Sunday, August 20, 2017
John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park - (8/20/2017)
John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park is known for it's Glass Bottom boat rides, snorkeling and diving trips, as well as anything water related. But, did you know it also contains hiking trails? YEPPERS!!!! We couldn't believe it either. We have visited this park almost overtime we go to The Florida Keys, and have never explored them. But, this time we set out to make a whole day of just hiking. The first trail we went to was The Grove Nature Trail!
The Grove nature trail is right beside the first parking lot to your left. It is a short hike, so don't worry about being gone for hours. The total length is less than a mile. However, there are LOTS of bugs so please bring your bug spray with you. The beginning of the trail is really pretty, taking you in the hammock of tropical trees and plants, with the trail lined with pieces of coral rock. It would twist and turn thru the trees where you'd hear birds chirping. No wildlife other than birds were present though. It was way to much of a populated park for wildlife to want to stick around. As you near the end, there is a sign that reads "HJ Shaw Farms". After turning at the sign the trail opens to a small open field with citrus trees. Some of the citrus were oranges, tangerines, grapefruit, and lemons. This made complete sense as to why they called it Grove Trail. While walking around the grove we saw at least 20 butterflies, and other insects using the flowers to pollenate on the trees. We spent a few minutes taking pictures and video, then we were off, back out to the trailhead, and then over the roadway to the next trail called The Wild Tamarind Trail.
The second trail of the day was called The Wild Tamarind Trail. This was, once again, a short hike but worth it. The path was lined with coral rocks, and had benches made of coral rock and driftwood (stealing this idea for our own home decor). This was a loop around the copy of tropical trees (some poisonous so watch out), and there were lots of birds hiding in the branches. After completing the very short loop we decided to then turn down a path toward the camping area. It was more of a maintenance road that followed the parking lot. But, the way the trees were cut, the canopy literally laid onto of one another like you see in a movie. It was extremely pretty.
After we got to the end of the maintenance road, and saw that there were indeed campers staying in the distance we turned around, as not to disturb them, and headed to the boat docks. All the boats were out with snorkeling trips and diving trips. We did manage to catch a glimpse of the famous, "Glass Bottom Boat" as it was headed out to the nearest reef.
We walked down the road, over a bridge and headed to another beach area, where the trail I really wanted to do, Mangrove Trail, was located. However, after further inspection it was indeed closed. What a bummer.... But, we walked some other boardwalks to these little look outs to see the channels carved into the mangroves, and actually ran into border patrol. That's one thing you don't see on a hike everyday! We also got to see a very famous native animal in the keys, the iguana! It was massive, and barely moved until were passing right next to it.
By this time it was getting very hot outside and we were in need to go to head down to Islamorada to spend the remainder of our trip there. We stopped in the visitors center for a short while to see the massive aquarium, and then we were off! Enjoy the photos below.
For a video on The Wild Tamarind Trail go to:
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