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Extreme southern part of state, Monroe County. Closest town: Islamorada. Travel south on U.S. 1 from Miami toward Key West. After you cross the Lignumvitae bridge onto Lower Matecumbe Key, make the first right (mile marker 77.5). Turn to the right again and you will see signs for Robbie’s Marina. Kayak rentals or boat transportation can be arranged there (305-664-4878 or 305-664-9814).
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The park is open Thursday to Monday, 8:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. Tours are given at 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. It is suggested that you call ahead (305-664-2540).
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Earlier this year, I attended a wedding where I found myself sitting next to someone’s uncle. The conversation turned to forests, as it often does, and “uncle” admitted that he liked the woods, but to him they just looked green he couldn’t tell one tree from another. I knew exactly how he felt when I walked into that forest on Lignumvitae Key.
Nothing looked familiar. I had been to old-growth forests in twenty-three eastern states during the past few years, and I started thinking I knew some things about eastern old growth, but this Florida island changed all that. I was humbled. Although there were sixty different tree species on the island, the only one I recognized was the introduced coconut palm. With the exception of the palm trees, it seemed that all the leaves were shiny, green ovals. How was I going to tell one tree species from another? I just stood in the diminutive forest and stared.
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A few days before I left on my trip, a colleague, who had been to the Key before, cautioned me to beware the poisonwood trees. He had developed a very bad rash from the trees after his visit. I had never heard of poisonwood before, except in the title of the novel by Barbara Kingsolver, and I had no idea what the thing I should beware of looked like.
At the marina, where I arranged for my kayak rental, they warned that I shouldn’t go over to the island if it was raining. “Why not?” I asked. “I have rain gear.”
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On the morning of my departure I was happy to see a clear blue sky. Floating on the shallow sea, in my little red kayak, I felt sandwiched between the abundant life above and below. Overhead a frigate bird circled and looked down on me, while a few inches beneath the boat a ray foraged in the eelgrass. I paddled along the island’s edge until I saw the small kayak landing for the park.
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Florida Cities, Counties & Area Codes
|Vero Beach||Indian River||772|
|Fort Walton Beach||Okaloosa||850|
|Boca Raton||Palm Beach||561|
|Lake Worth||Palm Beach||561|
|Delray Beach||Palm Beach||561|
|West Palm Beach||Palm Beach||561|
|Boynton Beach||Palm Beach||561|
|New Port Richey||Pasco||727|
|Saint Augustine||Saint Johns||904|
|Port Saint Lucie||Saint Lucie||772|
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