We learned a lot of new things over the course of our 10-day, 120-mile paddle. (If you’re just tuning in, we invite you to visit our previous Keys posts.) Today’s eureka:
#7: It’s possible to paddle in the shade.
The sun’s strong here. Luckily, mangrove forests are everywhere (but they’re tight quarters….just remember to take your paddle apart and maneuver with one half).
Short cut! Mangroves line more than 1,800 miles of shoreline within Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.
The dense tangle of prop roots make the trees appear to be standing on stilts above the water. This tangle helps the trees handle the daily rise and fall of tides. Most mangroves get flooded at least twice per day.
The red mangrove produces a spear-shaped seed that is up to 10 inches long and will float until it implants into soil.
Seeking relief (ahem) on a black mangrove island
Or you can paddle in the shadows of the Long Key Viaduct (1907) and modern-day Long Key Bridge.
The Long Key Viaduct was part of Henry Flagler’s Overseas Railroad; today, it’s a bike and pedestrian path/fishing pier
Long Key Bridge was built to replace the Long Key Viaduct (1907), which still stands parallel to the bridge.
Sometimes you just have to make your own shade. (2G3K Gear Recommendation: the versatile UV Buff)…
Jean, is that you?
Hen at SPF 1,000
…Or you can simply take advantage of passing clouds.
Next up: Wildlife takes vacations too. 🙂
Continuing Ed on 10 Things We Learned while paddling from Key Largo to Key West. (Crib notes here: Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3) 🙂
#5: The Keys are an ancient coral reef…
#6: …and quirky as hell.
Beer-and-babes motorboat vs. kayaking nature nerds
Early in the trip, we took a short cut (literally) from oceanside to Florida Bay—the tides of which don’t correspond, by the way. (A geographical quirk!) Paddling through Adams Cut, a manmade residential canal, we glimpsed Key Largo in cross-section: its deep coral foundation.
Fossilized coral is rock hard. You need tent stakes as long as your forearm.
An iguana poses for Hen on his front porch
Dinosaur-like iguana, ancient coral-reef home foundation
We pitched our tents in a number of RV (“recreational vehicle”) campgrounds. Nice word for “trailer parks.” For us geeks, this was a whole new world of massive rolling castles and snowbirding nomads. Hmm, and you thought NYC was quirky…
On closer inspection, this tent was actually a barn for…(look beyond it, to the right…)
Lucy, the miniature horse. Now that’s pet-friendly!
Adams Cut: cross section of coral foundation
Fossil-fuel burners among the fossils
Lots of property for sale as the sea level rises
Our tents among the RVs
Monthly rent around $2500 includes electricity and water
Jack, Rick and Alex (headlamp) do the dishes at RV campground
It is wonderful to do your laundry after days on the “road”
Picnic Key. The name says it all.
Sunny afternoon on Picnic Key
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