We’ve only been in the Florida Keys for a little over a week, but considering all that we’ve done (and the amount of bug bites covering our bodies) it feels like much longer. Tim took a few days off around the New Year holiday last week and we packed in a bunch of activities while we had the extra time. The fun started with a Key West New Year’s Eve annual tradition…the Wiener Dog Parade.
According to the local paper there were over 200 dogs in attendance. Not just wiener dogs either. We saw Basset Hounds, Terriers, large labs, and shaggy collies. There was even an entire section of Chihuahuas, including this one who made sure his affiliation with the featured breed was known.
The best part was the various costumes. Popular themes included hot dogs, super heroes, and ballerinas.
Of course, no Wiener Dog Parade is complete without a Weiner Dog Mobile…playing dog themed songs of course.
We choose to skip the mayham of New Year’s Eve in Key West and instead had a quiet evening at home with a few fireworks at midnight provided by the neighbors. The next day we gathered for a family style afternoon of bocce.
Later in the week we attended the regular Saturday night Bocce event. Since I am still planning on writing an entire post on the long standing Bocce tradition, for now you get just one photo.
The weather has been consistently warm and humid. Perfect for a few beach visits. First we went to Boca Chica beach, which is a free, natural, public beach. By natural I mean there is no one out there raking the seaweed, and no one enforcing any sort of rules. So what we found was a long skinny strip of sand and rocky shoreline covered with a hefty dose of seaweed. Rumor has it that quite a few sunbathers chose to embrace the o’natural way of life at Boca Chica, but we didn’t see any (we also didn’t look for them). We did see lots of dogs playing in the surf, and some cool driftwood art. A few brave soles ventured out into the water, but the thick seaweed was just too much for us.
We did find a place to go swimming though at an abandoned quarry on the tiny uninhabited Spanish Harbor Key just east of Big Pine. This area, commonly referred to as the Horseshoe, was one of the many pits dug for fill during construction of the Overseas Railroad between 1905 and 1912. Along the edge, through the clear shallow water you can see a shelf of coral which extends about ten feet until is drops off to a deep blue hole approximately 35′ feet deep. The depth makes it a a popular spot for diving and fishing. We did neither, choosing instead to float around in the warm, turquiose water. There is no sandy beach here, but if you want to bring chairs and a cooler there’s a nice stretch of rocky ledge for lounging.
Finally, we spent a little time on the beach in Key West. There was no swimming as we had only gone down for the day to ride our bikes around the island and forgot to bring our suits. Instead we hung out in the shade of a palm tree, watching the crowds and eating Italian Ice.
In my opinion the best beach in the Keys is Bahia Honda State Park. I have been there many times and have fond memories of walking along the shore searching for lucky sea beans. Tim has never been (he’s a Keys virgin), but we decided to let the holiday crowds thin out a bit before. Maybe next weekend.
Here’s a few more pictures from our bike ride around Key West.
I have lots more to share from sunsets to nature walks and some Keys inspired recipes, but since we’re going to be here awhile, I’ll save that for another time.
Bug Update: Since I mentioned the bugs last time I thought it only fitting to give an update. While it might seem like we’ve found paradise, the bug situation is pretty grim. I’ve been down here a good number of times, and I’ve never, ever experienced this kind of no-see-um infestation. All the locals are telling us that it’s worse than usual, but while they view it as merely a nuisance, we are suffering with large welts that look like chicken poxs all over our bodies. I guess our northern skin is especially tasty to the tiny, nasty bugs because we are both covered with bites. I counted 76 bites on just one leg yesterday. Tim probably has the same (no pictures – it’s just too gross).
We’ve tried everything to prevent and heal the bites. The natural repelllant is like candy to these critters, so we’re going with the strongest Deet we can find. It works okay if you reapply every few hours. We even wear it to bed becuase these tiny bugs can go right through the screens. As someone who hates bug spray, you can imagine my distress at having to be covered with it 24/7. We’ve tried lotions, and sprays, and tea tree oil to stop the itch. These remedies help some, but I still wake up a few times every night and have to reapply because my feet and legs itch so bad. We even resorted to taking an oral antihistamine in the evening. I’m not convinced that it’s working. The worst part is that unlike mosquitos bites, the no-see-ums bites can last up to 2 weeks!
So while the scenery is gorgeous, the weather is perfect, and there is an endless supply of places to go and things to see, I must admit that I’m missing the bug-free southwest. Thankfully a cold snap (which down here means temps in the 70s) is coming through tonight, and hopefully the humidity will drop and the wind will rise, chasing some of the bugs away. In the meantime, we’ll be applying the bug spray and trying not to scratch.