Excerpts From A Walk Across Florida
I had arrived at the Bahia Honda Park. I was thinking about a nice swim, shower, meal, and camp. It wasn’t to be, the park ranger told me. They were closed. Not to be discouraged, I crossed the road. On the other side were roadside picnic tables, with concrete roofs and an entire beautiful sand and windswept beach….all to myself! Not only that, I had the fantastic and awesome view of the Bahia Honda railroad bridge heading across to the Spanish Harbor Key with U. S. Highway No. 1 hanging precariously on top.
This is the life! I placed my pack down next to one of the picnic tables.
That night I put my plastic tarp down right on the sand of the beach and slept on top of my sleeping bag. There was a delightful wind all night and no mosquitoes. In the morning I walked along the newly washed beach. There were shells of all colors, a Portuguese-man-of-war lying in the damp sand, and a mystery: Footprints in the sand. I never did see or hear anyone. I went for a great swim and as luck would have it, I found a shower stand at one end of the parking area. A little breakfast and I was off back to the road- side in front of the huge bridge. As I waiting for a car to take me over my last hitch-hike, I pondered my previous days total mileage, 22 miles hiking, plus 16 additional miles that were hitchhiking.
This Bahia Honda Bridge over Bahia Honda Channel is the really big one, as far as height is concerned. The water here is the deepest, 24 to 35 feet. The piers were built the same way and looked similar to the seven-mile bridge piers, but they were larger and taller. By using Pratt and Parker Camelback trusses the engineers were able to reduce the number of concrete pilings from 64 to 34. This bridge was one of the last items to be completed in 1912, just in time for Flagler to ride his railroad from Miami to Key West. After the 1935 hurricane, the highway was completed in 1938. In the case of the Bahia Honda Bridge, it was too much trouble to widen the actual trusses so they built the highway on top of them. As a tribute to Flagler’s engineering team and workers, not one of the F.E.C. Railway bridges was ever damaged by hurricanes.
Back in the 1900’s this railroad was a tremendous engineering feat built by steam engines, intensive man-labor and unsophisticated tools by today’s standards. In fact it was even called the 8th wonder of the world. Today the bridges and road have been replaced by projects that dwarf the original railroad and later highway.
A Department of Environment Protections Office of Greenways and Trails is working together with the Florida Department of Transportation and Monroe County to build a 106 mile Hiker-Biker trail from Key Largo to Key West. They are hoping to use the old bridges and roads where possible. People will be able to travel the route that I did with ease; however, there will be a much greater population surrounding them.
I put my thumb out and immediately a car slowed down and stopped. It was an elderly man and his wife in a station wagon. They were going to Key West to spend a couple of days. I told them what I was doing in the brief time I had, only one mile. We went out on that narrow bridge built on the top of the railroad bridge trusses. I figured that we were approximately 40 feet above the water, and then we went up again another 10 feet at the longest truss which was in the middle of the crossing. It may not seem a lot at today’s standards but on that narrow road it was impressive. They dropped me off as soon as we got across. I thanked them and they continued on.
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