Friday, December 5, 2014

Bahia Honda State Park and Deer Key

We have had some uncomfortably cool days this past fall, so no surprise that we suddenly decided to go all the way south into Florida and get very warm.  We are now parked on Fiesta Key, and wearing shorts and walking in sandals!  We are parked by the Gulf of Mexico.
Some of you who have been faithful followers of this blog site may be aware of the fact that 5 years ago we visited one of the Keys, which was Key West.  This time we have close to a week here, which gives us a chance to explore a few of the other Keys.  The Keys, or islands, lie off southern the coast of Florida.  There are many of them, linked by 42 bridges.  Historic U.S. 1 is the only road connecting them, and it covers 126 miles.  We headed south on that highway yesterday and our first stop was Bahia Honda State Park.  Its name in Spanish means “deep bay”.  The channel between the old and the new bridges of Bahia Honda is one of the deepest natural channels of the Keys.  In the park is a remnant of the old bridge which was built by Henry Flagler in 1905.  The railway remains were converted into what is known today as U.S.Highway 1 (a newer bridge has since replaced the first one to accommodate the high volume of traffic).
We hiked up a hill to view a section of the old bridge, and from here we had a panoramic view of the island and surrounding waters.  We took some time to explore the park which has some of the Key’s best white sand beaches.  Unfortunately the tide was in, so we did not walk on the beach as planned.  We will have some other days for that.  During the brief time we were in the park we chanced to see a variety of birds, including the kingfisher, osprey, and bald eagle.  We have also seen a lot of the brown pelican.
 At National Key Deer refuge we set off on our bikes to look for the deer who wandered here from the mainland years ago when the Keys were connected.  Rising sea waters stranded the deer and now they are protected in a refuge which covers 25 islands.  Over the years they evolved into a smaller deer, they now average two feet in height.
Two physical features of this deer are the black nose and a black streak on its white tail.  We only saw them off in the distance while riding our bikes.  The bike path took us to the Blue Hole lake, which we visited hoping to see more deer there.  The deer are able to survive in this refuge because of the presence of such fresh water lakes.  I was not satisfied that I had taken any good pictures of the deer, so we returned to our car and drove to No Name Key, which is another area where the deer can be found.  We drove through a subdivision to get there, and were surprised by the many deer we found wandering through the yards. That did give me a few photo opportunities.  When we stopped the car for pictures one deer came up us, stuck his head in my window, and tried licking my camera.  I was eating an apple and was tempted to share it with him, but there were many signs warning us against that.  I think that people are feeding them, or else they would not appear to be so tame!  The current population of them is at 800, according to a park brochure.  they have no natural enemies, if anything kills them off it will be cars.  Unfortunately searching for the deer took up most of our afternoon, and, after eating supper, it was late and we needed to head for home.  I sure wish daylight savings time was not in effect here, then it would not get dark by 6pm.

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