FL - Florida Keys - 2004/03/06 - Crane Nature Center and Bahia Honda Key



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Crane Nature Center provides a quiet rest day after a hard paddle. The rest of the day we spent enjoying Bahia Honda State Park.




On our first full day paddling trip in the keys, we had paddled 25 hard miles out and back up wind to the Snipe Keys. Today, feeling sore and stiff, we decided a day of rest was in order. With the wind still blowing in excess of 20 knots, a nice tourist day was what we needed. Crane Nature Center and Museum on Islamorada Key, the next key to the east from our camp at Bahia Honda, looked interesting.

The nature museum is located on 67 acres of preserved natural habitat purchased in the 1980s for 1.5 million. Now the only portion of the island that is not developed, the small facility is a wild oasis in a sea of concrete. Right across the street is one of the largest shopping centers in the Keys, with a Giant food store as the main store in the complex.




In addition to the preservation of a small piece of original Florida Keys habitat, the center serves as a rehabilitation site for many types of birds. Pelicans entangled and pierced by fishing equipment are rehabilitated in a section of the property. Butterfly gardens and tropical rain forest plantings, including the biggest leaf I have ever seen, provide different interesting tours along the walking paths or tram tour road. Be careful when walking in the jungle here, as there is a crazed wild man running around in the altogether. Big spiders hang in webs spanning the over-arching limbs. A small exploration center gives the history of the area, this parcel and the early Bahamian settlers that established homes on this and other nearby keys.




The rest of the afternoon was dedicated to exploring Bahia Honda Key and sunning on the nice beach on the west side of the park. Nestled between the new highway bridge and the abandoned highway bridge built on top of the old Flagler Railroad trestles, the little crescent of sand was protected from the strong wind. The shallow water of the beach was protected by a swimming net out in the deeper water. The picturesque beach lay under a section of the bridge with a walkway and steps to the top. From there one can look back down on the beach and the rest of Bahia Honda Key.




A man, his wife and small child were paddling rented sit-on-top kayaks between the two bridges. We watched them from the bridge as they paddled out of the lee of the island, headed for a small spit of land about one quarter of a mile off shore. As they cleared the end of the island and the wind hit them, they began to be swept west. Inexperienced as they were they did not compensate for the drift caused by the wind and they were soon struggling to paddle straight into the wind to reach the tiny piece of land. Soon exhausted, they gave up and headed back toward the harbor. They of course experienced the same problem on the return. We watched to make sure that the poor people got back to safety. They should have at least been wearing life jackets. If there had been a strong current flowing out into the ocean, as it frequently does, they might not have made it back.



The walk way down from the bridge passes through an area covered with tiger butterflies, the state butterfly. They were everywhere in twos and threes, alighting briefly on the blossoms of the foliage and flitting away before a picture could be snapped. I managed to capture a few however. A raptor on a fence proved more elusive, but the skate in the shallow water was slow enough for a fair picture in the surge off the bulkhead under the bridge..



We drove over the Big Pine Key for dinner. A simple but delicious meal of fresh seafood, topped off with Key Lime pie, rejuvenated both our spirits and our bodies. Now we were ready for another paddle.



Arrival at Bahia Honda and circumnavigation

Day trip to Snipe Key

Rest day playing tourist on Islamorada and Bahia Honda Keys

Day trip to Content Keys

Day trip to Looe Key

1/2 Day trip at Bahia Honda

Day trip to Johnston Key

Day trip to Coupon Bight


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