The “Blue Hole” is a fresh water sink hole on Big Pine Key. The fresh water floats on sea water below it. During the last big hurricane, a bunch of small Tarpon got stranded in the “Hole.” They cannot get back to the ocean. They are living OK, but are undersized due to the uncongenial fresh water environment they are stuck with. The “Blue Hole” also hosts a coupe of small alligators, a 5 foot female and a 7 foot male. This is a picture of the female. She looks kind of blue here. She is actually green like most alligators.
While we were there she made a run at an iguana on a low branch, but he got away in a hurry. Everyone enjoyed this excursion a lot. I was surprised by how enthusiastic everyone was.
Also saw a Poisonwood Tree which freaked everyone out with its thoroughly bad reputation and nasty characteristics.
We found a new way to have fun. Now that there is a finished bike path from the northern end of Summerland Key all the way past us to the beginning of Sugarloaf Key we can hop on our bicycles and bar hop.
First stop: South 3 miles to the KOA Campground Bar
Second stop: Across the Overseas Highway to Mangrove Mama’s
Third stop: Back 3 miles north to our own Square Grouper
Fourth stop: Further north 3 miles to The Wharf Bar and Grill.
Then south again 3 miles back to Jolly Roger Drive.
The only thing you have to watch out for is when the bike path crosses the Highway. When this occurs you need to be VERY careful. However, we even had the traffic stop for us. That was kind of scary. Otherwise it is wait for an opening and make a dash for it!
The “Bionic Hips and Knees Kayak.” Not a team made in heaven. Look at the expression of the paddler in the back. He spent the rest of the week kicking the yellow kayak. We decided to switch front paddlers to avoid blood shed. Things got worse as the pairs were now man and wife. After counseling there was no permanent damage to the relationship.
We started and ended at the Niles Channel boat ramp on Summerland Key. The trip was abbreviated from the planned itinerary due to crew exhaustion and failure to paddle in a straight line.
The Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail (FKOHT) is coming to Cudjoe Key. The “Old State Road 4” road bed, which was all overgrown and ripped up, first got graded and prepped for paving. Then it got paved. Very nice!
It now runs way past Blimp Road, all the way to where it will cross the highway around the Sheriff’s Substation. This is part of the Summerland Key to Sugarloaf Key trail section. All of it is under construction.
This makes the bike trip to the end of Blimp Road a very pleasant trip. No more branches in the face. The trip to the KOA Campground Bar and Mangrove Mama’s is also now a breeze. Who knows, maybe Sugarloaf Lodge and the Bat Tower will be on the Biking from Cudjoe short list.
I have no idea when it will be completed, but it shouldn’t be too long. I can’t find an updated schedule on the internet.
For more information about the Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail go to: http://fkoht.net/.
Two Tandem Recreational Kayaks
We have two tandem kayaks with two paddles and two life jackets for each. You can paddle across the bay, explore the local canals, or put them on top of your car and take a back country kayak trip. Lots of fun!
We have six of these Mango Cruiser bicycles in the storage room. They are all aluminum so they don’t rust. They are great for riding around the neighborhood or up to the fish market to get seafood for dinner. There are also lots of places in the local area to go exploring, like Blimp Road or Loop Road. Also, it looks like the Overseas Highway Bike Path is going to be completed in this area pretty soon. They are working on it like crazy.
There are three boys bikes and three girls bikes. They all have gears. four of them have seven gears, two of them have three gears.
Each bike has a removable basket and a lock. Three have pumps.
While out fishing on the flats one day, we spotted an Eagle Ray not too far from the boat.
We manuevered a bit and managed to get near enough to get this close up. You can really see the Eagle Ray’s distinctive spotted pattern.
We were out behind Cudjoe, pretty close to Sawyer Key.
On the way back from the flats we came across this sight. It is a classic “mud.” A mud is formed when fish stir up the “mud” by rooting around on the sea floor for food or a when group of predator fish do the same thing while attacking other fish.
In this case, the predators are dolphins. There were four of them going round and round and up and down feeding on some little fish we couldn’t quite spot.
The second photo shows three of them leaving the mud.
This is a great trip! I am a little hesitant to recommend it because it is pretty expensive and we were so lucky with the weather and with hardly anyone else on the boat. We took the Yankee Freedom II, a fast catamaran that runs from Key West to the Dry Tortugas on a daily basis.
The trip was wonderful, but there were only a few people on the boat. It could really have been crowded and that would not have been as nice. Also, the weather was wonderful.
The arrival at the park is very impressive. The fort appears rise right out of the sea, probably because it does.
You can also get to the park by sea plane. This costs more, and you don’t get to stay as long, but I bet it is a spectactular trip and arrival.
When you go by boat they provide a nice picnic lunch and you have plenty of time to frolic in the water (great snorkling, gear provided) and to tour the fort.
The fort is quite interesting. The Park Service guide gives a comprehensive explanation.
The top of the fort provides a nice view of the other islands that make up the park. These islands are home to a plethora of sea birds.
Cudjoe Key’s singular and distinguishing feature is the unmanned Navy surveillance blimp (don’t get technical here), Fat Albert.
Fat Albert is tethered to the ground by a cable and flies on almost all days with good weather. Fat Albert is located at the end of, what else, Blimp Road. To get close enough to photograph it though, as in this shot, you must be in a boat.
Bicycling to the end of Blimp Road is a nice ride from the house (maybe 2 or 3 miles). You just cross the highway and take Old State Road 4 to where it intersects with Blimp Road (at Coco’s Cantina, now closed, sob).
Fat Albert looks for drug runners and other smugglers, and broadcasts to Cuba.
It is great to have this “landmark” to steer by when returning to Cudjoe, although exactly where it is can be a bit confusing.
There is a very detailed article here: http://www.n-the-florida-keys.com/Fat-Albert.html
If we have guests that want to do some different things and we don’t have enough cars for everyone to go their own way, we rely on the Key West Transit “Lower Keys Shuttle.”
This bus runs up and down the lower keys between Key West and Marathon.
It is very inexpensive and it has a great web site that shows where the buses currrently are and gives an updated time of arrival at your stop.
So, if somebody wants to go to Key West, and some one else wants to go to the beach at Bahia Honda, just tell them to take the Lower Keys Shuttle. Our stop is right up Cutthroat and a few yards to the right on the highway.
We usually take people who have not been, to the top of the La Concha Hotel in Key West. It is the tallest building, by far, in the city.
They have a bar, often some Jimmy Buffet type live music, and a great view of most of Key West.
If you do this, you need to get there a little early (before sunset) so you can get a seat with a view. Otherwise it is not so bad standing and watching as the sun goes down.
Beats Mallory Square (I think)!
Then we usually head off to dinner somewhere.
Of all the aspects of the Keys, the most striking is the natural splendor of the “flats.”
The varied sea bottoms are visible through the crystal clear waters and the sky is a fitting partner to the land and sea.
The famous game fish of the keys, sharks, porpoises, rays, crabs, lobsters, sea turtles; can all be seen out in the flats.
The unspoiled nature of the flats is best appreciated in the protected waters of the Great White Heron National Wildlife Refuge. Cudjoe Key is located adjacent to the very center of this refuge.
Great White Heron National Wildlife Refuge
28950 Watson Boulevard
Big Pine Key, Florida 33043
The pool is not very big, but since it has swim jets you can swim for as long as you like. It is great exercise.
It is heated, so you can always keep the water at a comfortable temperature.
In the evening it is nice to heat it up to spa temperature and turn on the Jacuzzi jets. There are seats around the two sides of the pool where the jets are located, so you can just lounge around and enjoy the warm/hot water.
We’ve had two photos accepted for viewing on Google Earth!
This one, and one of the after glow included in one of our earlier posts.
To see them on Google Earth, just put in our address and select the “Photos” layer. When you zoom in, click on the photo icons that appear and the photos will popup.
In the 1920s, this unusual structure was built by Mr. Perky to lure and house bats that would surely solve the mosquito problem and allow a planned resort to flourish.
Not so fast, as you can read in Joy Williams’ Guide to the Florida Keys.
This structure, which is in amazingly good shape (though still batless), is just a few miles from the house. See if you can find it.
Just 14 miles back up the Keys (mile marker 37) is the wonderful beach at Bahia Honda State Park.
Chosen in 1993 as “Best Beach of the Year,” this beach has a gently sloping sandy bottom with clear, warm waters.
There are also changing and showering facilities, picnic shelters, a concession with recently lowered prices, and camping and RV areas.
The beach is perfect for a long walk along the ocean’s edge. Read about all the other things you can do at the website below.
There is an admittance fee of (currently) $8.00 a vehicle.
36850 Overseas Highway
Big Pine Key, Florida 33043
We wanted to try kayaking in the back country around the Lower Keys, but were a little reluctant to try it the first time without some expert guidance.
So, we signed up for a three hour tour with Captain Bill Keogh, a naturalist and author of a Keys paddling guide.
We started at the Niles channel on the north eastern end of Summerland Key and ended at Blimp Road on Cudjoe Key.
We did some neat exploring of mangroves, saw some beautiful birds, including a Roseate Spoonbill, and some sea life. We stopped and had a picnic lunch.
Probably the neatest thing was navigating through some dense mangroves.
It was a great introduction to Keys kayaking and although it got REALLY windy as the trip went on, we had a great time.
We also bought his book, Florida Keys Paddling Guide, and use it to plan our self-guided trips.
We often bicycle from Cudjoe to Sugarloaf to go to the KOA Campground, or its neighbor Mangrove Momma’s. Both of these make nice destinations for a drink (KOA after 3:00pm).
If we want to bicycle more extensively on Sugarloaf, we put the bikes in the car and take them to the Surgarloaf Lodge where we mount up and ride through the Sugarloaf housing area, which is quite nice, all the way down to Loop Road.
Loop Rood is a closed off loop of asphalt road that can be walked or bicycled without fear of traffic. If you don’t feel like biking all the way from the Lodge, you can also park near the entrance.
You just walk your bikes around a barrier and take the road straight, over a bridge, until you see Loop Road on your left. After about a quarter of a mile on the loop, you end up with water on both sides. Sugarloaf Sound is on your left and a lagoon inside Loop Road is on your right.
Usually there are plenty of birds in evidence.
Another interesting thing about Loop Road is that you will see some signs of recent use by cars, tire slicks for instance. This is because they stage a sports car competition here now and then. It is known as the Bay Bottom Crawl and a description of it can be found on the internet.
If Loop Road isn’t enough, you can explore Old State Road 4A in both directions. Most of this old Keys highway is very beat up and overgrown. To the east you can bike about half a mile to the burned out bridge over Tarpon Cut. If you had followed the Old State Road from the KOA Campground, you would have gotten to the other side of this bridge.
Following the maintained road to the west, you eventually come to a dead end that leaves you a similarly unmaintained poriton of the Old State Road. This section is much longer, several miles, and it goes all the way to the end of Sugarloaf Key to where a wooden bridge used to cross to Geiger Key. You can still see some of the old pilings. If you had a blow up Kayak with you, you could have lunch at the Geiger Key Marina.
When you get back to Sugarloaf Lodge, you can see if you can find the nearby famous “Bat Tower” and then have a drink at the Lodge’s Tiki Bar right on the water.
We stopped for lunch at the Naval Air Station on the way into town. They have a beautiful marina with the “Navigator Bar and Grill” that serves good food and cheap beer.
We sat outside in an eating area right next to the nice beach.
No pets allowed on the beach.
Athena is a Black Lab/other things. She went for her first kayak ride this morning. She had to be encouraged to go for a swim and wanted back in as soon as she hit the water.
The steps are painted. They take four hours to dry so I went to town to get a few things and I still have two hours to kill… So I stopped by the marina for a beer and a bowl of really hot conch chowder.
We like this place a lot! Right on the water and great food.
I was going to stick in a picture as I sat here, but I forgot the camera cord so that will have to wait until I get home and can get past the steps.