Monroe County High Point Trip Report

Date: February 5, 2000
Author: John Garner

I was in South Florida this past weekend, and picked up Monroe County with Fred Lobdell. I must say highpointing in the Florida Keys is certainly different!

There are five areas at 15 feet plus, and we hit all five. One is on Key West, three are around Plantation Key (in the upper middle Keys), and one is on a Key accessible only by boat, and only through the state Park Service. The trip report below describes the routes.

Starting in Miami, take the Florida Turnpike south to Florida City, and pick up US 1. South of there, you'll find mile markers all the way to Key West, which is at mile 0. The north side of the road is known as the "bay" side, and the south is the "ocean" side.

The first area is on Plantation Key. Just past mile marker (MM) 87, watch for a road into a private subdivision on the right (bay) side. Pull in here. There is a sign announcing private property, but there is no gate. There is a fence running perpendicular to US 1. The highest area is along this fence, about 200 yards from US 1. The area appeared to be natural, not manmade.

The second area is just farther down US 1, at MM 86. There is a truck weigh station on the ocean side, immediately beside the road. It is built up, and clearly manmade. We hit it anyway.

The next area is on Windley Key, fairly close to Plantation Key. There is a high area immediately to the right (bay) side. I'm sorry, but I can't find the exact MM info. It's somewhere around MM 83 or so. We disagreed over whether this one was natural or artificial. The HP is atop basically a wall of coral. Fred thought the coral outcrop was natural, and I thought that it may have been placed there years ago when the train through the Keys was built. (All right, who are you going to believe, me or a geology professor?).

The fourth area is on Lignumvitae Key, which is a mile or two off the road. The island is off limits, except for State Park tours. You have to rent a boat or get a ride over. Robbie's is the place to go, located at mile marker 77.5. It's just behind the Hungry Tarpon restaurant. You can get a place on a launch that goes back and forth, or you can rent a boat from them and go yourself. I had really wanted to rent the boat, but it was very windy, and I'm about as good a sailor as I am a technical climber, so we went with the tour.

The group goes to the park HQ by the dock, and you get an interesting (if a bit long) tour and discussion of the plant life on the island, which the park people are preserving as a natural Key. The park people took us to a spot they said was the highest on the island, supposedly 16 feet above sea level. The area they took us to matches up fairly well with the topo. Fred and I wandered around a bit, then invoked the Rule, and called it good.

Back on US 1, the last area is all the way at the end of the road in Key West. The highpoint is at 622 Angela Street. To get there, turn right on Simonton Street a few blocks before the end of US 1. Angela Street is another few blocks up. The HP is in the driveway of a duplex. Presto, you've now done the lowest full-fledged county in the US, as well as the southeastern-most.

A few notes: One, Lignumvitae Key is closed Tuesday and Wednesday. If you are going to go, I recommend calling the park ahead of time, and making sure that there are several rangers about when you're there. We couldn't, but you may be able to get them to show the HP without taking the full 2 (or more) hour tour. Just keep in mind that if you do, you'll have to rent a boat ($115 or so), since the tour boat won't come back until the whole tour group returns.

I must say that highpointing in south Florida was an experience. The people there apparently mostly learned friendliness and manners from New Yorkers, and it shows. Also, if you don't like smoke in your restaurant, go elsewhere. Many places have no non-smoking areas. Key West is a whole different thing altogether. A VERY alternative place, full of wackos, and tourists driving little go-carts. While we were scouting the highpoint, an old man walked by yelling at us and every one else he passed. Later, another man walking down the sidewalk said hello to a couple walking down the street, calling them by name. Unfortunately, it wasn't the right name, and they had never seen him before. Also, at the highpoint, we met a very elderly gay gentlemen who was very interested in our activities. He lives across the apartment that has the HP.

North Pal or Mt Lemmon it's not, but this is still a worthwhile place to go. The weather was nice, and we had a convertible, although it was very humorous to listen to the people at the boat place complaining about the cold (it was about 65 degrees).