Saturday, February 18, 2017

Florida Keys, Part X:
Marathon, home base for trip to the Keys

As I draw near to the end of this series of posts on my trip to the Florida Keys, I thought I'd devote the penultimate post to Marathon, the Key where Lee Ann and I spent the most time.

In my series introductory post, I teased you a little with two photos from Marathon. There was the one leading off the post showing gulls flocked together on a log in shallow water outside the Lazy Days South restaurant, sailboats in the distant background. And there was the one ending the post, taken on our last night in the Keys, which also turned out to be the fifth and last sunset we witnessed while we were there.

That fifth sunset also turned out to be the most disappointing, because a large clusters of clouds hugging the horizon denied us the chance to see the sun at the critical final moments of the day. That last photo in the introductory post also provided a great perspective of the Seven-Mile Bridge, which I talked about a little to begin the series.

Marathon also was the location of Sombrero Beach, which was featured in the second post of this series.

For this post, I lead off with the only panorama I attempted during the whole trip. This was taken from the bar overlook at the Sunset Grille and Raw Bar overlooking the ocean on the night of the last full day we spent on the Keys. It was about 15 minutes before the sunset drama was supposed to begin (thick clouds lower to the horizon precluded any drama from happening), and you can see the bright sun in the background, the product of exposing the picture for as long as I did during the panorama swing. This was the night when the sun decided to bury itself behind a horizon-hugging layer of clouds, so we didn't actually see the dip below the horizon.

Photo geek stuff: The pictures in this post reflect a mix of images taken with my Canon 6D equipped with a Tamron 28-300mm f/3.5-6.3 Di PZD VC lens and with my iPhone 6s Plus. As I've mentioned in my previous posts from this trip, compositions taken with my 6D were bracketed for three exposures and most were melded into one using Photomatix high-dynamic range (HDR) software in post-processing. I did not process any of the actual sunset shots taken in these posts in HDR; those were all single-frame images.

As always, to view a larger, sharper version of a photo, simply click on the image. To see more of my photography on Marathon, I've devoted a full gallery of pictures taken there at my site at

Above: The front (entrance) to the Hammocks resort. 

The Hammocks' pool and tiki bar (above) from the door of the hotel looking toward the gulf, which is on the other side of the tiki bar. Below is the hot tub adjacent to the pool, looking toward the back of the resort.

Above: Integrating a palm tree into a composition showing the pier that is part of a boat rental business next door to the Hammocks. The boat shop is run by the same people who manage the hotel's tiki bar.   

Some of the landscaping (above) on the hotel grounds (above) and a look out at the ocean (below) from a seat in the tiki bar.

Above: Performer Dan Sullivan at the tiki bar on one of the first nights we spent in Marathon.

Above and below: Throughout our visit at the Hammocks, it was very common to see iguanas or other lizards stroll the grounds and even the pool area. The critters in the above photo had just been inside the hot tub and were walking toward the pool nearby. They stayed at a distance from guests. 

Yes, there is pretty normal commerce in the Keys, including the Kmart shown above, which featured a huge local-culture mural painted on the expanse of its facade. Below, a shot of a fish in the lower right portion of the mural, close to the entrance. The Kmart was not a superstore (i.e., no full grocery). But not to worry; in the same vicinity on the Overseas Highway across from Crane Point Museums and Nature Center -- less than a block apart from each other -- are full-size Winn-Dixie and Publix grocery stores. In the same commercial block are a Walgreens, Wendy's and McDonald's, as well as a bank, a Sandal Factory and a liquor store.

The above photo and the seven immediately below were taken at dusk -- and after sunset (which again was blocked by heavy clouds) the last night we were in Marathon. All were taken from some point between the tiki bar and shoreline of the resort. Palm Island, shown in the first image below, is a small area about 150 yards off the shore from the Hammocks. I never got around to exploring it.  

Above and below: The modest-sized lighthouse within view of our room at the Hammocks in Marathon. The one above shows the interesting colors on the structure after sunset, a phenomenon that last only a few moments. The shot below, a pull back from the tighter frame above, shows the lighthouse in relation to Palm Island to the left. Both shots were taken from near the tiki bar behind the hotel. 

Above and below: Shots from the sunset we watched from the bar overlook at the Sunset Grille and Raw Bar on Jan. 24. As you can see in the image below, the sun dipped behind a think layer of clouds hugging the horizon, preventing us from seeing it actually disappear. 

Above: A nest on a large utility pole outside the Key Fisheries eatery and market on 35th Street in Marathon, where we had lunch on one of our first days in the Keys. 

Above and below: A couple shots from our second visit to Sunset Grille and Raw Bar, on Jan. 26, when clouds again hampered our view of the sunset. The shot below was taken after sunset.  

Next up: Culinary experiences (last in the series)

Previous posts in this series:

Part I: Not bad for 'almost paradise'

Part II: Sombrero Beach strikingly beautiful

Part III: Key West packed with sights and attractions

Part IV: Ernest Hemingway house is worth the tour

Part V: Getting a panoramic view of Key West

Part VI: Sunsets and sailboats at Mallory Square

Part VII: Enjoying a sunset cruise on a catamaran

Part VIII: Beaches, beauty at Bahia Honda State Park

Part IX: Key Largo splendor, despite key setback

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