Camogie at Croke Park

Sunday evening, August 7, 2022

Now it was time to have some fun. Croke Park is home to the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA). Ireland’s largest sporting organization. Croke Park Stadium, with a capacity of 82,300, is the 3rd largest capacity stadium in Europe, demonstrating the importance of the GAA. GAA athletes are all amateur, similar to US college athletes.

Several sports are played in the GAA. Gaelic Football is also a team sport, played between two teams of 15 players. Players can move the football (round like a soccer ball, but smaller) by carrying, bouncing, kicking or hand-passing the ball. In Gaelic Handball, players hit a ball with a hand or fist against a wall, similar to the US version of handball. Rounders is played with a rounded end bat and small, hard, leather-cased ball. There are similarities to US baseball, but the bat is smaller, and it’s usually swing one-handed.

The fourth Gaelic game is Hurling, an outdoor team game of ancient Gaelic origin, that is played with a wooden stick (hurley) and a small ball (a Sliotar). It is considered the fastest field sport in the world. Imagine watching tennis played across a field that’s twice the size of an American football field.

The women’s version of the game is called by the name of Camogie, based on the Irish word for a hurley, “camán.” Women use a shorter version of the stick, a camóg. The women’s game was established in 1904 in Dublin. Participation by women in sports was frowned upon. Women often hid their hurls (sticks) under their coats to avoid harassment from the public. The uniforms must have been hard to play in at the time, with “skirts to be worn not less than 6 inches from ground.”

Tonight’s game was the final in the All-Ireland championships of Camogie. The teams are made up of young women who play for local community clubs; the best players are chosen to represent their counties in the All-Ireland championships.

Kilkenny was pitted against Cork in this important game. Ireland’s President, Michael D Higgins, was in attendance, and greeted the players before the game. The stands were full of young fans, both boys and girls, wearing their team’s colors, and yelling for their favorite teams and players. I’d estimate the decibel level to be as high as that made by any group of fans at a Minnesota Vikings Game. I was rooting for Cork, since I have ancestors from the area. Alas, Kilkenny edged them out by one point at the end. Exciting!!

Sean toured Croke Park a few days later, and took some more photos of the field, stadium and museum.

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A Full Day of History in Dublin!

Sunday, August 7, 2022

It would take weeks to see all of the historical sites in Dublin. We’re cramming in as much as we can while we are here. The prime goal for the day was EPIC, The Emigration Museum, on the other side of the River Liffey. We took a circuitous route, passing through the grounds of Dublin Castle. The first castle on this site was built in the early 1200’s, after the Norman invasion some years before. It was damaged by fire in 1673, and mostly demolished. The round Record Tower is the only portion of the castle that dates from the original structure. Next to it is the Chapel Royal. The castle served as the seat of English and British power from 1171 – 1922. Now the castle is used for ceremonial events. It also houses a library and museum.

The Dubh Linn (Viking name meaning black pool) Gardens sit just south of the Chapel Royal. The center is marked by stone patterns that represent sea serpents. At each corner of the grounds is a small garden. Three of these gardens have been designated as memorial gardens; one commemorates members of the Gardai, or Irish Police, who have been killed in the line of duty.

We walked along Grafton Street, full of shops designed to draw the tourist, and the Temple Bar area, with pubs designed to do the same.

One corner boasts a statue of Molly Malone, made famous in song:

“In Dublin’s fair city
Where the girls are so pretty
I first set my eyes on sweet Molly Malone
As she wheeled her wheelbarrow
Through streets broad and narrow
Crying, “Cockles and mussels, alive, alive, oh!”

Beginning around 2014, tourists have been told that Dubliners will rub sweet Molly’s breasts for good luck, although doesn’t seem to be any evidence of it. Apparently, it’s just another way to make tourists feel their getting an “Irish” experience. You can see how worn that part of her anatomy is. We opted to take our chances without her blessing.

Dublin’s Custom House, which fronts on the River Liffey, was built between 1781 – 1791, to replace an earlier structure. The current building was severely damaged in 1921, five years after the Easter Rebellion. Earlier, Ireland’s president, Éamon de Valera had called for a public show of force by the IRA, to reinforce the idea that it was an army representing an Irish government. He had suggested two possible targets, one of which was the Customs House, an important branch of the British government. The Customs House was chosen in part due to the fact that it was a physical presence of English control. Attacking it would have an impact.

About 120 IRA Volunteers gathered at the Custom House; many belonged to the 2nd Battalion of the Dublin Brigade under Tom Ennis. Armed only with pistols and a limited amount of ammunition, they stormed the Custom House and overpowered the police guard. Cans of petrol and bales of cotton were spread throughout the building and set on fire. The Custom House held many government documents, including tax records. Their destruction would cause a hardship to the British government.

More IRA volunteers were posted outside the building to defend against the British forces which had quickly arrived. The IRA soon ran out of ammunition, and the battle was over in short order. The British arrested 111 people, about 70-80 who were IRA. A total of 8 people were killed (5 IRA and 3 civilians), and another 16 wounded ( 5 IRA, 4 British and 7 civilians.)

Thousands of records were destroyed during the attack. The fire burned for days, as the Dublin Brigade responsible for putting out the fire, some IRA members themselves, actually helped to spread it.

Between the Custom House and EPIC The Irish Emigration Museum, along the waterfront of the Liffey, is a set of sculptures, representing the potato famine of the 1850’s. “Famine,” by Rowan Gillespie consists of six figures, including a dog, carrying their meager belongings (or starving children) as they search to escape their suffering. The faces are particularly poignant; even now, tears come to my eyes as I look at the photos. Many emigres sailed from this location, looking for new lives in America, Australia, and other parts of the world.

EPIC The Irish Emigration Museum tells the story, not only of those who were trying to escape the potato famine, but of the accomplishments of many of their descendants over the years. The museum is housed in a former warehouse known as the CHQ building (Custom House Quay), which dates to 1820. The museum was designed by the company Event Communications which bills itself as an experience design agency. There are 20 galleries that guide you through the history.

There were many interactive displays to enhance the experience.You can learn of the many contributions of the Irish to our world, in the fields of medicine, education, politics, mathematics and science, dance and music, literature, film, and even crime (Billy the Kid for one.)

At the end, there is even an opportunity to add your family name to the list of those who left Ireland. My great-grandfather came in his teens, after most of his family died in the Potato Famine. He worked on a farm in Iowa, then purchased that from from his employer. Among his descendants are scientists, educators, actors, farmers, entrepreneurs, medical professionals, sports professionals, a university president and a state senator, not bad for a n orphan boy far from home.

The EPIC experience should be a “must” on every visitor’s list.

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National Museum of Ireland and Kilmainham Gaol

Saturday, August 6, 2022

Today, we set off to explore some of the historical sites right here in Dublin. Our lodging is conveniently located within walking distance of most of the attractions we were interested in.

In the early 1100’s, Vikings built a wall around the city to replace earlier earthen fortifications. Remaining segments of the wall can be found around the city, including Lamb Alley, across the street from our lodging. This is one of the oldest parts of the City of Dublin; the oldest house in the city is less than a mile away. Over the centuries, the walls deteriorated despite sporadic attempts to repair them. In the 17th century, there was a move to create open public spaces, resulting in the demolition of much of the wall. Some portions of the wall were incorporated into new buildings, some portions survived because they weren’t in the way of development. Today, what is left is protected by the Dublin City Council. Tours are available that trace the original wall around the City.

We walked a little over a mile to the National Museum of Ireland – Archaeology, which devotes much of its space to Irish archaeology and natural history. Established in 1877, the museum incorporated collections from the Royal Dublin Society and the Royal Irish Academy, which dated back to 1792. Pieces on display include prehistoric gold works, bog bodies, tools, pottery and a long dugout canoe.

In the section devoted to bog bodies, there were several examples from the Iron Age. Bodies discovered in bogs are remarkably well preserved. Whether a body ended up there accidentally or intentionally, it became naturally mummified. The bog’s acidic water, low temperature and lack of oxygen preserved the skin, hair and nails, but the bones sdre usually dissolved by the acidity of the peat.

From medieval times, there are displays of Celtic metalwork, religious artifacts, jewelry, including the beautiful Tara Brooch.

Next, we headed to Kilmainham Gaol, which opened in August, 1796, a modern facility intended to “reform” the prisoners. It was considered to be superior to any other prison in Europe. Each prisoner was to have his/her own cell. However, increased numbers of arrests soon overwhelmed the prison. Several people occupied each cell; men, women and children were imprisoned together, with barely enough room to sleep.

Many famous people have spent time here, including many who were involved in the numerous Irish uprisings. Éamon De Valera, who later became the first President of the Irish Republic, spent time here after the Easter Rebellion, also called the Easter Rising, of 1916. My family has a connection to De Valera; when he visited San Francisco in 1919, my cousin (twice removed) was a member of his honor guard. That’s my small claim to fame.

Kilmainham Gaol was closed in 1924. Demolition was considered, but the cost was prohibitively high. Already in the 1930’s there was interest in preserving the prison and creating a museum. Nothing really happened until 1960, when a workforce of volunteers began cleaning the site. Restoration was completed in 1971, with the site now housing a museum on the history of Irish nationalism.

We passed through the Graffiti Room, with its displays of some of the graffiti from the walls of the cells, mostly dating from 1919 – 1923. We waited in the old courthouse, where so many prisoners received their sentences, sometimes execution by hanging or rifle. From there, we moved to the Gaol itself, passing through some of the older corridors with their tiny cells.

Not all of the cells were so sparse. Charles Stewart Parnell, a Member of Parliament for Cork City, was a proponent of Irish self-governance. He was elected president of the Irish National Land League in 1879, a group that advocated for land reform. Most of the land in Ireland was held by English landlords, many absentee. Irish were generally not allowed to purchase land. Parnell owned a newspaper, the “United Ireland,” which attacked the initial Land Act, considered by many to be ineffective. Parnell was arrested and sent to Kilmainham. Because of his political standing, the Gaol combined a couple of cells to create a larger room, with better lighting, two windows even a fireplace – lucky man.

The more modern part of the jail may be familiar to you. It has been featured in a few movies: “The Italian Job,” “In the Name of the Father,” “The Escapist,” just to name a few.

A number of executions were held in the yard, by hanging or rifle. Ten participants in the Easter Rebellion were among these.

The last time I visited Ireland, I wasn’t very impressed with the food. That has definitely changed. There is much more variety in the foods, and more creativity in the preparation and presentation. Today, we enjoyed an excellent sourdough pizza at The Lab, a restaurant near our lodging. It’s worth checking out.

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Newgrange and Hill of Tara

Friday, August 5, 2022

We were up early to take a day trip to Newgrange and the Hill of Tara. The tour was through Newgrange Tours by Mary Gibbons, very well done. Gibbons is very knowledgeable about history and archaeology, her explanations were thorough, yet easy for the layperson to understand. We had a very nice visit during our lunch break. Like most of the Irish whom we met, she was very happy to talk about and every subject, and freely express her opinions. Hers were mostly well-informed opinions.

The morning turned drizzly, as we approached the Hill of Tara, which was once the ancient seat of power in this country, considered to be the dwelling place of the gods. St. Patrick reigns here now, watching over us as we walked past a church and cemetery, to clamber up the hill.

The Mound of Hostages, built around 2500 BCE, is one of the oldest structures that were built here. This is a passage tomb, and, like other passage tombs, it is aligned to the sun on the Celtic festivals of Samhain and Imbolc. We could not enter the passageway at the Mound of the Hostages, but we could, and did peek through the grate that protects the entrance. The decorated stone on the left of the entrance is called an orthstat (an upright stone or slab set in the ground or as part of a structure.)

Nearby is the King’s Seat, on which stands the Stone of Destiny, the ancient coronation stone. According to myth, it was brought here by an ancient godlike people, the Tuatha Dé Danann, and is said to roar when touched by the rightful king of Tara. A huge temple was discovered directly under the Hill of Tara, by Conor Newman, an archaeology lecturer, who worked on a survey of the find in the early 1990’s. At least 100 new monuments have been discovered, the oldest of which date as far back as 4000 BCE.

In spite of the drizzling rain, the views were great. It is said that you can see most of Ireland from the top of the hill. Maybe on a clear day?

Fortunately, the weather cleared up quickly, and we headed next to Knowth, site of the Great Mound, another passage grave, built over 5,000 years ago. It is similar in size to Newgrange, and is surrounded by several smaller mounds. Knowth was designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1993. The mound is surrounded by 124 kerbstones, most of which have engravings. The site is known for having the largest collection of megalithic art in Europe.

There are several mounds at this site, some that are open at the top. The west entrance is marked by two standing stones, a pillar and a shorter, round stone. It is not known what these stones signify.

The Brú na Bóinne Visitor Centre, a short walk from Newgrange, holds a great deal of information about the heritage sites in the Boyne Valley. Newgrange is about 5,200 years old, older than Stonehenge or the Great Pyramids. This passage tomb/ancient temple measures 279 feet in diameter and 43 fee in height. Like the Mound of Hostages, Newgrange is surrounded by kerbstones, but only a few contain any artwork. At the winter solstice, the sun shines, at dawn, through a roof-box above the entrance, illuminating the entire chamber. A guide took us into the passageway, and, using artificial light, demonstrated the winter solstice illumination.

Brú na Bóinne, or “Bend of the Boyne,” is the site of a 1690 battle between the supporters of the deposed Catholic King James II of England and Ireland, and those of Protestant King William III, who succeeded James. This battle was the turning point in the war, which allowed for the ascendancy of protestantism in Ireland.

After returning to Dublin, we had dinner at The Brazen Head, which bills itself as Dublin’s Oldest Pub, dating back to 1198 AD. While there was a pub or inn at this location since then, the name of The Brazen Head doesn’t appear in documents until 1653. The current structure was built in 1754. The place was very busy, we had to be quick to spy an open table before someone else grabbed it. This is not the traditional Irish pub, rather one that caters to the tourist trade. Still, we were hungry and the food was fine.

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Ireland Till the End of Time, or “Erin Go Bragh”

Thursday, August 4, 2022

Irish speakers would say “Éire go Brách,” The phrase dates back to the Irish Rebellion of 1798, featured on a flag as a rallying cry for Irish independence from Great Britain. It’s a familiar phrase to all of us who celebrate St. Patrick’s Day every March 17.

When my son asked if I’d like to join him in touring Ireland, I jumped at the chance. My husband and I had visited 17 years ago, but there were many things I didn’t get to see at that time: the Cliffs of Moher and Newgrange, for example. Sean did stipulate that he would be going to a couple of sporting events, which I could attend or not. Other than that, he wanted to absorb as much history and culture as he could in our time there.

We boarded our flight from Minneapolis yesterday afternoon, arriving in Dublin around 8am this morning. Since it was too early to check in at our lodging, we stored our bags with Nanny Bag Storage. This service operates in many cities around the world, even in the US. The bags might be stored at a Western Union site, in the back of a shop or restaurant, or a local hotel. It worked very well for us, allowing us to begin touring without being encumbered by luggage.

Dublin was founded on the banks of the River Liffey, by Vikings, in 841 AD. The new settlement was called Dubh Linn, which means black pool. Despite ongoing wars between the Irish and the Vikings, an invasion by Scots, outbreaks of plague, the little town held its own, growing to about 600,000 inhabitants by 1700. Numbers declined during the Potato Famine of the mid-1800’s, and have not fully recovered. The population today is about 544,000.

First Impressions:

One of our first stops was at Merrion Square Park, near the city center of Dublin. Oscar Wilde, WB Yeats, George Russell and Daniel O’Connell all lived in Merrion Square at one time. There is an interesting memorial to Oscar Wilde, with a sculpture of him lolling on a large boulder, and a few pillars with sayings attributed to the writer.

One of our priorities was to see the Book of Kells at Trinity College. The tours were selling out quickly, but a kindly tour guide managed finagle a way to get us both in at the same time, without having to wait several hours. This was one of many examples of the helpfulness we experienced on the trip. First, we toured the grounds of Trinity College, learned about many of its famous students – Oscar Wilde, Bram Stoker, Jonathan Swift and Samuel Beckett, to name just a few. For “Game of Thrones” fans, Jack Gleeson (Joffrey Baratheon) is also a graduate of Trinity. A class was graduating today. Perhaps some of them will achieve similar notoriety.

We popped into the Geology Museum building, where there is a skeleton of the Giant Irish Deer is on display. It looks much like our elk, but is actually the largest deer species that ever existed, standing about 7 feet tall, with antlers spanning up to 12 feet, much bigger than modern elk. These giant deer roamed throughout much of Europe over 10,000 years ago.

Next, we visited the Old Library Building, which houses the Book of Kells. Much of the area is off limits to cameras, so protect the manuscripts. It isn’t know exactly when or where the book was created, somewhere in Ireland, Scotland or England, probably during the time of St. Columba in the 7th century. The book consists of the four gospels of the Christian Bible. Whether or not it was created at the Abbey of Kells, in County Meath, it survived several Viking attacks, and was removed to Trinity College in 1661.

Built in 1712, the Old Library Building is still used by students at Trinity College. The main building, The Long Room, 213 feet long, houses 200,000 of the library’s oldest books. The Library is entitled to receive a copy of all works published in the Republic of Ireland, as well as a copy on request of all works published in the United Kingdom. To accommodate all of these books, the roof was raised in 1860, and an upper chamber added. Besides the books, several busts are on display, as is the Trinity College Harp, most likely made sometime in the 15th century. This harp is the national symbol of Ireland.

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Immersed in Van Gogh

Saturday, March 19, 2022

The Immersive Van Gogh Exhibit has been playing in Minneapolis for a few weeks, and will continue into April. It was created and is presented by Lighthouse Immersive. This company is based in Toronto, Ontario, and has venues in several locations. It is an experiential entertainment multi-plex, designed to cultivate community and creativity through large-scale events and exhibitions of all art forms. It was certainly successful with this experience.

A few displays in the lobby greeted us before entering the experience. The first photo highlights the only painting that Van Gogh is known to have sold during his lifetime, for the equivalent of $2,000 in today’s dollars. The most recent sale of one of his paintings went for $90 million in 1990, equal to double that today. The middle photo is a painting of the local Stone Arch Bridge on a starry night. The last speaks to the style of “daubing,” a style favored by the artist, that uses undiluted paint spread thickly, then mixed in with other colors.

I read the Pre-Show Audio Guide, which took me through his short story. He began painting at the age of 27, but was prolific during the remaining 10 years of his life, painting over 2,000 works of art. We were directed into a large room where pictures, paintings, impressions were flowing across the walls and even the floor, accompanied by music that enhanced the experience. The show lasted only about 35 minutes, but we stayed through it 3 times! I say that my heart swelled, I can’t think of any better way to describe what I was feeling.

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Biscayne Bay

Sunday, February 27, 2022

Our last day in Florida! It’s especially hard to go home, where the temperature hovers near zero. The weather here has been beautiful, in the 80s with mostly clear skies. These are the times when we ask ourselves yet again “Why do we live in Minnesota?”

We like to visit National Parks whenever they are close to our travel routes. Biscayne National Park is just south of Miami, and covers 300 square miles, most of which is open water. Established as a National Monument in 1968, it attained National Park status in 1980. The park contains several Keys, of which Elliott Key is the largest in the park, and northernmost of all of the Florida Keys. It also contains the northernmost part of the Florida Reef, the only living barrier coral reef in the continental United States, and the third largest in the world.

Biscayne National Park is home to hundreds of species of fish, as well as manatees, sea turtles, many species of birds, butterflies and both the American Crocodile and the American Alligator. In fact, Florida is the only place where both crocodiles and alligators live.

Since we had not planned ahead to visit the park, we were too late to take any of the boat rides into the bay itself. The shore was not accessible near the park headquarters, and the rangers suggested we drive to the northern edge of the park, where we could actually walk out to the shore. It was hard to believe we were so close to Miami

Tomorrow, we head back to Minnesota. Sigh!

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Leaving Key West

Saturday, February 26, 2022

It turned out that this was not a good day to drive from Key West to Key Largo. Normally, this drive takes about 1.5 hours, and we had plenty of time to take a boat ride that was scheduled for 4:00 in Key Largo.

We stopped in Marathon to revisit a restaurant we had discovered 20 years ago. The Stuffed Pig serves breakfast and lunch, and the food is still excellent. We expected it to be packed, but our wait was short, and well worth it. We were visited by a couple of critters, a curly-tailed lizard and an iguana, but no chickens, for a change.

By the way, there are chickens everywhere in Key West, and they are protected. They were brought to the area hundreds of years ago, for food and cockfighting. Cockfighting was outlawed in 1986 in Florida, and most of the chickens were left to fend for themselves, which they’ve done quite well. A few years ago, the city hired a Chicken Catcher to capture and relocate the chickens, but that upset many of the locals, so he quit and was never replaced. You can hear them crowing at all hours of the day and night, and they do come begging for food at the outdoor cafes. It is illegal to feed them, though, so they must subsist on what accidentally falls to the ground.

Shortly after leaving The Stuffed Pig, we hit a traffic slowdown. After about an hour, during which we advanced less than 10 miles, Mark asked a passerby what was going on. It was a huge Nautical Flea Market, held on Islamorada this weekend. The passerby told us: “You picked the wrong weekend to try to go anywhere!” So true, it took 4 hours to drive 40 miles, as we watched the fuel gauge drop, and felt our bladders fill up. There were over 350 vendors, 13 food trucks, and 18,000 attendees over the two days. No wonder, traffic was at a standstill!

This reminded us of a story that we heard about when Key West “seceded” from the union in 1982, and named themselves The Conch Republic, all because of traffic congestion. Residents were protesting a US Border Patrol roadblock and checkpoint set up that year before entering the Keys. Vehicles were stopped and searched for narcotics and illegal immigrants, tying up traffic in and out of the Keys. The city tried to get the roadblock removed by legal means, and when that didn’t work, they used the argument that since they were being treated like a foreign nation, they might as well become one. The Mayor declared war against the United States, then immediately surrendered and applied for one billion dollars in foreign aid – all done facetiously, of course.

The roadblock was removed soon thereafter. Key West celebrates their “Independence” each year in April, with parades and activities like Royal Family elections, Raising the Colors, parades and more. When you fly into the Key West airport, you will be welcomed to The Conch Republic.

We missed our 4:00 boat ride, arriving at Key Largo 30 minutes after it was due to depart. It would have been on the “African Queen,” the boat used in the movie of the same name. Ownership of the boat has changed hands many times, and is now owned and operated by a local hotel. Oh well!

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Tropical Paradise

Friday, February 25, 2022

Every year at this time, the Key West Garden Club hosts a garden tour ”A Stroll Through the Meadows” featured seven gardens in the Old Town area. Each provided a lush escape from the surrounding activities. There were presentations about growing edibles, caring for orchids, and landscape design.

We envy our southern neighbors who live in a climate that supports such tropical gardens. There are so many orchids, and that’s true throughout the keys. Hibiscus and plumeria are abundant as well.

Residents up and down Olivia Street are working to make their gardens butterfly friendly. We did see several monarch butterflies as well as monarch caterpillars.

After touring the gardens, we visited the Key West Aquarium and the Key West Historic Memorial Sculpture Garden. The aquarium is not very large, but does a good job of showcasing the marine life here.

The sculpture garden has busts of many of the people who played roles in Key West history, with the largest sculpture being “The Wreckers,” by James Mastin of Miami. This sculpture features “wreckers” salvaging cargo and saving lives from a shipwreck on the reef. At one time, Key West residents were among the richest in the country, with their fortunes coming from salvage. Many ships ran aground on the reef that runs along the coastline. The first person to reach the wreck was named the ”wreck master,” and he would organize other salvagers to do the work. The salvaged cargo was auctioned off on shore, and a judge determined how the proceeds were distributed. The wreck master usually receive 25 percent. ”Wrecking” was a very lucrative business for the residents of Key West until ship captains learned how to avoid the reef.

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Key Deer, Blimps and Wine

Thursday, February 24, 2022

Big Pine Key is known for its Key Deer, a subspecies of the white-tailed deer, that lives only in the Keys. Centuries ago, they migrated to the Florida Keys from the mainland during the most recent glacial period, at least 11,000 years ago. They were a food source for native tribes, sailors and settlers in the Keys. Hunting them was banned in 1939, but they nearly became extinct. The National Key Deer Refuge was established in 1957, when the population plummeted to about 25. Currently, the population is estimated to be between 700 – 800.

Most of the Key Deer are on Big Pine Key, which, unlike the other Keys, has a good natural source of fresh water. Generally, fresh water is brought by pipeline for the residents and visitors. Not all of the deer live within the refuge, they are common in the residential areas as well, and are generally unafraid of humans. The prime human threat comes from car traffic – up to 100 per year are killed by car.

These small deer stand about 28 – 32 inches in height, and weight around 80 pounds. White-tailed deer in Minnesota can be almost 48 inches in height, and weigh up to 150 pounds. To us, they look only a little bigger than fauns.

We walked several paths in the refuge, but had no luck spotting any deer. In hot weather, they prefer to stay in the shade, and venture out in the evening. We walked to the Blue Hole, which is an abandoned limestone quarry. There is plenty of evidence that the deer do come here to drink. Although there were no deer in sight, we did spot an alligator, some birds and butterflies.

Somewhat disappointed, we left the refuge to head back to Key West. Just before we reached the highway, Mark spotted a deer on the side of the road. We pulled over and watched it for a few minutes while it watched us. Mission accomplished!!

There is a white blimp that floats over Cudjoe Key. Called ”Fat Albert” by the locals, it has been in place for 33 years, was put there as part of a low-level surveillance system by the US Army. In 2013, it came under the management of US Customs and Border Protection, which uses it to keep an eye on Cuba, the Florida Straits and the Gulf of Mexico. We drove down Blimp Road, hoping to get closer to the blimp, but the site is closed to the public. Oh well!

This evening, we took a sunset sail, actually a wine-tasting sail, with Danger Charters, that included the sunset over Key West. We sampled eight different wines, and needless to say, the evening was very mellow. Due to clouds, we didn’t actually see the sun set, but the sky was beautiful anyway.

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