Laden with cameras we struggled down US 1 a block and veered off on the Gulf side into what looked like a Mangrove swamp but turned out to be the Crane Point Museum and Nature Centre. Run mostly by volunteers the Centre's 64 acres of prime Keys real estate has been kept from the developers and preserved as a piece of Keys history and a nature reserve.
Built on two pieces of land owned by Mr. Adderly (a hard-working charcoal maker and sponge diver who had his home and a virtual town here at the beginning of the 20th Century) and Mr. and Mrs. Crane (a rich couple who built a Frank-Loyd-Wright-inspired house here in the 1950s), the area is teeming with native Keys flora and fauna. An electric tram takes you on a guided 1 1/2 hour tour or you can stroll the trails yourself. The knowledgeable guide pointed out Black Mangroves (they secrete excess salt on the backs of their leaves and have "snorkel" roots that rise above the sea to bring down air), Red Mangroves (they sequester excess salt in selected sacrificial leaves which turn yellow and die and have arching roots), wild pomegranates (fibrous and not very edible), Tourist Trees, Autograph Trees and numerous palms.
The Centre includes a wild bird hospital where injured pelicans, loons, cormorants, hawks and even an owl (no cranes) are being rehabilitated, a museum of the Keys and a small theatre showing a film of the history of the Centre.
By the time the tour was over, it was a toasty 30C and yours truly was ready for a cold one.
Tourist Tree, it's skin turns red and peels
Autograph Tree's leaves will keep marks
Needlefish in nearby inlet
Enormous Golden Orb spider
Wild Pomegranate tree