Another day, another dozen miles paddling from Key Largo to West. Of the things we learned here, this one was immediately obvious.
#4: The water is a gorgeous color. And so is everything else.
Photos above: Pelican’s eye view of Indian Key. Bill and Jack approach Long Key. Colorful character Hen. Storm clearing over Rock Harbor. Debra and unusual kayak storage. Arrival at Geiger Key to set up camp. Betsy takes a break near Indian Key. Angels over Curry Hammock State Park.
Green water, lavender sky
Jack and Rick
Popps Motel in Rock Harbor
Leaving Rock Harbor
Rick in a sunny moment
Colorful yaks at campsite
Tent platforms at Long Key State Park
Arriving at Sugarloaf Key
House in Key West
Part 1 is here. As well as the previous post in our Keys-y series. 🙂
As per Part 1, our kayak-camping trip spanned 10 days in early February. Now, more of the Top 10 Things We Learned about the southernmost point of the U.S. (not counting that last fact).
#3: “The Sunshine State” (Florida) isn’t always in a sunny state.You may think you’re escaping to a warm tropical paradise. Then, this (click for video):
Well, at least our clothes dried. But it’s a water sport, right? And unlike back home in New York, the stuff falling from the sky was rain, not snow/sleet/hail/wintry mix.
35-mph clothes dryer: Bahia Honda
Gear geek Henrietta
Nothing left to do but listen to the wind howl and plan for tomorrow
Shuffleboard in the rain: Rock Harbor
Popps Motel, prepping boats in the drizzle at Rock Harbor
Bill Burnham leaves Rock Harbor
Great thing about bad weather: clouds!
Betsy remains cheerful and colorful
Kokatat storm cag is worth every penny!
The view from our “hotel” in Bahia Honda
In February we cured our “cabin fever” by paddling from Key Largo to Key West (about 120 miles) with our intrepid friend, Henrietta (aka Hen), and guides Bill and Mary Burnham, authors of the excellent Florida Keys Paddling Atlas. It was our first visit to the Keys—a 1700+ island archipelago that extends southwest and then west through the Florida Straits, between the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean. Seeing as how we kayak-camped for 10 days (itinerary below), we’ll share 10 things we learned along the way. 🙂
Hen scored the NDK Explorer.
#1: It’s one big kiddie pool. Turns out you don’t have to paddle 120 miles. You can wade. Welcome to America’s kiddie pool, courtesy of the long sheltering arc of the Great Florida Reef, the world’s third largest coral barrier reef system. In many cases, we paddled in water of 5 feet or less. A whole lotta “less.”
#2: But shallow water has its advantages. Because they depend on sunlight and clear water, seagrasses grow like wildflowers (which they are, sort of).
Florida has about 2,000,000 acres of completely submerged flowering grasses. They provide food and protection for fishes, crustaceans, shellfish, manatees and sea turtles, and they help maintain water clarity by trapping fine sediments and particles with their leaves. Unfortunately, seagrasses are disappearing at an alarming rate, due to dredge-and-fill projects, dirty water and motor-boat propellers (i.e., humans).
Hen helps to chart the trip, Day 1
Zoom in to see water “depths”
Choosing boats and routes; Pennekamp State Park
Hen is ready to launch
Early morning at Rock Harbor, low tide
Still colorful. Rock Harbor in the rain
Clockwise: Hen, Betsy, Bill, Jack, Debra, Rick, Mary’s arm
1/31/16: John Pennekamp State Park (Key Largo) to Rock Harbor (14 miles)
2/1/16: Rock Harbor to Islamorada (14 miles)
2/2/16: Islamorada to Long Key State Park (19 miles)
2/3/16: Long Key to Curry Hammock (12 miles)
2/4/16: Curry Hammock to Marathon (14 miles)
2/5/16: Marathon rest day (0 miles!)
2/6/16: Marathon to Bahia Honda State Park (12 miles)
2/7/16: Unplanned hide-from-the-hurricane day
2/8/16: Bahia Honda to Sugarloaf Key (17 miles)
2/9/16: Sugarloaf to Geiger Key (13.5 miles)
2/10/16: Geiger Key to Key West (12.5 miles)
Next up: Florida Keys Top Ten: Part 2
Kayakers are “cloudspotters.” Ordinarily, gazing up at the heavens gives us our weather report. But this Florida Keys sunset took our breath away. Virga—wispy ice crystals falling through high winds, in the lower right of the frame—predict deterioration of the weather. (Got that right! More on our recent 110-mile paddle from Key Largo to Key West coming up…) Another classic case of clouds imitating art: This exhibit ranged from Albrecht Durer’s grey “Winged Man Playing a Lute” to Chagall’s fiery “Sarah and the Angels” and back again. 🙂
Today is January 7. Ta-dah!! On this day in history…1785: Jean-Pierre Blanchard and John Jeffries wafted from Dover, England, to Calais, France, in a gas balloon (hilarious details below). And what better way to honor geekkind’s first successful air crossing of the English Channel than by re-blogging Luke’s (kayakhiptster’s) First Insanely Entertaining Video Shot From His Crazy-Ass Drone? If Blanchard and Jeffries had time-warped to our side of the pond, this is what the balloonists would’ve seen: Luke and Felix crossing from Greenwich, Connecticut to Great Captains Island via kayak. Click and weep:
As for Blanchard and Jeffries… history.com reports: The two men nearly crashed into the Channel along the way, however, as their balloon was weighed down by extraneous supplies such as anchors, a nonfunctional hand-operated propeller, and silk-covered oars with which they hoped they could row their way through the air. Just before reaching the French coast, the two balloonists were forced to throw nearly everything out of the balloon, and Blanchard even threw his trousers over the side in a desperate, but apparently successful, attempt to lighten the ship.
Luke and Felix had no such mishaps and reached their destination, trousers and all.
This week’s TBD (to be done, our new “to-do!” list): Go kayak-camping in Maine. Here are some photos from our previous trip to Penobscot Bay. Enjoy them, as we put this on our 2015 calendar in ink. 🙂
To do: Paddle through fresh breezes while being followed by distant schooners (Michele)
To do: Get a photo of a seal before it disappears…Sploosh!
To do: Relax and enjoy the scenery
To dare: Ask if we can buy a lobster for dinner…as if we had the heart to cook it. OK, not going to happen.
To do: Make camp on softer ground, if we can find it
To do: Wonder, night after night, if the sunset could be any more beautiful
He’s half Chihuahua, half Boston Terrier—a little rescue dog who’s 100% attitude. We met Lucky at Block Island’s pet-friendly bed & breakfast, Avonlea, with his extended family: Rick, Ceci, Ron, and Susie (humans) and Sophie (dachshund cousin) over Thanksgiving weekend.
On our last morning there, we decided to squeeze in one last look around the island. So we all squeezed into Rick’s rental car. Lucky was particularly eager to sightsee from the front seat for a change, grrrrrr! leaving us humans to ride with our heads out the windows.
The thing that struck us about this final glimpse—besides getting to see parts of the island we’d missed on our previous hikes—was how painterly every scene was: Andrew Wyeth winter houses. Winslow Homer seascapes. Even portraits by Vermeer (if Vermeer had ever wised up and gone into pet portraiture…).
That’s Block Island for you. But you know what’s really cool? Rick, Lucky’s owner, is a painter himself (a lucky coincidence?). Rick is an avid landscape painter, outdoor enthusiast, artist member and past president of the Rhode Island Watercolor Society. Check out his gallery here.
To see our own little gallery of Block Island seascapes, still lifes, landscapes and portraits, click on any image below for a full-size slideshow. 🙂
Rockwellian Thanksgiving at Avonlea
Susie and Sophie
Jean, Main Street
Return ferry to Point Judith