Bella Vida by Letty


Dagny Johnson Key Largo Hammock Botanical State Park

 Dagny Johnson Key Largo Hammock Botanical State Park

This is the first post of a new Florida travel series titled: Exploring the Florida Keys

The Florida Keys are a series of connected islands on Florida’s southern tip.  Some are smaller than others and there is only a two lane road taking visitors in and out of the keys.  Today’s trip is at the very top of the keys.  A wonderful trip if you don’t feel like driving all the way down to Key West.  This road trip stop is in Key Largo, Florida.

Instead of taking US1 straight down into the Keys we made a left onto Card Sound Road.  This is a small scenic two lane road that cuts through Dagny Johnson Key Largo Hammock Botanical State Park.  There are miles and miles of preserved West Indian tropical hardwood hammock.  You will see small boats on waterways and people fishing off short tiny bridges.  Somewhere along the road you will pass Crocodile Lake National Wildlife Refuge.  Yes, there are gators everywhere so be aware.

Dagny Johnson Key Largo Hammock Botanical State Park

Once you reach the park there are a few parking spaces at the front.  There is a cemented trail as well as many other trails throughout the park.  There were families riding bikes around the looping trail on the day I visited.  A great way to exercise while having fun.

The park has over six miles of nature trails which is perfect for birdwatchers and photographers.  There are many shaded areas to walk and rest.  There is also a very cute picnic area with tables.  A great spot to fuel up which can even be a lovely backdrop to have a romantic meal.

Dagny Johnson Key Largo Hammock Botanical State Park

This was the first place I ever participated in Geo Caching thanks to the friendly park ranger who explained what it was.  Geocaching is a real world, outdoor treasure hunting game using GPS enabled devices or an app you can download to your phone. Participants navigate to a specific set of GPS coordinates and then attempt to find the geocache (container) hidden at that location.  When you find the treasure, you sign the log.  Make sure to include whatever you’ve taken and what you have left behind.  Then share with others.  It was a lot of fun to hunt for treasure.

This park is a great way to observe the wildlife.  During April and October migratory birds are funneled into the Keys by the landform. Some tropical species residents you might see are: the white-crowned pigeon, the mangrove cuckoo and black-whiskered vireo. Tropical vagrants such as the thick-billed vireo and La Sagra’s flycatcher are frequently reported in the park.
Dagny Johnson Key Largo Hammock Botanical State Park
Butterfly-watching has rapidly grown in popularity since the mid-1990s; the park features an incredible diversity of species, including the Schaus’ swallowtail, silver-banded hairstreak, and both hammock and mangrove skippers. Rare tree snails feed on the lichens and bark of the tropical trees, and can be easily observed by park visitors.

Have you been Geocaching before?  Have you visited Key Largo?  Do you have a tip for me?

Let me know in the comments.

DJKL Mohawk Bird

This handsome guy has a mohawk.

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One of the Most Beautiful Places in Florida Rainbow Springs State Park

Rainbow Springs Florida State  Park

Florida has so many incredibly beautiful places to see.  It’s a treat to wander about the grand state in search of new surprises.  This time I decided to take a road trip to the north western area just under the panhandle.  We spent days zigzagging through hilly back roads where all you saw were cows, horses and farms.  You will find many wonderful state parks throughout that area.

Rainbow Springs Florida State  Park

Visiting Rainbow River State Park is a treat for the eyes.  Upon entering you will see the most beautiful crystal clear waters in shades ranging from jade to baby blue.  Crystalline clear blue waters flow from the springs which you can see bubbling in the white sand.

Rainbow Springs Florida State  Park

Yes you can swim here however because there are alligators you must remain in the designated area.  The water is clean, clear and very cold this time of year.  They say you get used to it once you jump in.  Go for it.

Rainbow Springs is the perfect place for canoeing and kayaking which are available for rent.  There are also many beautiful trails that will take you through gardens and more than one waterfall.  There are many places to picnic and camp.

Rainbow Springs Florida State  Park

Archaeological evidence shows these springs were used by people dating back 10,000 years ago.  It was an important place for clean water, food and fishing as well as transportation.  The springs are timeless and a wonderful way to spend the day.    There are plenty of picnic areas and pavillions for family gatherings.  The gorgeous scenic setting is great for spending romantic quality time.   Have you been?


“I felt my lungs inflate with the onrush of scenery—air, mountains, trees, people. I thought, “This is what it is to be happy.”  Sylvia Plath

“In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.”  Margaret Atwood

“I like this place and could willingly waste my time in it.” William Shakespeare

“Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.” Albert Einstein

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Secret Places: A Hidden Treasure in Downtown Miami, Florida

Alice C. Wainwright park Miami Florida

There’s nothing more exciting than learning something new and uncovering a well protected secret.  On my latest road trip I did just that.  Just barely south of Miami’s core banking and investment center, the Brickell financial district, where shiny new expensive glass and steel towers sprout up almost daily in attempt to outdo one another lies a slither of green protected public property with the most spectacular views of the Bay.  Its location, at the very north end of Miami’s oldest modern continuously inhabited neighborhood known for its famous residences, Coconut Grove.  Hidden among ancient native hardwood hammock trees and dusty historical mansions in an out of the way cul-de-sac you will find a rare waterfront park, the Alice C. Wainwright Park.

If you’re lucky enough to find parking which is almost nonexistent on this small street and not put off by the most ugly park gate, you are in for a treat.  Upon entering the park you’ll find basketball courts and renovated playground areas surrounded by plenty of shaded seating.  As you continue through this narrow space toward the bay there’s a limestone outcrop.  Climbing down will lead you to a beautiful large green open space perfect for picnicking or kite flying right with the most amazing views of the bay.  If you look to your right you can see Vizcaya, James Deering’s winter home in the 1910’s which today is a National Historic Landmark.  To the left there’s another wonderful area with gazebos’ and benches dwarfed under giant sweet-smelling pine trees.

Alice C. Wainwright park Miami Florida

This park is perfect for romantic picnics, family gatherings, barbecuing, flying kites, sitting on a bench with a good book or exercising.  I’m always looking for a new spot to just enjoy the view and this Miami park is also perfect for that.  It was a cloudy windy day when I visited.  I enjoyed sitting on one of the benches at the parks edge watching jet skiers, windsurfers and yachts go by.

Alice C. Wainwright park Miami Florida

Have you been to Alice C. Wainwright park?  What’s your favorite Florida park?



“Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop away from you like the leaves of Autumn.” John Muir

“Her heart was a secret garden and the walls were very high.”  William Goldman

“There comes a time in every rightly constructed boy’s life when he has a raging desire to go somewhere and dig for hidden treasure.”  Mark Twain

“The diversity of the phenomena of nature is so great, and the treasures hidden in the heavens so rich, precisely in order that the human mind shall never be lacking in fresh nourishment.”  Johannes Kepler

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Dreaming Bigger in 2013

“It’s the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting.” Paulo Coelho
Florida parks
Harry P. Leu Gardens

I want to encourage you to dream bigger this year. Last year was amazing and I met so many fantastic people.  Building upon that, I challenge you to join me in leaving your comfort zones and answer the question:

What is your big dream?

When you put your thoughts out into the world the universe has a sure way of answering.

My biggest dream is to be a serial entrepreneur with businesses will have a positive effect on the planet. I will enable others to empower themselves as well as others creating a ceaseless cycle with a beneficial impact on the planet.

park bench
Harry P. Leu Gardens

Looking back at the last year, I started out using some very powerful words. These words gave me strength and courage. I can see how putting those words out there helped me get to where I am today.

ActualizeBoldnessSeize the DayChangePower,  Winning,  Greatness,

And these words describe exactly what my life was all about last year.  I was emboldened to use my voice and become an instrument of change.

This year I will use words like: Strategic alliances, Success,  Achievements, Growth, Value, Happiness, Joy, Empower, Unite, Build, Winning, Love, Creation, Voice, Action, Purpose

I invite you to join me on this exciting journey.   Your words continue to encourage me.


“Begin, be bold, and venture to be wise.” Horace

“You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.” C.S. Lewis

“I learned this, at least, by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.” Henry David Thoreau

“People are capable, at any time in their lives, of doing what they dream of.” Paulo Coelho

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