Excerpts From A Walk Across Florida by Bob Kranich
The bridge over Spanish Harbor channel was one-half mile long and composed of 77 spandrel arches. I took a deep breath and went on across. Every time a car came I would jump up on the curb and hold on for dear life. I walked about six miles to the center of this Big Pine Key. There was a small store at the intersection of U.S. No. 1 and State Road 940. During my discussion with the store owner it seemed that he had hiked a lot in the Smoky Mountains of North Carolina.
I asked him about the history of Big Pine Key and why it seemed to not be as built up as some of the other keys. He said that there had been little development for so many years because there was no public electricity and water, even though Big Pine Key is the second largest key in the total Florida Keys. Also the schools were non-existent until the late 1920’s…..
Just then a local man in the store who I’m sure was listening in on our conversation said that he would drive me the three miles back to the Key Deer Refuge…..
This fellow said his name was Jeff and that he had lived on Big Pine Key all of his life. In fact he used to farm pineapples mostly for his own, friends’ and neighbors’ use. When he had a good crop he would sell some to local stores. He told me that there was also a fresh water lake on Big Pine Key. That is because the Key is made of something called oolitic limestone and fresh water can be found in that kind of formation….
Jeff dropped me off at the refuge. I thanked him and went on into the small ranger office there. I talked to the ranger on duty and asked him about the Key deer and the refuge. He showed me where there was a pen out back which had three Key deer recuperating from auto injuries. He said that these were not hurt badly and were going to be released into the refuge some time soon. I took a photo and watched the little deer for some time.
It is thought that the Key deer are related to the Virginia white-tail deer. They are unique because the Keys is their only habitat. Scientists also speculate that the deer migrated to the Keys across a land bridge from the mainland between 6,000 and 12,000 years ago. This migration would have taken place before the Wisconsin Glacier melted. These deer are less than 3 feet high, and shoulder height is 24 to 28 inches. Does weigh 45 to 65 pounds and bucks 55 to 75 pounds….
On my way back along State Route 940 I saw some Key Deer in the wild grazing along the highway. Not only that, it seemed that both the pine trees and the palms were both very small compared to the trees I had hiked through on the mainland. That together with the very small Key Deer made me feel that I was hiking through the land of Lilliputians….
I finished the three miles back to U.S. Highway No. 1 and headed west towards Key West. In a little more than a mile I crossed the bridge over North Pine Channel and then a half mile later the bridge over South Pine Channel. These bridges were only about one-tenth and one-fifth of a mile long respectively. I was now on Little Torch Key which was only about one-half mile long. Then I crossed two bridges to get to Ramrod Key, and they were one-tenth of a mile each. Ramrod Key was only about a mile long but to get to Summerland Key I had to walk a bridge over Niles Channel, almost a mile long. Actually eight-tenths of a mile!
I said to myself, let’s get it over!
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