Monday, September 7, 2009

Anne's Beach

I first heard Anne's Beach described as a destination by a man I worked with when I was employed at Fast Buck Freddie's shipping department. He told me he was taking his family to Anne's Beach on his next day off. Granted, he lived on Little Torch but it seemed a long way away, in Islamorada (pronounced in Anglo Keys Talk as: isle-ah-more-ada and means "purple island" in Spanish though Cubans say it differently). Some beach that must be, I thought. So it has been in my mind to stop and check the place out one of these days...and that day came recently. I've stopped here a few times just briefly to use the facilities as they are quite handy and kept nice and clean. It's worth knowing they are here at Mile Marker 73 between sunrise and sunset, if you are ever unlucky enough to get taken short and don't feel like braving your common-or-garden gas station loo.
It has occurred to me that making a recommendation about one loo opens me up to requests that I publish a list of free toilets in the Keys but let me just point out here and now, that's not going to happen. On the other hand I can recommend not camping here, and there's a sign to support my position:I think if you were planning to camp here, a lot of people might call it "anchoring" instead. The "Village of Islands" as Islamorada pompously likes to be known ( if not islands, what, in the Florida Keys- no duh!) is a fussy sort of place and I doubt they are encouraging people to camp in the parking lot if they find the beach area to be waterlogged.
The brown stuff is not what you are thinking at all, the toilets work fine, it's just dead sea grass washed up on the beach as happens during summer. In winter it dries out but in summer it gets all mulched and soggy and washes up when pushed here by currents and storms. The weed also collects trash as it sits snug against the shoreline:Anne's Beach is a modest spot if you are looking for actual sand above the waterline, but the Village of Keys has built a massive and very impressive boardwalk along the waterfront. I walked the whole thing and am at a loss to confirm if it is indeed a quarter of a mile long as claimed. It seemed longer perhaps because I was busy stopping to take photos all the time, or perhaps because my boots and pant legs were wet from the recent shower I rode through. The tide was also quite high, it having been a full moon and all just recently.
And just to keep it interesting there are shelters, several of them provided with picnic tables overlooking the water or buried deep in the mangroves. The board walk winds it's way on and on:
And yes, from time to time you will see a handkerchief of sand, though if you want long spectacular beaches almost anywhere else in Florida south of Jacksonville on the east coast, or south of St Petersburg on the west coast will yield better beaches than those in the Keys:
You get nice views of water and Islamorada in the distance. You can also get an idea why they call themselves "Village of Islands" from this perspective:
And here is a self portrait. I remembered to douse myself with mosquito repellent I carry in a saddlebag so I wasn't swatting the air wildly, but it was hot and sticky and out there in the deep dark jungle:
The beach at the end of this 50 yard trail was a slab of rock decorated with dead sea grass, no sand to be seen:
But the water views south across the Straits of Florida are quite lovely:
I wasn't the only person sunning themselves after the shower passed through, though I am not sure 'person' is quite the right label for a turkey vulture: And that stuff I mentioned about being lost deep in the mangrove jungle? Anne's Beach, whether it is a quarter mile long or more along the water, is never more than a few yards from the Overseas Highway to the north:
And eventually the boardwalk spits the ardent walker out into the south parking lot where people more appropriately dressed for the scene were taking a gander at open water. This also the spot where the county commission erected a plaque to honor the woman who created this spot, Anne Eaton, and where the park was formally inaugurated in 1995. I was surprised to note that I recognized the names of the commissioners on the plaque. All I could find out about Anne Eaton was that she lived on Matecumbe Key and was a "conservationist." And I suppose that will have to do:
It's impossible to tell from the pictures but I was feeling rather annoyed with myself by this stage. I was wondering why I didn't pack a swimsuit and towel in my empty saddlebag? It would have done me more use than the waterproofs which I declined to put on in the rain showers on the grounds I'd get heatstroke. It was better to get dampened by rain that suffocate in plastic. However it would have been best of all not camp in these waters, but swim, even though the waters are shallow a long way out:
I don't think swimming in one's underwear would get a high approval rating from the Village of Islands, but beyond that the thought of spending a day in the saddle with all my unmentionables in the clutch of damp salty knickers was too much to contemplate. So I just sweated sedately on shore cursing my stupidity. This was not a well planned expedition, more of an impromptu escape from cabin fever. Highway One beckoned, this is the way looking south whence I had come.
I had plans to head north and check out some other waterfront park. Which is a story for another day.