Above:  After leaving Bahia Honda State Park, I headed north and visited extreme compass points #14 and #15 on the southern Florida mainland.  I camped that evening at John Pennekamp State Park in Key Largo, which I'd first visited in 1964.  It was nice to be back.

Extreme Compass Points #14 and 15

After spending a blissful week at Sandspur campground and getting my website (mostly) caught up, it was, sadly, time to leave.  I could’ve stayed at Bahia Honda State Park for a year – or more!  But my next night’s scheduled stop was John Pennekamp State Park on Key Largo, a few hours away and near the Florida mainland.  Pennekamp is close to two of my last three extreme points, so I figured I’d visit those points and then head to Pennekamp to camp for the night.

I left wonderful Bahia Honda, my home for most of the past two weeks, in the late morning and drove north on U.S. 1, the Florida Keys Highway.  After passing Pennekamp State Park in Key Largo in the early afternoon, I continued north, then turned onto the Card Sound Road and headed back to the Florida mainland.  Two bridges connect Key Largo (and the rest of the keys) with the Florida mainland:  the U.S. 1 bridge, which I’d always taken during my trips to the keys, and the Card Sound Bridge about five miles away, which I'd never been on.  Time for something new!

I crossed over the Card Sound Bridge and just on the other side I pulled over to the spot that, months earlier, I'd determined was the southeasternmost point of the contiguous United States (my Extreme Point #14 of 16).  I spent a half-hour hour here, taking pictures and doing a short video, then I shot a panorama picture.  You can check out my description here.  Fourteen extreme compass points down and only two left to go!

This was going to be a two-for-one day, though, because the south-southeasternmost point (Point #15) was just a few miles away.  I drove north on Card Sound Road and then turned south on U.S. 1, heading back towards Key Largo, basically making a triangle that afternoon.  I drove south on the Dixie Highway, as it’s called here, and pulled off just north of the short bridge that separates the U.S. mainland from Pelican Key, the first of the Florida Keys.  With cars on noisy U.S. 1 whizzing past me at 60 mph, I spent a half-hour here which, based on research, is the south-southeasternmost point of the contiguous United States.  I took a 360° panorama photo of this site and you can read my description of the site here.

Now, you can debate where these two points, the southeasternmost and south-southeasternmost points of the contiguous United States, are located.  That’s because these sites (and the southernmost point over in the Everglades) are all in southern Florida, which is mostly a marshland.  How do you determine where the marshland ends and the ocean begins?  That’s a fair question.  But based on my methodology and the research I'd done while planning my trip, I determined that these points were the most logical southeasternmost and south-southeasternmost points of the contiguous U.S.

Fifteen points down and only one left to go.  With a smile on my face, I got back in the truck and continued south on busy U.S. 1 late that sunny afternoon and an hour later, I pulled into my evening’s destination at John Pennekamp State Park.  My quest for the 16 extreme compass points was nearly complete.

Fond Memories of Pennekamp

I first visited John Pennekamp State Park in 1964 when I was just a little tyke.  This, the nation's first underwater state park with portions extending out into the Florida Keys, had opened just a year earlier and our family drove down to Florida that summer and camped here for a few days.  I barely remember our visit but I clearly remember wading in the brackish pond here and it's slightly sulferous smell.  In fact, I taught myself how to swim in that pond.  I'd seen other people swim so I figured how hard could it be?  Just hold your breath and move your arms and feet, right?  And sure enough, it worked. 

I've always been pretty independent and solitary, and rather than have lessons or someone teach me something, I prefer figuring out things, and doing things, myself.  I used to cut my own hair when I was in college, having no money, and even once tried filling my own cavities with super glue (well, that one didn't work too well). 

Pennekamp State Park is chock full of good family memories, both from that 1964 visit and from a spring break trip our family took in 1967 when my Dad and brothers went scuba diving here out on the coral reefs, a few miles offshore.  Being little, I stayed in the boat but watched them through the boat's glass bottom window.  The Pennekamp campground looks a lot different now and the pond where I learned to swim is now totally covered in mangrove trees.  In fact, when I showed the rangers at the front desk my pictures of Pennekamp State Park in 1964, they couldn't believe it and didn't recognize the campground at all.  Time does that – to parks and to people.

I walked through the campground and thought about my Dad, who died about 15 years ago.  He was a great man, he had a terrific sense of humor and he never liked pretension or stuffiness.  Back in 1967 as our family drove through Key Largo on our way to Pennekamp, we spotted a restaurant and pulled over, hoping to have dinner there.  My Dad walked in to check it out and the person inside told him, "Sir, you have to wear a tie to eat here."  Remember, this was in the 1960s when things were a bit more formal than today.  Well, my Dad walked out to our station wagon, dug through his luggage, and pulled out a black sock, which he tied around his neck.  Then he walked back inside and with a smile, he said to the fellow, "How's this?"  Not surprisingly, we ate somewhere else that night. 

The Southeasternmost and South-Southeasternmost Points of the U.S.



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