Excerpts From A Walk Across Florida by Bob Kranich
Between Upper and Lower Matecumbe Keys was a causeway. It was the original Florida East Coast Railway fill, and there were three short bridges to allow the tides to flow through at the channels. Not too far out on that causeway was another, smaller causeway that went south about a quarter of a mile to Tea Table Key. Tea Table was just one of many, many keys...
These innumerable Keys were mostly formed by a coral outcrop stopping a mangrove seed. This cigar shaped seed drops off its parent and then floats vertical. Usually its roots are partially grown, are on the bottom, and will float until it is stopped and caught by something sticking out of the water.
Over time sand and sediment will collect and this begins the process of Key building. The red mangrove is the species most prevalent in the Florida Keys. Its roots slow down tidal water and build its own environment. As they grow, their roots and branches provide a protective area for all kinds of water birds. The roots also provide a habitat for many kinds of marine fish and animals. Their leaves are able to process salt water into fresh by an osmotic process. Mangrove plants have many uses such as tea, medicine, wood for boats because it is water resistant, furniture, houses, charcoal, and dyes...
I crossed the three bridges over Tea Table, Indian Key and Lignumvitae channels. I then came to a new establishment at the north end of Lower Matecumbe Key. The sign said:
New Establishment, Toll Gate Inn
A man was standing out front, and as I walked up, he said, “Hey it’s getting late, if you want, you can camp here tonight. Just set up camp out back of the inn and use the showers back there and the dock and swimming area.”
Came to find out he was the new owner. I thanked him, and we talked for a few minutes. He was a very interesting person and said that he was a swimming instructor as well as an innkeeper.
I went around back, set up my camp, took a refreshing swim and then a shower. What a great favor for a tired hiker!
In the morning, as I was picking and packing up, here came the innkeeper and his helper with some coffee for me. Now I didn’t drink coffee but I sipped it and listened to him as he warned me,
“Don’t hike the bridges, it will be best to ride over them.”
I told him that I would take that into consideration and be very careful. That seemed to satisfy him.
I hiked the three and one half miles through Lower Matecumbe Key. I was back on a causeway for about a mile and a half, then a short bridge over Channel No. 2.
After crossing Channel No. 2, I sat down to rest. I watched a couple of birds drying their wings as they too sat on pilings that were at the start of my first long bridge. It was a mile across Channel No. 5. from where I sat on Craig Key. I also could see that it was a very, very long distance.
About the Author: After getting out of the Army Bob Kranich backpacked from the Georgia border to Key West in a 40 day adventure walk across Florida. His recently published book A Walk Across Florida is available from his website or Amazon.com