Sunday, January 31, 2016

Dry Tortugas National Park

The Dry Tortugas is a cluster of seven small islands that lie 68 miles west of Key West. Garden Key is home to Fort Jefferson, one of the largest and the most spectacular coastal fort in the US.

The last time I was here in 1994 I came by seaplane, and I got this gorgeous view. It had just become a national park at that time.

Phil and I had reservations to come by seaplane this time, but it kept getting cancelled because the water was too choppy to land. So on our last day in Key West we hopped on the ferry.

The fort contains a small lighthouse, Garden Key Light.

It's one of the largest brick structures in the Western Hemisphere, made with 16 million bricks!

If you walk around it on the moat walk, it is 6/10ths of a mile around.

You can also walk around it on the top level of the fort.

The water color is beautiful!

I need a wider angle lens to get it all in.

You can also walk along the beach on Bush Key, which we did later.

There's a lot of restoration work going on, but I hope they keep some of the original ruins.

To me, they are just beautiful.

Wait a minute - what is that?

We then went outside to walk the length of Bush Key.

About that time, the seaplane came in. It sure is bigger than the one I was on in 1994.

Out on Bush Key are some really nice conch shells.

You aren't allowed to take them home, which is good. Someone has made a clever conch tree.

We saw a beautiful Great Blue Heron -

And a cute little crab.

And we could look back at the fort and our ship, the Yankee Freedom III. I wonder what happened to I and II...

I did a little walking on the moat walk -

While Phil went snorkeling. The ship provides the gear. I didn't go because it was a little chilly.

After 4 1/2 hours on the island, we're off.

We got a distant view of Loggerhead Lighthouse. What a perfect day!

Friday, January 29, 2016

There's a Lot to See in Key West!

Of course, if there's a fort to be seen, I'm there. Fort Zachary Taylor in Key West is Florida's Southernmost State Park, located right in Key West.

We got there just at the right time - a tour was just starting.

Construction began here in 1845, and the fort remained under Union control throughout the Civil War. It contains the largest number of Civil War-era seacoast cannons in the US.

Some of them are still buried between the walls.

What is out there sunning himself on the wall above the moat -

It's a big iguana!

We also saw 5 big iguanas sunning themselves in a tree. It's hard for me to believe I'm still in the US!

West Martello Tower is also the remains of an old fort in Key West.

The Key West Garden Club has taken it over, planting flowers among the remains. What a great idea!

And of course I had to climb the Key West lighthouse.

It's not as tall as some of the ones we've been to recently - just under 100 steps.

There's a wonderful view of Key West from the top.

You can even see Mount Trashmore, a former landfill that is the highest point in the Keys!

We also went to the Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory. I'm not sure why there are sprinkles on the banana, but it seems to work.

One of them got quite attached to Phil.

And there were two flamingos there - Rhett and Scarlett, rescued from a breeding facility in Canada. I'm sure they like the weather better here.

Of course we had to go to the Southernmost Point in the Continental US. There is a big long line to get your picture taken here.

BUT if you look on Google earth, you will see that the point over there with big ball is farther south. I feel so lied to...

And then we headed over to the Mel Fisher Museum. Mel discovered the 1622 wreck of the Atocha, the richest Spanish galleon ever salvaged. I was a little disappointed. Sure we saw some gold, but I was expecting to see more of the $450 million cache that he recovered.

I guess a lot of it was in the gift shop.

Outside is yet another "boat" that arrived in Key West a few months ago from Cuba. This one is made from 12 55-gallon drums and powered by a pickup truck engine. It held 24 Cubans.

I've left the best for last - in the next post!

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Key West - Here I Come!

Since I could only get one reservation at Key Largo, I left my rig back in Homestead, and I'm doing the Keys in Phil's rig.

It's a good thing, because camping in the Keys is extremely expensive, even divided in 2! We stayed at Boyd's campground - very close to Key West and very pricey.

Some pelicans were there to welcome us.

And this guy managed to work his way into Phil's rig through his slide. Yuck!

The first day, we took the Conch Tour Train to get an overview of things to see.

Some of the cars here are pretty unusual.

And there are a lot of shops - some of them pretty specialized.

Six-toed cats are famous here, but I'm not really sure how to read this sign.

US 1 begins here in Key West, and goes north for 2,369 miles to Maine at the Canadian border.

The Key West Cemetery is famous for some wacky epitaphs, such as "I told you I was sick" and "If you are reading this, you need a new hobby."

A cute chicken couple were strolling down the street. We had some in the campground too, but they were very polite and didn't start crowing until 8:45 am.

The dancing couple statue at the entrance to the Kew West Art Museum is based on a Renoir Painting.

Captain Tony's say they are the oldest bar in Florida. They certainly have interest ceiling decoration.

We walked by this guy and said "Hello" and he said "Hello" back. Everyone here is so nice, even the animals!

We were anxious to see sunset at Mallory Square on a night with good weather.

The cruise ships took off before sunset - a good thing or the crowd would have been much, much larger.

The color was spectacular as the sun reached the horizon.


And still we had some great color.

We stuck around to see some of the acts in the square. Phil got picked to help out in the pig act. I don't get it - every time anyone looks around to pick someone from the audience, they ALWAYS pick him!

There's a lot to see here - more posts to come.