Southeast US Spring 2014 travel blog

Primo Bahia Honda Camp Site

Camp Bahia Honda

Kayak Beach

Old Bahia Honda Bridge

Camp Shade

May 12, 2014

Today we are headed for the FL Keys, a slender 125 mile chain of 1,700 islands linked by more than 40 bridges. Of all the public and private camps in the Keys Bahia Honda State Park is the most highly rated because of its extensive sandy beaches and unusual plants and animals. Folks book months in advance When I called to reserve I was not surprised there was nothing available. We will head for Marathon, the midway point between Key Largo and Key West and the largest city in the Keys.

The first city across the bridge from the mainland is Key Largo, nicknamed the Diving Capital of the World. Lots of clear, shallow blue water with marinas, diving and snorkeling shops, fishing guides and small art galleries. Stopped at the Chamber of Commerce and got good maps of the area. Stopped into Pennekamp State Park to look at sites thinking we might camp there on the way back to the mainland. Nothing very special and they were mostly full.

We then passed through Islamorada, primarily a fishing haven and then crossed the 7 mile bridge into Marathon. The bridge, completed in 1982, really is very impressive. The second bridge was constructed by Henry Flagler, a principal of Standard Oil, from 1909 to 1912 as part of his railroad building project. ( More on this later as the story is very interesting.)The overall trip today was only 80 miles. We checked out two camps but neither had much character and the water was primarily for boating. We thought we would stop by Bahia Honda, 12 miles south of Marathon, on the off chance there was a spot. We arrived and the Ranger said that she had a spot and if we waited 15 minutes until 1:00 there was a chance she could give us one of the best spots in the camp. We got it! Our site is at the end of a small canal and the Gulf. We look out at both the 7 mile bridge and the Old Bahia Honda Bridge. Quite a nice breeze. The park has nice swimming and kayak beaches, dive shop, food concession, nature trails and nature center.

We walked over to the beaches that have covered cabanas. Might take our chairs there tomorrow to spend the day. In the Nature Center they have a “live underwater feeds” of fish swimming in the area. Almost like snorkeling! They also had a very interesting movie about Henry Flagler who built the Florida East Coast Railway about the same time the Panama Canal was being built. He had information that the big ships going through the Panama would travel to the first deep water port in the US which would be Key West. (That never happened.)

A bit of history. During Flagler’s stay in St. Augustine, he noted a lack of services and built several grand hotels along the FL Coast (The Breakers Palm Beach, Royal Poinciana Hotel, Ponce De Leon (now Flagler College)) He then built a railroad to transport the people to his hotels during the “Gilded Age.”. He is recognized as the founder of both Miami and Palm Beach. With the building of the Panama Canal, he decided to extend the FEC to Key West which would allow significant trade possibilities with the west, Cuba and Latin America. The Overseas Railroad required many engineering innovations as well as vast amounts of labor (over 4,000 men) and resources shipped from as far away as Germany. During the 7 year construction 3 hurricanes threatened to halt the project and killed many men. The “oversea” part of the project led to it’s being called the 8th wonder of the world at the time. Fortunately, the railroad was completed shortly before Flagler died. As we drive up the east coast of FL I am sure we will see/hear more about Henry Flagler!

Dinner is spaghetti because most of my produce stored outside the fridge is getting “fried” in the heat. 2010 Marques de Caceres Rioja.

Hope to see a nice sunset! Tomorrow we will do a nature walk to see some of the West Indies plants/trees only found in Bahia Honda which were brought by the hurricane winds, birds, ocean waves. Geiger Tree, Sea Lavender, Silver Palms, Jamaica Morning Glory, Yellowood tree etc.

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