Access to Key West will not resume for some time due to extensive damage to the Florida Keys from Hurricane Irma.
Now I know what you’re thinking. This is not that kind of blog post. Sure, we saw the clubs and bars and peeked at the menu in the window of a dessert-only restaurant called “Better Than Sex,” which was loaded with double entendres.
The natural Key West we sought is what it looked like before it became a city. And since it’s been a city for more than 150 years, the natural Key West isn’t that easy to find.It’s not that this isn’t a beautiful city; it certainly is. It’s the only place I’ve seen the rare Geiger tree planted by the city along sidewalks. It is named for a prominent early wrecker whose grand home is now open for tours as the Audubon House. When Audubon visited Key West, he sought out the lovely red blooms to use in his depiction of the also now-endangered white-crowned pigeon, and folklore has it that it was from Geiger’s piece of land. Sea captains brought back unusual tropical trees from the islands that were planted in yards throughout Key West. In this climate, they thrived. So before the word “invasive” was coined, exotic trees and shrubs were spread throughout the Keys by well-meaning farmers and landscapers. On Key West, there are only a few native habitats remaining. Salt ponds hide behind the airport, fringed by mangrove marshes and a smidgen of tropical hammock. Protected within a city park called Little Hamica Park, these tiny havens of nature are home to raccoons and the endangered white-crowned pigeon. Near Higgs Beach, the kind volunteers of the Key West Wildlife Center not only take in injured creatures, they watch over Sonny McCoy Indigenous Park. Inside the park, a trail winds beneath a canopy of tropical trees to a remnant of tropical hammock surrounding the only natural freshwater pond on Key West, Audubon Pond. Stock Island is just east of Key West, but boasts a dense tropical forest on a portion of the Key West Botanical Garden. The garden is extensive enough to merit its own article, coming soon!