Monday, March 18, 2013

The Dry Tortugas

Our boat, as seen through a "window" in Fort Jefferson.
Who's calling me dry?!

So this trip to the Florida Keys is a working trip for me. I gotta do a lot of walking--most of my waking hours, in fact, is walking for However, to get Amanda to go and shuttle me to and from the trail each day, I needed to bribe her. Not only is this a vacation for her, but it was a birthday vacation. I once brought her to Alabama for her birthday. Not only did it not go well, but she reminds me of that horror every birthday.

So in case a visit to the Florida Keys wasn't enough to entice Amanda to the Florida Keys, I dangled a trip to the Dry Tortugas in front of her--a place she's always wanted to visit but never managed to do so. It's a little bit inaccessible--a tiny cluster of islands 70 miles from Key West in the middle of nowhere. It served as a fort, fueling station, and a prison over the years. The Alcatraz of the 1800s. (Several of the "Lincoln conspirators" served time there.) Now, it's a national park and bird sanctuary.

I took a day off from my walking, and we booked a boat on the Yankee Clipper II and headed off to the Dry Tortugas. The guy at the check-in station tried to talk us out of it--rough seas and choppy waters, he told us. But we woke up too early and drove too far to back out at the last minute. Nope, we were going--hell or high water.

Fort Jefferson, still standing proud more than a hundred
years after it was abandoned!
The trip out was rough, but I laid down and tried to nap. We woke up at 5:00 in the morning to make the trip and I needed my beauty sleep! So I tried to sleep through it, but I have to admit the severe rocking of the ship made that difficult. Amanda took a tour of the boat and reported back that "90% of the people on the top deck were throwing up." Oh, joy. Fortunately, both Amanda and myself seemed immune from the sea sickness.

Eventually, we reached the Dry Tortugas and immediately got off the boat and started exploring. For an 1800s fort that's been abandoned for over a hundred years, it's in remarkably good condition.

Very cool. But it's a tiny little island and after an hour or two, we pretty much saw everything there was to see.

Then we boarded again and headed back to Key West. It wasn't quite as rough on the way back, but not by much. Once again, I went back to sleep. Life was good....

You won't see any of these photos on Dry Tortugas are NOT walking distance from the rest of the Florida Keys that I'll be walking! This was my one non-working day. But not to worry--I've already taken over 2,000 photos for the "Florida Keys Trail," and I'm still not even done! You'll barely notice that this side trip to the Dry Tortugas is missing from the hike. =)

I have absolutely no idea what kind of spider this is, but he seemed
right at home at Fort Jefferson.

Lighthouse at Fort Jefferson.

This is a chug--one of the boats used by Cubans to escape to the United States.

This building was used to store explosives. =)
Looking down the perimeter of the 2nd floor of Fort Jefferson.

This jellyfish was seen floating around in the Dry Tortugas, but I'm a little
tempted to sneak him into somewhere. How
would anyone know I didn't see it while walking over the Seven Mile Bridge
or something? =) I'd use a jellyfish photo that I actually took on
my walk, but I haven't actually seen one ON my walk....

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Bumming around Key West

Amanda and I pose at the so-called southernmost point
of the contiguous United States. Check out the wave
crashing in the background!
So I'm currently here in the Florida Keys working on a new route for I walked the length of the Florida Keys once before, five years ago, then kept going up to the Florida Trail, the ill-fated Alabama Trail, and eventually hooking up with the Appalachian Trail. This hike is a bit less ambitious--I only plan to do the Florida Keys. I like the idea of adding this route since it's so different than the first three routes--walking through a tropical climate, in a part of a country without any supported trails, a relatively short route that barely passes 100 miles.... it's quite different than the PCT and Camino de Santiago! And that really appeals to me. =)

So I started at the so-called southernmost point of the contiguous United States. I'm still convinced it's a giant scam--just look at a map and tell me how you can possibly orient it to make that point the southernmost one. It just can't be done! But it's a cute little tourist trap, even if it is a scam, and I decided the walk would begin there.

From there, I headed past Hemingway's old house, took a tour of the Little White House that President Truman was so fond of visiting, walked through Mallory Square, and headed out of Key West on the Florida Keys Overseas Heritage State Trail. (Which, for brevity's sake, I'm going to call the "Florida Keys Trail" from here on out. Which is just as well since I technically didn't follow that trail through much of Key West and I'll probably hike well beyond it's far end before I'm done.)

I walked 5.2 miles through Key West, managing to burn through the batteries in my camera and took a whopping 25 photos per mile along the way. I won't be using all of these photos for the website, but here are a sampling of some you'll see if you later decide to "virtually" walk the Florida Keys Trail.

As a note, the Florida Keys Trail is not currently listed as an option on'm still walking the trail and I have a lot of photos to process, upload, caption and map before it becomes a selection. I'll announce when the route is available--this is just a taste of what's to come! =)

The Little White House. President Truman's room is the one on the
second floor, at the rightmost window with the red, white and blue
thingy under the window.

Cruise ships coming into Key West.

Giant dancing statue.

Only in Key West and San Francisco.... =)

Even in cities, I still needed to take detours....

Yes, we will probably come back again....
...but I doubt it'll be soon!
So many other trails need hiking! =)