Sunday, January 03, 2010

...and more dreaming...

12/30/09 Wednesday
Wednesday we had big plans. Snorkel trip to Looe Key from Bahia Honda State Park.

We have a GSI mess kit with an MSR pocket rocket burner that we made coffee and oatmeal with Wednesday morning. The over eating was really getting to us.

We stopped in at Tilden's Scuba Center to rent a full wet suit for SGG. After being there a few days we figured she would need a full suit and I would wear the shorty I brought with me. The people at Tilden's were great.

We then continued on to Bahia Honda to check in for our snorkel trip. Good thing we did, the line to get in was long, and then when we got in we found the trip was canceled due to wind and seas. We immediately turned around and went back to Tilden's to try and get in on their 1:30pm trip. We were in luck, they were going and they had room.

We got our stuff on the boat and talked to the group from Boston and the other from Atlanta. The picture above is from the Sombrero Light.

Our luck didn't hold. The 2-3' seas turned to 3-4' seas. At one point the boat turned sideways to the waves and all of a sudden I was staring into a wall of beautiful blue water. I was almost sure that it wasn't going to crash on me. It did not. The boat easily slid up the wave. They told we couldn't get it, it was too rough. Grrr.

When we got back in we headed back to Bahia Honda, hoping that we could snorkel from the shore there. The waves, temperature, and visibility were all against us there too. When we got out of the water I stepped on a sand spur. Part of it is still in my foot 2 weeks later. I'm working on getting it out though.

After we dried off we went and found another geocache in the park. From there we decided to keep heading south west and go eat in Key West. :-)

We watched a beautiful sunset and moonrise on the Reynolds Street Pier. Then we walked down to the Southernmost Point Buoy that marks the southernmost point in the continental United States. We had our picture taken there of course. There was a line but we sort of bypassed that.

Then we went in search of Duval Street. It wasn't hard to find. If you didn't want to follow the people, you could just listen for levity, or look for lights. We passed a party train full of very happy and friendly people. We were invited on, but there was hardly room. :-)

We explored a small art gallery and spend a lot of time talking to the owner about the various artists. We then made our way to Mangia Mangia. Mangia Mangia is a wonderful pasta cafe. We had a delicious meal. I don't know why we didn't share the entree as has become our custom. There was no way we were going to finish them individually, or later. We didn't have a refrigerator to keep them in for later either.

The people of Key West had some great holiday lights and decorations up too. We got a few pictures of those while we were walking.

We passed by the Southern Keys Cemetery on our trek back to the car. This was interesting as the graves were almost all above ground. Some were stacked on top of each other, several high.

SGG must have been feeling a bit skittish. An orange cat was walking up behind her, and to make sure she wasn't surprised by it, I told her that there was an orange cat coming up to us. She turned to look a nearly let out a full on scream. The cat's nails could be heard digging into the pavement as it raced away. SGG doesn't know why she did that, but it was certainly funny to me. :-)

We headed back to the campground to get some sleep. Honestly, between sleeping bags, the air mattress, and the standard campground noises you would have thought that we weren't sleeping well, but maybe the fresh air is good for us. We slept pretty well nearly every night.

12/31/09 Thursday - New Years Eve!
We got up Thursday morning to head to The Hungry Tarpon for breakfast. We fed the tarpon first. These are huge fish that will come a little way out of the water to get the small bait fish we were offering to them. The Pelicans know what is going on and they will certainly try to steal the fish for themselves. SGG was holding a fish out and a Pelican's beak came through the lattice work and stole it from her. At the same time I was looking down and what looked like a pair of scissors started snapping at the air trying to get the fish I was holding. When we were out of bait we walked over to the restaurant to get some breakfast. It was an amazing meal.

We headed to Key Largo to get on a snorkel trip out there. We booked one on a catamaran. and then walked around the marina until it was time to go. I got some better de-fogger stuff at a dive shop and some desiccant for my underwater camera.

We watched a number of tropical fish make their rounds through the marina too.

We took some pictures of THE African Queen also!

When we got out the to reef, the water was pretty rough again. We got lots of pictures of our two snorkel sites. It was really quite a challenge as the seas were picking up. SGG got a little sea sick and almost didn't go in at the second site. Some of the more exciting fish we saw were a number of Barracuda and a Grouper. The coral was amazing. I also saw the biggest Parrot Fish I have seen yet. The pictures tell this story better than I can so you should watch the slide show below to see it all.

After we got back we shared a Wendy's Frosty on the way back to the campground.

We got cleaned up and then went out to eat and celebrate New Year's Eve. We predictably went back to The Hungry Tarpon. We shared an appetizer, an entree, and desert. It was all truly delicious. We watched the moon rise and just sat and talked under the lights outside on the deck of the restaurant. It was enchanting. They have a non-toxic organic mist that smells faintly of lemons that sprays every once in a while. It is a special formula designed to keep away the no-seeums that can ruin an experience with painful skin bites. We walked around the empty marina for a bit and then headed back to the campground. We were beat. We had decided that the next morning we would eat breakfast there again and then rent a dual kayak to paddle through the mangrove tunnels and potentially see sharks, fish, crocodiles, and more.

We slept soundly until midnight. Noise makers, fireworks, and people shouting lasted for almost an hour before it all finally died down and everyone went to sleep. Some people just kept partying though.

01/01/10 - New Years Day! The trip home.
At around 6am we got up to pack up everything and get ready for the journey home. We got to The Hungry Tarpon around 8am to eat before heading out on the kayak. We had fried mahi mahi, eggs, grits, and toast. You may be finally getting the point that we really LOVED the food here.

At 9am the kayak place opened and we were the first to get our boat and paddles. We headed out through the mangrove tunnels and west to the other end of Matecumbe key. The tunnels were amazing to paddle through. When we got to the west side we found an American Crocodile with the help of some other kayakers. Then we paddled north a bit and went through some tunnels to head back east. In those tunnels we saw some small sharks. I explained to SGG that the white stuff on the leaves we passed was bird poop. She didn't believe me at first. SGG was the spotter, navigator, and photographer on this trip. It wasn't as exciting as we had hoped, but it was fun and interesting anyway. It was a beautiful end to the trip.

Once I got changed, because a passing motorboat swamped us a little, we headed back to Ft. Lauderdale. The trip back was uneventful, and the Droid did it's job admirably with it's turn by turn directions. We were a little early for the flight out, but we kept busy getting caught up on news and gossip. :-) An Italian couple across from us at the airport had a little boy that couldn't speak any English. That didn't stop him from communicating and playing with an American boy about his age. It was really fun to watch all of them.

It was also impressive how many people from other countries we ran into. Languages and dialects from all over the world. Contrary to what you may think about South Florida, there really wasn't that many Spanish speaking people about either. If you speak a second language, I highly encourage you to brush up on it before you go. You may find it more useful than you think.

Really it was an enchanting time in an enchanting place with an enchanting person. All of which have woven themselves into my heart, mind, and soul. If you go, I hope you experience the same. You won't want to leave, I certainly didn't.

Flying into Newport News, it was snowing. We were still wearing shorts. It has been cold ever since. It was brutal at first but I'm getting used to it again. I miss the 80 degree days in the Keys.

All the pictures from the Keys are here.
Slideshows from the last couple days below:

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