There is nothing like getting away from the day to day and adventuring into a place you've never been before. For me it's energizing and good for the soul. And of course like any photographer you can't leave home without a camera to capture the events and sights along the way. In September we ventured to the far south - all the way down to Key West - the southern most part of the US. September you say? Isn't it hot in September? Yes! Way too hot!
Welcome to Key West
Key West is an island at the southern tip of the Florida Keys. It's original Spanish name was Cayo Hueso, or Bone Island. The tour guides say that when English speaking people came to the island the pronunciation sounded like Key West and thus over time it eventually became known as Key West. The atmosphere on the island is "festive". It reminded me of a tropical version of New Orleans with many places to have a good beer and party the night way. More interested in the sights than the drinks we wandered to see what there was to see.
Sailing the Roadways on a Land Yacht Been There Got the Sticker
Markets Abound Mile 0
Wild birds are protected in Key West so there are wild Chickens everywhere.
Clucking the day away
Yes Key West is the southern-most point of the continental US. There is even a marker that says so. It is a hot spot for tourist to pose with their cameras. From here it is a 90 mile swim to Cuba.
90 miles to cuba SOUTHERN MOST POINT - Say Cheese
The highlight of every evening is sunset at Mallory Square. Unfortunately on the 2 nights we went 1 rained right at sunset; or I should say POURED right at sunset and the other was so cloudy there wasn't much to see. But the clouds in the run up the rain were spectacular!
Running from the Rain
No self respecting animal photographer could go to Key West and not see the Cat Man. He puts on a show every night at sunset at Mallory Square. He is a real Showman with a capitol S. He has 5 or 6 trained domestic cats which walk a pole, jump to pedestals and leap through a flaming hoop on command - or some of his commands. Getting a domestic house cat to do any of those things on command is a feat but jumping through fire? Wow.
Flames of death
Walking the pole Cat man
We may not have been lucky at Mallory Square but we took a sunset cruise that started with a stop to see a local pod of dolphins. I'm not sure how many there were but it looked like quite a few. They were just kind of cruising along - one even came right up to the boat.
After that a dip in the ocean. The wind was too high to go to the reef so they took us to a protected area off a small island. There weren't as many fish there but there was some coral starting to grow so there were some fish. There was a school of yellow and blue fish that decided I might taste good. At one point they swarmed around me and start pecking at me. A little frightening at first. Jaye kept running into jellyfish - fortunately she was able to get out of the way without being stung.
Then the sun set.
Sunset off the keys
Having fun after a swim
Key West was home to Ernest Hemingway in the 1930s. The house is now a museum and home to about 50 cats. The cats are decedents of Hemingway's polydactyl kitties. Many exhibit the polydactyl trait and have 6 toes on their front paws and 5 on the back. The house and history are interesting but the cats were the best.
Sleeping in the shade
5 toes on the back Hanging out
Ok if you want to go even further out you can take a day trip to the Dry Tortugas. The Tortugas are about 67 miles west of Key West. Once a fort and prison the Tortugas are now a National Park. A great place to snorkel and scuba most of the park is actually under water. On the main island stands Fort Jefferson. The fort was intended to protect the mainland from attack by sea. After the civil war it became a prison and housed Dr Samuel Mudd, the doctor who treated John Wilkes Booth after assassinating President Lincoln. Difficult to supply, as everything including fresh water had to be shipped in, it was abandoned and then eventually established as a National Park. A daily ferry goes out to visit the island.
Fort Jackson as a prison - Sign of the times Fort Jackson Long Hall
Snorkeling along the moat wall Mudd's cell
The best part of the day was practicing action shots with my new zoom lens. Off one of the seawalls there was an old set of pilings. The sea birds hang out there. I sat for about an hour watching and photographing the pelicans as they fished for lunch. One bird would take off, do a circle, hover and then dive straight down. When he got his catch the seagulls would land on his head and try to steal it. The day was terribly overcast and grey.
Diving for lunch Feathered thief Splash down
All in all it was a good week.
To see these and more photos from the trip click here.