Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Sugarloaf Land Preservation

The bald facts are enough: 928 acres preserved at a cost to the Florida Forever program of $3.6 million dollars. It just so happens our embattled anti-environment Governor Rick Scott can see an election in his near future and the outcome is uncertain. So we get to see some good out of the election already. 
Florida Forever and it's predecessor Florida 2000 is the largest public land acquisition program in the US (Florida can be surprising can't it?) with nearly ten million acres preserved forever, they say. And now dormant private land on Sugarloaf joins the preservation program. I am quite fond of the Loop Road, worth visiting with an agile dog or better yet a bicycle. The map below photographed in the Citizen newspaper illustrates the lands recently purchased in orange.
With 3700 illustrated essays on my website a quick dip into the search function in the top left hand corner of the page pulled up this old essay. 

Friday, May 22, 2009

Sugarloaf Loop Road

Sugarloaf Loop Road is another of those unknown open spaces in the Keys that you only find out about by osmosis (word of mouth) or by curiosity (poking around). I wrote about a walk I took in this area on the 25th October 2008, an essay I titled Sugarloaf Wilderness which included part of the loop road.This time I walked the whole bloody lot in one afternoon, and it was ninety degrees (32C) so it was hot...and I didn't just walk the object of this essay, Loop Road, but I took in a chunk of the old State Road 939 as well so I spent three hours tramping around south Sugarloaf Key. Granted it's not the Mojave Desert but that's a lot of big sky to be roaming under:And did I mention it was hot?I did much better this time because I did remember to use sunscreen and mosquito repellent, though I did forget water and a hat, so in the heat of the early afternoon my shirt had to serve double duty. My wardrobe seems to be coming in for unusual scrutiny these days, pink crocs and all, so I feel obliged to point out that one can do a lot more than most people imagine, with even not ideal equipment. I felt like Gassim in Lawrence of Arabia, crossing the Nefud desert on foot after falling off his camel in a stupor. Lawrence proved he was as tough as the Bedu by turning around, against their advice and rescuing the stranded man. Of course later Lawrence had to shoot him because he initiated a blood feud that threatened the whole expedition. And people wonder why I am an Ironist. In the event I did survive the Loop Road crossing, even without a camel.I have no knowledge at all about Loop Road's history or it's raison d'etre, though one can assume that this place was built to further development, which is the usual story everywhere in Florida there is something inexplicable. However what exactly they were planning to develop is unfathomable because the road is surrounded on both sides by salt water, in the form of a sound or lake:Or by boggy ground that becomes water in the rainy season:The house visible in the distance is on the other side of a massive canal dug through the rock alongside the homes on Sugarloaf Boulevard and is thus unreachable in a direct line short of flying (or swimming). Loop Road seems like it was a massive boondoggle of some sort that has become an abandoned roadway serving no visible purpose other than recreation:However my fellow travelers only started to appear after the sun was obscured by a thick layer of clouds and while they were all busy improving their physiques, I was the only person I saw ambling along the road looking at this and that and pausing to take pictures of whatever I saw with no strenuous benefit in mind. Like observing pretty flowers:Sea grapes here are doing a lot better than mine, which have taken to shedding their fruit as though in an act of self destruction:I first heard, then saw this woodpecker even as the exercise enthusiasts were whirring by, heads down, no time for subtleties:And I'm pretty sure I saw a rabbit-like creature bounding through the scrub, too fast for my camera. There were several sticks in the roadway of which this was the most tortured and artistic:And I think the heat must have been getting to me but I was pretty sure I could the face of a rodent in this dried up coconut:I took a few detours across the mud, wetted this week by some heavy summer thunderstorms and found mysterious paw prints, hopping along in parallel pairs:And I also found this recliner, delightful presumably in the cool sunlight of winter, though a torture rack in the heat of summer, surrounded by freshly minted mud:
This is the side path I followed last October when i rambled down alongside the canal:This unknown trail hacked out of the bushes I was too tired to follow:
The road went on and on, winding hither and yon:I passed a trim boat snug at anchor, quite possibly a liveaboard as the bimini was up shading the cockpit, who knows perhaps someone working on Lower Sugarloaf, quite the castaway:Not impossibly far from the bright lights of Highway One if equipped with a powerful dinghy:
But certainly isolated enough for most of us:
Loop Road and Old State Road 939 are closed to motorised traffic these days but the asphalt is starting to deteriorate:Though some enterprising soul has carted out surplus cement to patch what they could:And somebody else has been painting mysterious code in the roadway:BS? Quite possibly, though I'll tell you what I think is BS, it's speed limits. In the days of motor vehicles traveling this loop the speed limit was 35:Meanwhile on the enormous, wide and very straight modern Sugarloaf Boulevard the county has seen fit to impose a thirty mile an hour limit on modern vehicles. I mentioned this in my October essay and since then nothing has changed and the speed limit on the Boulevard remains at a piddly 30 miles per. Amazing!
Post scriptum:
Reader Keith Krensberger has sent me these pictures from an automobile rally on Loop Road in 1974:
Delightful period pieces indeed. I wonder how many other such photos are out there deserving to be seen...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The dried up coconut reminds me of the head of a seal, not a rodent. Can almost see the wiskers.