Day 4-Feb. 4, 2018
I was excited for the next morning, as the Dome Houses were a site I had wanted to see in person for a long time. Though Matt and I didn't get great sleep, as the wind and the waves had picked up over night, making the boat a bit too bouncy for a comfortable nights sleep, we were still excited to start the day. We set off early in the morning to get a closer look at the Domes. With the countless Brown Pelicans and Cormorants perched atop their roofs, the buildings certainly lived up to their mysterious and almost foreboding aura. It always amazes me how dilapidation can turn any building, even a sunny vacation home, into something eerie. Matt even remarked that it represented what much of Florida will look like soon, as rising waters encroach on the states shores. What a thought! To imagine the Art Deco skyscrapers of Miami empty and abandoned of their human inhabitants, quickly replaced by pelicans, cormorants and gulls on the top and sharks, rays and countless fish on the bottom. For now, people come to the Dome Homes, and countless buildings like it, to fleetingly experience that feeling of powerlessness against nature, and then safely return to the bustling civilization of Marco Island only a few miles away.
Four of the homes are all that remain of the six that originally stood on the site. The other two have collapsed into the water, leaving only their tops visible. Upon these easily reached crowns, vandals have left graffiti carved into the roof membrane and dark green algae covers the rest. The gradual undulation of the waves pulled air in and out of one of the fallen domes, making a gurgling sucking sound, that was ominously similar to the breathing of some great leviathan. The four domes left standing, while clear of the water, were in no better condition. The floors and windows were completely gone from the structures and the outside walls were covered in cracking ancient paint and various forms of vandalism and bird waste. After Matt and I paddled around the structures, investigating from every angle and enjoying the isolation, we headed back to our boat to begin our journey deeper into the Ten Thousand Islands, and possibly, one of the most remote legs of our trip.
Our first stop would be at Lumber Key. Lumber Key is one of many similar looking mangrove covered keys that define the 35,000 acre, Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge. Many of these mangrove islands, which do not actually number 10,000, look very similar to one another. For us, we mostly picked our locations based on what would make the best anchorage for the day. That being said, the keys among the Ten Thousand Islands are wonderfully remote and full of wildlife. Prime for fishing, bird watching and dolphin spotting. Which is a big reason we were excited to finally breach these wild lands. Lumber Key certainly did not disappoint. We arrived by late afternoon and were welcomed by vast tracts of mangroves and countless birds fishing and resting in the water. However, the best part of the area was the silence. Matt and I had the anchorage to ourselves, no boats, no cars, not even a plane was heard. Only the sounds of dolphins and fish breaching the surface of the water as they hunted and the splashes of the diving Brown Pelicans.
We spent the last hours of the day exploring the mangrove islands, where dry land was available, investigating the twisted roots of the mangroves for small crabs and other creatures and enjoying the sun setting over the blue water. Matt also took some time to use his cast net and grab some quick bait for future fishing excursions.