Monroe County High Point Trip Report

Date: March 3, 2001
Author: Dave Covill

We stopped at mile marker (MM) 87 and turned right on Plantation Key. There is a fence, with a dirt road on either side of it, heading due N away from the highway. There is dense woods to the W of the left-hand road all the way to the ocean. There area signs saying private - keep out. We ignored these, as the houses in question were well down from the road toward the water, and past the high ground. We drove about 100 yards from the highway, and got out and used the hand level. The ground definitely sloped off in all directions, and no traipsing about through the field or woods was necessary. Several residents scrutinized us as they drove in and out, but none stopped. It doesn't matter which road you take, or rather which side of the fence you go on. I found room to turn the rental car around, and we headed out. The ground definitely is natural, and definitely rises a few feet above where the map indicates the 15' contour lies. I feel this ground is 16-18' high here.

We continued to the truck weigh station at MM 86. It is on the S side, and appears to be unused. We checked out the woods beyond it to the S, but it appeared to slope off to the S. The building itself sits on the high ground. It is rather steep-sided on the highway side and, inferring from the map, I would say the ground is over 15' by a couple of feet. I met a ranger at the next stop, at Whindley Key, who was a lifer in the Keys, since the '50's. He said it had looked like that since he could remember, and he didn't think they had to build it up for the RR, as they didn't anywhere else. Each of the Keys in this vicinity has a mound shaped area of 10+ ft, so I don't find it unreasonable that this could be natural. Having said that, it would probably have been altered somewhat by man, as the road comes right by it, and there is a building on it. We then stopped at MM 85 at Whindley Key Coral Reef State Park. This is a very cool place, as the Keys go. We met 2 very nice rangers, Bill Cater and John Henry. John had apparently escorted Fred Lobdell & John Garner on their trip at Lignumvitae last year. They were enthused by the idea of county highpoints, and Bill provided us with a copy of the official trail guidebook for $8.50. We took it around with us as we cruised the paths. They will lend you one, if you don't wish to buy it. Bill thought the ground on the SE and E end was higher than at the ranger station-parking lot, and I tended to agree with him. Hand- levelling is a very local process here, as the trail winds, and is densely forested. I can not be sure, but I would say that the stated value of 18' is highly likely. It is definitely natural ground. The coral was mined out in some spots, but the majority of the park is level coral outcrop, dark gray, with a few inches of soil supporting small trees. Bill told us he would meet us out on Lignumvitae Key in the morning. Neither ranger had heard of 18', or 16.5' on Lignumvitae. Both had worked as 2 of ~7 rangers in the Lower Keys system for 10+ years.

We then drove down to Key West, arriving just before sunset. There are 160 bars in a 6 block stretch of Duval street. Lots of people. Very different crowd than on South Beach in Miami. Instead of ~50% young, attractive Latinas, there was an older crowd, rock music, beers & margaritas - lots of wasted souls. We got up early, and drove to the high spot, at precisely the address supplied by John Garner. 622 Angela St. appears missing, but it is a small blue house set back ~30' from the road. It doesn't appear higher anywhere other than the crest of the street. We walked around a little bit to satisfy ourselves. No one was stirring at all, as it was pre-8:00AM. It is a very small contour of 15' on the map, and the land is gentle, so I would say it crests at about 16-17' max. I noted the previous day that there is a huge landfill on the NE end of the island, not indicated on the map. It is at least 30' high, maybe a lot more. Didn't bother to go check it out. If there once was a landfill under this part of town, it was around the turn of the century. This could be ascertained by research in a library I suspect. It needs to be visited, until someone uncovers evidence of a landfill there.

We then zipped back up the Keys to Lignumvitae, or more properly, Robbies Marina On Lower Matecumbe. We were the only ones to pay the $16 to go across for the 10AM gig to the state park. Deer Key is the 3rd park in the chain of state reserves, and is nearby, but mainly is historical compared with the botany on Lignumvitae and the geology on Whindley. It takes about 5 minutes to get across on their outboard. You can rent a sea kayak for about $20 for a half day, and arrive there yourself, if you like. Wouldn't be any trouble, as it is maybe a mile of open water, protected mostly from the windy side (W). You still would need to pay the rangers $1. We arrived, and Bill told us he had indeed gone to the cohp web site as I had suggested, and had printed out the trip report for Monroe, and had shared it with his boss and peers on Lignumvitae that AM. Anyway, Bill took us in a golf cart to the high spot, then on around the islands W side, and back to the buildings. Neat place. Very flat at the apparent high ground, although it sloped very slightly to all directions. Hard to do much with the hand level there. My guess is 16-17', and all natural. They called the marina to come and fetch us when we were through touring the house. They were very helpful to us, but indicated that, if there were more people on the tour, they probably wouldn't be able to accommodate someone wanting to go out to the HP, as the tour doesn't go there. Feel free to call ahead and see if Bill is working.