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The sky over Key West was still dark when I boarded the seaplane, the air moist and filled with anticipation. The de Havilland Otter hummed to life as the morning light touched the horizon, lifting us to the skies and towards Dry Tortugas National Park. The journey across the sea was calm, the sun climbing higher as we approached our destination.
As we landed on the shimmering waters, I was struck by the beauty of the islands. They seemed to rise from the sea, untouched by time. I disembarked, eager to explore the keys and their rich history. The air was thick with the calls of sooty terns, a mass migration painting the sky with wings.
My focus turned to the Garden Key Lighthouse, a sentinel standing guard over Fort Jefferson. I entered the fort, the stone walls whispering tales of times long past. The worn spiral staircase led me to the top of the lighthouse, built in 1825, now a relic of a bygone era.
Stepping out onto the platform, I surveyed the expanse before me. The Loggerhead Key Lighthouse, a towering beacon completed in 1858, flashed in the distance, warning mariners of the treacherous shallows. The contrast between old and new, between the history of Ponce de Leon and the present, fueled my desire to preserve the moment.
I set up my camera, the weight of the tripod grounding me, the click of the shutter a heartbeat echoing through the stillness. I worked methodically, each shot another verse in the story unfolding before me. The morning sun painted the scene in hues of gold and amber, the lighthouse a steadfast reminder of the fortitude of those who came before.
As I descended the staircase, the sun climbed higher, the cries of the terns a chorus in the wind. I continued my exploration, the history of the place unfolding with each step. The lighthouse, a silent witness to the passage of time, remained in my thoughts as I returned to the seaplane, my journey immortalized in the images I had captured.
The hum of the engine filled the air as we lifted from the water, the islands becoming smaller in the distance. The memory of the Garden Key Lighthouse, its resolute presence amidst the timeless wilderness of Dry Tortugas, remained etched in my mind, a testament to the enduring beauty of our national parks.
Established in 1992, today you can explore a 19th Century Fort and snorkel crystal clear water with incredible marine life in this 100-square mile park – mostly open water with seven small islands. Accessible only by boat or seaplane, Dry Tortugas National Park is home to the magnificent Fort Jefferson, picturesque blue waters, superlative coral reefs and marine life, and the vast assortment of bird life that frequent the area.
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