Travel Diary
January 11, 2003
Key Largo, FL

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Key Largo continues to be lovely. The cold front has passed, and the afternoons are nearly 80 degrees. It's going to be a difficult place to leave.

Pete went snorkeling off the coast of Key Largo in an area that is called the Florida Keys Marine Sanctuary.

Pete snorkeling

The coral reefs are protected areas full of beautiful coral, fish, and other marine life. Pete was also lucky enough on this trip to see a loggerhead turtle. Here's his description of it:

"We've seen wild turtles since South Carolina, so I didn't think too much of it when I saw a turtle come out of the sand on the bottom of the ocean where I was snorkeling. I'm told the water was about 35 feet deep where I was, but it was hard for me to gauge from the surface where I was happily snorkeling. When I first saw it, I guessed that its shell was about 18 inches long, sort of like the other turtles we've seen. Slowly it came up toward the surface and it kept getting closer to me and bigger. By the time it was about 5 feet from the surface I knew this was a really big turtle. It surfaced about 15 feet from me and all I knew was it was the biggest turtle I'd ever seen. It took a couple of gulps of air and I got to watch one of them from below water, and another from above water. It was the one from above the surface that I realize that its head was at least as big as my own. The estimate from the boat was that its shell was about 6 feet long. It was an incredible experience."

We learned later that the loggerhead turtle is endangered, so it was really quite a lucky encounter.

We also drove up to Everglades National Park. The Everglades cover the entire tip of Florida with the exception of the keys. We suspect the only reason the keys aren't part of the national park is because they were already developed before they could be protected. Today, the Everglades are home to a vast collection of interesting subtropical plants and animals.

We saw lots of alligators. Some were in the water swimming. Others were out getting warm in the sun. There was even one standing guard at the end of a boat ramp. This alligator was up on a small hill just out of the water and was smiling waiting for us to take its picture.

Smiling alligator

We also saw many interesting birds. Like the last update, most of them were large and all of them had pointy beaks. We went to the local library and thumbed through a bird book to try to identify them.

As best we can tell, this is a Great Blue Heron. It stood at least three feet tall.

Blue heron

This one is a green-back heron. Just like the picture we saw in the bird book, it was intently watching the water in search of its next meal. It was much smaller than the great blue heron and had shorter legs.

Green heron

Finally, the sunsets in Key Largo have been delightful. Each night we walk all the way to the waters edge, which is about 50 feet from our door, to watch the sun set over a small island in Florida Bay. Here is one example of the beautiful sunsets.

Key Largo sunset

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