ships, mostly for bearings in propeller shafts. In my youth inspected many ships with these wood bearings:)

  6. The island looks tremendously appealing.

  7. Wherever there's fishing there's birds. Good for the photographer, and the birds. Nice that these islands became public lands and protect the native species. I bet David chose the cup.
    You can make a collage in Picassa that saves as a single image.

  8. Looks like quiet the day, one of my most treasured gifts was a quilt my best friend made for us as a going away present when we sold our house.

  9. Since David is "Naughty", you'd better be finding an empty spot in Winnona for all that coal Santa is going to bring him... :c)

    Thanks for putting up with Blogger, I enjoyed your post (and your effort)!

  10. Sure did look like a wonderful day with friends. I love it when blog friends I know get together thousands of miles away from wherever I am. Laurel and Eric go kayaking at Rocky Point Recreation Creek often. Ask them how they love it! You know you will love it when you do someday get here. lovely post, really. We are the only ones who are worried about the details of how it looks I think. thanks for hanging in there.

  11. What a fun Christmas treat! And to make the visit with friends, too! Good they had cookies for David:) So sorry you are STILL battling that rain...enough already! Love the Florida Christmas decorations.

  12. Very educational and love David's Christmas hat. Great Snowy pic also. Great post.

  13. We have planned on kayaking to both islands but never have made it so far. In the meantime, thanks for the tour. I'm glad the rain held off for most of the tour anyway.

    Robbie's Marina was not started as a fish feeding tourist attraction. Like any marina in the Keys, when the fishermen come back to shore and clean their fish, they toss the scraps into the water. It is those scraps that first attracted the fish and tarpon. I think we first started going to Robbie's in the 80's and it was just a quaint little marina. We don't like it as much now since it is such a tourist trap, but hey, it's free enterprise at it's best, and the owner is making money, providing jobs and not getting welfare. It's the American way. The fish would be there feeding anyway as long as the fish are being cleaned. Any other marina in the Keys will have tarpon due to the fish cleaning that goes on daily. The same thing happened in the Cayman Islands with the stingrays.

  14. That was such a fun day! So glad you guys joined us for the adventure. We were lucky that the rain held off as long as it did so that we could have the grand botanical tour. Your Christmas hats always make me smile. It was hilarious the way you switched David's hat around depending how you thought he was behaving. :-)

  15. That last guess is an easy one... :) I know Dad's hand and for you, coffee mugs hold an 'evil brew'. Lol :) Looks like it was a fun day. An adventure with friends. Love the santa hats and smiles!


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