I have never thought of myself as a tourist guide in these parts and indeed I have resisted the notion that this page should be a simpleton's guide to the Keys, there are plenty of pages for that. But to visit Big Pine and not to walk the trails just a short way past the Blue Hole on Key Deer Boulevard would be a shame.
The Blue Hole had cars coming and going when I drove by but no one stopped here. Granted it was hot and the sun was shining pitilessly from a deep blue sky but Rusty and I were alone and it was lovely.
I like that the rules allow dogs and if they ask for a leash its the least one can do. We left no trace so when Rusty laid an egg I scooped it up and put the bag under the gas cap as I always do when there are no convenient trash cans. Open the cap to put gas in the car and there's the neatly wrapped egg ready to drop in the gas station trash.
Aside from the technical details the trail is an easy walk, it could be nothing else in the flatlands.
Its a great introduction to the flora of the Keys, thatch palms, saw palmetto and pines growing on fresh water lenses and stuff like that. A lens here is a convex pool of underground fresh water.
The main trail is called the Jack Watson trail after the first ranger who was hired to protect the Key Deer that were nearly driven extinct by the middle of the last century.
Apparently he was a fierce defender of the wildlife during his tenure and if you like Key Deer come here to pay your respects to the man who saved them from extinction.
They have controlled fires here from time to time just like they do in bigger forests.
A few years ago one such controlled burn got out of control amid much recrimination and a bit more land than planned got scorched.
Much excitement of course but as you might expect the burn ultimately disappeared in a welter of fresh new growth, perhaps in a larger area than intended but the principle of the burn remained.
Oh and don't forget the butterflies, always important along with bees and other flying stuff. They have a garden for them too and it has grown mightily over the years. Every time some thoughtless human says what good has the government done I think of the parks service. Lots of good stuff in the parks…Law enforcement did all right by me too, lets face it!
Of course today was the day I forgot my camera, things are a bit shambolic at home at the moment and these pictures came not only from Rusty's desire for a walk but also from my iPhone 12 mini. It does okay if you don't use the telephoto. I enjoy using my dedicated camera s and I dislike having to put up with the oddity of the phone on it's side sliding a digit to take a picture.
They have reopened the DMV office in Big Pine with the usual reduced midweek opening hours (fine if you are retired) we used to enjoy before Hurricane Irma upended Big Pine. My old utility trailer is now officially gone to new owners, the Fiat goes to a friend in Central Florida soon and the Ford may have a new owner as well, so the only wheels we will have left will be the van. Long may she roll...
On the subject of rolling the park also has a wheelchair accessible trail with a viewing platform. Pretty cool.
One thing I noticed from my time in a wheelchair is the way the railings are all set at waist height for a person standing up, putting the wheelchair user looking through bars. I did a lot of that and the memory sticks.
On the other hand you can learn. lot if you have a mind to, and I'd like to think people who have got this far, especially in cooler months might take the time to read.
There are more signs than I've photographed of course.
Bloody hell! Words, words, words...
This is the one that explains to reason for this special trail:
The countryside is the same across both trails more or less. The long trail looks similar but it does have some spots that might make a wheelchair tough to maneuver. However Rusty got it into his head to not want to walk the long trail. He knows his own mind and I didn't fight him but there it is. You get the drift.