Sunday Hikes: Spite Highway Trail

Elliot Key is the largest island in Biscayne National Park. Before the park was a park, the wealthy folks that wanted to build mansions on the islands attempted to build a highway traveling up the eight mile long island in order to ruin the nature so it wouldn’t be wanted for a national park (that’s a somewhat loose retelling of the story but pretty much what happened). Anyways they called it Spite Highway and now what’s left of that road is a trail in the National Park. I went camping on Elliot Key last weekend and after setting up camp we decided to do some exploring on the trails. We went to the trailhead and ran into some signs claiming that the trails were closed. We disagreed and went in through the other trailhead closer to the swimming area. Pretty quickly we ran into a large fallen down tree right in the middle of the trail that we had to climb around. Figuring there wouldn’t be too many more we pressed on into the island’s interior. At first I didn’t really notice any bugs but the further we went and the more trees we climbed over, the more mosquitoes I felt surrounding me. We came to a sign in the trail that probably used to say something but was a blank slate now.

About thirty minutes in we came to a crossroads and took the left road thinking it was easy to the islands other side. We hiked and hiked, climbing over, under, and around fallen trees all the while being slowly sucked to death by a million mosquitoes. I never realized how buggy the Florida keys were (I also forgot bug spray like a dummy). There are literal clouds of mosquitoes surrounding us. It sucked (get it, because of the mosquitoes sucking lol). Anyways we felt determined to reach the Atlantic and swim around with some fish so we carried on.

The further we went, the more trees and trash (lots of light bulbs) brought to the island by hurricane Irma. We started off quite determined to reach the islands other shore but after what felt like an eternity in bug hell our Atlantic aspirations dwindled down and were replaced by just wanting to be back at our campsite. We turned around and headed back on the trail and then came to the crossroads once again. Believing that the way back was straight ahead we went that way but after twenty minutes of hiking through buggy muck we realized we were going the wrong way. The island is 8 miles long but only half a mile wide and we had definitely gone more than half a mile. So we went back to the crossroads, looked left, saw the trailhead with the “trail closed” signs, and sighed in relief and annoyance at missing the exit. We hiked out of the woods and straight to our tent to hide from the mosquitoes. The rest of the trip was spent playing poker, relaxing by the bay, and swimming around. Overall the two days on Elliot Key were pretty relaxing and now I know to bring plenty of citronella next time. If you ever go to Biscayne, learn from my mistakes and bring bug spray and don’t go hiking on closed trails! I still had some fun climbing through the forests though. It was really cool to see the plant life growing on the island!

Thanks! – Josh

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