Will and Karen's Excellent Adventure to South Florida- Part Two
A Fond Farewell to Cabbage Key
As pointed out in last week's edition, we bid farewell to the Cabbage Key Inn on the afternoon of December 2nd. On the return boat trip back on the Tropic Star the captain was teaching pirate speak to the kids on board. "What are the first two letters that a pirate learns?" Class, anyone? "Arrrrrr!" Of course, "R!" and "Ayyyye!" Or to us landlubbers "I!"
We made it back to Roothee and the Tropic Star base of operations in Pineland. As Roothee related to me Florida noir author and Pineland resident Randy Wayne White had plans for the day so could not see me. Nevertheless, I really appreciate Roothee trying for me. I also managed to show her this web site before we headed down to Flamingo. We jumped back in to Phooka, drove by Randy Wayne White's yellow cracker house on a Calusa Indian mound and began a journey that would take me further south than at any other time in my post birth years.
An island in the making. A lone Red Mangrove is seen in the middle of the photograph growing on a sand bar out in Florida Bay immediately south of the Flamingo Lodge.
I had not traveled the portion of the Tamiami Trail, or U.S. 41, between Naples and Miami since a July 1982 road trip with former colleague Greg Van Stavern. Very little had changed once one got further east of Naples. The trail is still two lanes and brings you into some of the most incredible sloughs, prairies and swamps in the Big Cypress and everglades communities. In addition to Florida folk hero and photographer Clyde Butcher's studio, we passed several Miccosukee Indian dwellings, the world's smallest post office in Ochopee and the small dwelling of Monroe Station, which is situated near the Collier and Miami-Dade county line. It is near this small desolate outpost that gangland kingpin Al Capone lived out his final years in basic seclusion.
Amidst all the natural beauty, the most incredible sight that I saw on this portion of the trip was immediately east of the Collier-Seminole State Park on the north bank of the Trail where a Red Maple (Acer rubrum) in full red fall color, was growing immediately next to a Red Mangrove (Rhizophora mangle). The significance of this sighting, and of the Everglades, is that only in this specific part of the world will you see a Red Maple, a tree native to freshwater swamps throughout the temperate eastern United States and Canada natively occur in such close proximity to the Red Mangrove a tropical tree that in addition to also being a native of South Florida, grows along the coastal shorelines of India, South Africa, Central America, South America and Mexico.
Red Mangrove trees, with their aerial prop-roots that at night appeared like "ghostly fingers arching toward the road", grow in jungle-like profusion along the Park's roadway in the brackish waters from the road's southern terminus of at Flamingo to a distance of about seven to ten miles northward.
Krome Avenue, Miami-Dade County
Although there is a road the intersects with the Tamiami Trail that can take you into the Shark Valley Loop of the actual Everglades National Park, the only lodging in the park is at the very southeastern tip of the Florida peninsula in a location known as Flamingo.
As the afternoon began to fade into twilight, we turned off of the Tamiami Trail and headed south past the incredibly large farm fields of the Redlands and Homestead. In addition to hundreds of major nurseries, some of the winter vegetable fields literally stretched to the horizons of both sides of Krome Avenue. We then passed through the downtowns of Homestead and Florida City and as the sun began to set, entered the 38-mile desolate trek into the Everglades National Park that would take us to the Flamingo Lodge.
This picture of a Sawgrass prairie, taken at the Pa-Hay-Okee Overlook, typifies the vastness and desolation of such an ecosystem. The Sawgrass prairies comprise the largest such type of ecosystem in the Everglades. What the photo does not capture is that the entire area shown is covered in six inches or more of fresh water flowing southward to Florida Bay. Dotted throughout the Sawgrass prairies are forests of dwarf Cypress trees. The Bald and Pond Cypresses, which attain mature heights of over 100' in the Tampa Bay area, often do not grow much taller than ten feet in the Everglades due to the limestone soils and constant inundation of fresh water. As a result, these dwarf trees, many over hundreds of years old, are literally living bonsais.
Lonely and Lovely
The drive from Florida City to Flamingo is a long enough drive during the day, but at night it is dark, lonely and desolate. It should dawn on you that you are now in the least inhabited area in the continental United States. Panther crossing signs became common as we approached several of the South Florida Pine Rockland communities in our trek on the small two-lane asphalt road. The sun setting through a desolate stand of South Florida Slash Pines at this basic end of the land of the United States and gateway to the Caribbean is truly beautiful to see.
A forest of South Florida Slash Pine (Pinus elliottii var. 'densa') at the Pinewoods Trail reach skyward. This far south, pine tree populations are generally limited to an ecosystem known as the South Florida Pine Rockland. It is so named because the forest floor of such communities consists almost entirely of coral rock and limestone!
Soon we entered the seemingly endless prairies of Saw Grass, with interspersing of ghostly looking bare dwarf Cypress trees (Taxodium spp.), and as we neared the final few miles before arriving at Flamingo, some type of tree that reflected ghostly fingers arching toward the roadway from Phooka's headlights appeared poised to grab and devour us I was surprised by daybreak to discover what this type of tree was. Guesses? Class, anyone?
At the very southeast tip of the State of Florida resides the Flamingo Lodge. Very similar to a motel of the 1950's, Karen and I saw television for the first time in two days, getting in stations from the Miami area. Our room overlooked Florida Bay, and nighttime demonstrated that this was a desolate outpost as evidenced by a star field that was so bright that it reflected on the Bay!
Open fresh water areas of the Everglades that are not large enough to be lakes or ponds and do not meander like creeks are known as sloughs (pronounced as "sloos"). A fine example is at the Anhinga (the Anhinga is a fresh water bird) Trail where this amphibious avian relative, the Cormorant, is seen sunning itself. Although from a distance a slough in the everglades may appear "dirty", close examination found the water to be crystal clear as evidenced by the detail in the submerged coral rock to the bird's left.
The most impenetrable ecosystem in the Everglades is the tropical hardwood hammock, such as the one found at the Gumbo Limbo Trail shown in this photo. These hammocks comprise the largest concentration of native tropical vegetation in the continental United States. Temperate trees such as Live Oaks and Dahoon Hollies become rare to absent, giving way to thickets of West Indian and Caribbean species such as Mahogany, Gumbo Limbo, Jamaica Caper and Strangler Figs.
So That's What It Looks Like in the Daytime?
On the morning of Wednesday December 3rd, we packed up the bags to head to our next destination, Marrero's Guest Mansion in Key West. I would have loved to stay longer, but I knew that Key West would be at least a five-hour trip further south. Nevertheless I managed to stop at several locations representative of the incredible natural communities of the treasure known as the Everglades National Park. I thought I knew my trees, but in this largely sub tropical area I had to learn a whole new language. The photos attached describe these communities and some of their inhabitants, including the 'mystery tree" mentioned above whose "ghostly fingers" arched toward the park's major roadway.
The Overseas Highway and the Florida Keys
We headed east out of the park and reemerged in the largely agricultural community of Florida City on our sojourn to U.S. 1 and the Overseas Highway on our way to its beginning point (or terminating point if heading south as in our case) at Mile Marker 0, located at the intersection of Whitehead and Fleming Streets in one of the most unique city's in the world, Key West, Florida. We will discuss it in next week's edition of PCR, so don't miss it!
Year End Summary
Here's wishing our readers a most safe, joyous and Blessed Holiday Season. Below is a listing of all "La Floridiana" columns published this year.
MY PERSONAL TOP TEN LA FLORIDIANAS OF THE YEAR:
1. Issues #170, 171 and 172: June 23-July 13, 2003: “Getting from Here to There - - The Story of the Bee Line ferry and the Sunshine Skyway Bridge, Parts One through Three”
2. Issue #178 August 18-August 24, 2003: “The Continuing Saga of Desdemona’s “Cosmic Muffin”
3. Issue #149 January 27-February 2, 2003: “Hungering for Memories”
4. Issue #174 July 21-July 27, 2003: “Webb’s City, Inc. The World’s Most Unusual Drug Store - - A Profile of J.E. ‘Doc’ Webb, Florida Folk Hero and Entrepreneur Extraordinaire”
5. Issue #188 October 27, 2003- November 2, 2003: The Paranormal in Florida Part 27- “The Hauntings at 3016 Villa Rosa Park”
6. Issue #189 November 3- November 9, 2003: “My Life and Times at Tampa International Airport”
7. Issues #183 and 184: September 22-October 5, 2003: The Paranormal in Florida Parts 22 and 23: “U.F.O.’s I Have Seen, Parts I and II (Mysterious Lights in the Night Sky Over Ginnie Springs)”
8. Issue #190 November 10- November 16, 2003: “Will’s Too Short Trip to Miami - - And Life Is Good!”
9. Issues #175 and 176: July 28- August 10, 2003: "A Tale of Two Cities: St. Petersburg and Tampa - - A Bay Separating A Gulf of Differences" Parts One and Two
10. Issue #173 July 14-July 20, 2003: The Paranormal in Florida Part 20- “The Legend of U.F.O. Hill - - A Florida Phenomena”
ALL LA FLORIDIANAS OF 2003
76. Issue #145 January 1-5, 2003: “Book Review-Paradise Screwed”
77. Issue #146 January 6-12, 2003: “Book Review-Millennium Drive”
78. Issue #147 January 13-19, 2003: “Suzy Q’s Ultra-Swank Tiki Lounge 1962 Party”
79. Issue #148 January 20-26, 2003: “…you’re owed a memorial tree by me”
80. Issue #149 January 27-February 2, 2003: “Hungering for Memories”
81. Issue #150 February 3-9, 2003: “Book Review-On the Whispering Wind”
82. Issue #151 February 1-16, 2003: Fast Wheels and Fun in the Sun/Floridana Fest/Clyde Butcher”
83. Issue #152 February 17-23, 2003: “Book Review-The Stingray Shuffle”
84. Issue #153 February 24-March 2, 2003: “Tidbits”
85. Issue #154 March 3-March 9, 2003: “Tidbits”; Jeb Vader, Floridana Fest, Orlando MegaCon
86. Issue #155 March 10-March 16, 2003: “Tidbits”; Jeb Vader - - “Go pound sand!”
87. Issue #156 March 17-March 23, 2003: “Florida’s Mysterious Big Cats”, War On France, Jeb Vader
Issue #157 March 24-March 30, 2003: No issue this week.
88. Issue #158 March 31-April 6, 2003: “Tidbits”; “Rally for America”, Dem Bones
89. Issue #159 April 7-April 13, 2003: “Tidbits”; “Rally for America”, Birds of Prey, Get Fuzzy
90. Issue #160 April 14-April 20, 2003: “The Continued Death of Beauty and Grace in our Skies, in our Waters and in Florida”
Issue #161 April 21-April 27, 2003: No issue this week.
91. Issue #162 April 28-May 4, 2003: “Why It’s Called Florida”
Issue #163 May 5-May 10, 2003: No issue this week.
92. Issue #164 May 11-May 18, 2003: “Tidbits”; Doyle Conner jr. Dead; Jeb Vader and the Everglades; Solomon’s Castle Revisited
Issue #165 May 19-May 25, 2003: No issue this week.
93. Issue #166 May 26-June 1, 2003: “Don’t get Fooled, Fleeced and Flimflammed in Florida, Part One”
94. Issue #167 June 2-June 8, 2003: “Don’t get Fooled, Fleeced and Flimflammed in Florida, Part Two”
95. Issue #168 June 9-June 15, 2003: “Don’t get Fooled, Fleeced and Flimflammed in Florida, Part Three”
96. Issue #169 June 16-June 22, 2003: “Future For Mac Dill Air Force Base Looks Bright”
97. Issue #170 June 23-June 26, 2003: “Getting from Here to There - - The Story of the Bee Line ferry and the Sunshine Skyway Bridge, Part One”
98. Issue #171 June 27-July 6, 2003: “Getting from Here to There - - The Story of the Bee Line ferry and the Sunshine Skyway Bridge, Part Two”
99. Issue #172 July 7-July 13, 2003: “Getting from Here to There - - The Story of the Bee Line ferry and the Sunshine Skyway Bridge, Part Three”
100. Issue #173 July 14-July 20, 2003: The Paranormal in Florida Part 20- “The Legend of U.F.O. Hill - - A Florida Phenomena”
101. Issue #174 July 21-July 27, 2003: “Webb’s City, Inc. The World’s Most Unusual Drug Store - - A Profile of J.E. ‘Doc’ Webb, Florida Folk Hero and Entrepreneur Extraordinaire”
102. Issue #175 July 28- August 3, 2003: "A Tale of Two Cities: St. Petersburg and Tampa - - A Bay Separating A Gulf of Differences" Part One
103. Issue #176 August 4-August 10, 2003: "A Tale of Two Cities: St. Petersburg and Tampa - - A Bay Separating A Gulf of Differences" Part Two
104. Issue #177 August 11-August 17, 2003: The Paranormal in Florida Part 21- “The Ghostly Sea Captain and His Cat”
105. Issue #178 August 18-August 24, 2003: “The Continuing Saga of Desdemona’s “Cosmic Muffin”
106. Issue #179 August 25-August 31, 2003: “Book Review-Hot Damn!”
107. Issue #180 September 1-September 7, 2003: “Florida’s Gardens Up Close and Personal, Part One”
108. Issue #181 September8-September 14, 2003: “Florida’s Gardens Up Close and Personal, Part Two”
109. Issue #182 September 15-September 21, 2003: “Will’s Excellent Water Adventure in Winter Park”
110. Issue #183 September 22-September 28, 2003: The Paranormal in Florida Part 22- “U.F.O.’s I Have Seen, Part I”
111. Issue #184 September 29-October 5, 2003: The Paranormal in Florida Part 23- “U.F.O.’s I Have Seen, Part II: Mysterious Lights in the Night Sky Over Ginnie Springs”
113. Issue #185 October 6- October 12, 2003: The Paranormal in Florida Part 24- “U.F.O.’s in Florida Part III: U.F.O.’s Over Florida’s Waters”
114. Issue #186 October 13, 2003-October 19, 2003: The Paranormal in Florida Part 25- “The Civil War Ghosts that Roam Key West”
115. Issue #187 October 20, 2003-October 26, 2003: The Paranormal in Florida Part 26- “The Ghost of the Cabbage Key Inn” and Book Review “Haunt Hunters Guide to Florida”
116. Issue #188 October 27, 2003- November 2, 2003: The Paranormal in Florida Part 27- “The Hauntings at 3016 Villa Rosa Park”
117. Issue #189 November 3- November 9, 2003: “My Life and Times at Tampa International Airport”
118. Issue #190 November 10- November 16, 2003: “Will’s Too Short Trip to Miami - - And Life Is Good!”
119. Issue #191 November 17- November 23, 2003: “The History of Aviation in Florida, Part One”
120. Issue #192 November 24- November 30, 2003: “The History of Aviation in Florida, Part Two”
121. Issue #193 December 1, 2003- December 7, 2003: “The History of Aviation in Florida, Part Three”
122. Issue #194 December 8, 2003- December 14, 2003: “The History of Aviation in Florida, Part Four”
123. Issue #195 December 15, 2003- December 21, 2003: "Karen and Will's Excellent Adventure to South Florida- Part One: The Continued Death March of Locally-Produced Radio and Television"
124. Issue #196 December 22, 2003- December 28, 2003: "Karen and Will's Excellent Adventure to South Florida- Part Two"
"La Floridiana" is ©2003 by William Moriaty. Webpage design and all graphics herein (except where otherwise noted) are creations of Nolan B. Canova. All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2003 by Nolan B. Canova.