Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Egmont Key (Part II)

Carole and I had four hours to explore the island. Egmont Key is not a huge place, and we saw most of what we wanted to see in the time we had (we were dependent on the schedule of the ferry), but you could easily spend far more time than we had and still leave things left undone. There is a large wildlife sanctuary on the far end of the key that is mostly off limits to humans. The only access is by walking in from the land--the beaches are completely restricted access on that side. If we'd had more time I would have hiked into the sanctuary to get a closer look at the bird life there.

As it was we still did not scope out all of the ghost town. The streets form a bit of a maze and we left some of them as mysteries for another trip on another day. That is one thing that really floored me about Egmont--the size of the town that once supported the fort. Since the number of folk taking the ferry the day we went was small we mostly felt that we had the entire ghost town to ourselves. In fact, we never once encountered another person as we strolled those palm-lined brick roads.

The site of one of the larger buildings in the old Egmont Key village.

Carole walking down the lonely street. We kept our eyes peeled for more gopher tortoises, but we never saw any in the interior of the island, but that's where most of them live.

I couldn't get over the beauty of those brick roads lined with palms.

This was one of the most intact buildings on the key. It was a warehouse until the town burned in 1925 (fire set intentionally by Federal law enforcement during an alcohol/illegal immigrant raid).

Scenes like this make me want to take advantage of the right to camp overnight on the island. You can stay overnight if you apply for a free permit to do so.

This building is the only old one on the island that is in good repair. It was restored by a local historical society, but we were told that some branch of the government (we were never sure if it was Federal or State) is agitating to tear it completely down.

Since there are absolutely no public facilities on Egmont Key at all, this would be an ideal museum/visitors center/bathroom building. I hope they don't tear it down.

Part of a rail system on the bay side of Egmont Key. I think this was a loading/unloading port.

Part of an old warehouse beside the short rail system.

Oleander blossom with ever-present love bugs. The love bugs were everywhere. In places the air was thick with them.

The military cemetery. Almost all of the graves were Civil War era and all but a couple of the deaths were due to Yellow Fever and other such maladies. Only one gravestone mentioned a gunshot death.

Just beyond the cemetery you come back to the lighthouse and ranger abode. What a posting, eh?! Live on a Florida Gulf Coast key with an entire island all to yourself! The ranger did look like a happy guy the couple of times we encountered him.

Self-portrait at the lighthouse. For some reason, the US military came to the island in the 1940s and removed the housing around the light. The light is still there, but the metal housing was removed and destroyed. The local historical society has been given permission to restore it and they're trying to raise the funds to do so.

After we toured the island we went out to the beach to lie around and soak up some rays. Click on this image to see it in fuller size.

This dirtbag dogged us, waiting for a chance to strike and steal some of our stuff. Crows are complete assholes when you're at the beach. Watch your stuff!!!

I took a walk way down the beach while Carole relaxed. This was one of the old gun emplacements that has fallen into the sea as the island erodes back into the Gulf. We figured that about one third of the island has vanished since its days as an active military installation. The old power plant is far out in the ocean, now, and has been for about three decades.

A gull takes up a post on what looks to have been an old cistern.

This sign is for visitors who arrive via private boats. Neither the State guys who run 3/4 of the island nor the Feds who run the other 1/4 want your dogs or cats on this wildlife preserve. Either leave them at home or aboard yer boats!

When I passed the old concrete towers I could see the osprey parents feeding the big chicks, so I went back for a closer look.

One of the rather serious looking osprey chicks.

The other osprey chick. Somehow one chick was on one tower and one on the other. Did one fly off the nest and get stuck on the other tower? Not sure. What I can say is that the other tower did not seem to have a proper nest on it. Chick, yes. Nest, no.

Alas, we had to leave Egmont Key. I got this view of the vast bridge over part of the bay on the way back to the mainland.

This is actually a cell phone tower in the middle of the bay. Obviously the brown pelicans love this place! Seeing this, I have to remind myself that brown pelicans came close to extinction due to the effects of DDT just a few decades ago.

And just as we got back to the dock, we were rewarded with seeing a pod of bottlenose dolphins fishing the surf!

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