Tuesday November 10, 2015 Most Recent Post:
Curry Hammock State Park Getting Awfully Laid Back Here
Today’s the day. Winds are down; ocean is calm. We’re off to kayak what is known here as The Grand Tour. I’d say the title is a little overstated since it is a trail around three sides of Little Crawl Key, the home of Curry Hammock and also around two sides of Deer Key which is often the background of my sunset pictures. It’s maybe 5 miles and is grand fun but not a Grand Tour.
The put in couldn’t be easier since it is right around the corner from our site. We just carry the kayaks to the shore and off we go.
Beautiful morning. We’re on the water just after sunrise.
Friends have come down to the shore to wish us bon voyage.
As I am rounding the corner from the day use area a loud slap and splash startles me and I look down to see a large manatee has just come out from under my boat. I may have inadvertently paddled right over him. He’s bigger than my kayak and I’m sorry I scared him. He’s gone before I can get my camera to my eye. But his picture is inscribed firmly in my memory.
I recover from my manatee shock to see a wide channel all along on the north side.
My manatee is the only thing I see on this side of the island but David is traveling down the far bank and comes upon a black crowned night heron hiding pretty well in the mangroves. Good eyes David.
At the end end of this closed channel we take a left turn into the entrance to to a mangrove tunnel running along the island’s west side. How low can we go? I love mangrove tunnels.
We come out for just a minute and go under the bridge which leads into the campground. It too is a low ceiling but then we’ve picked near high tide in order not to run into water that is too shallow which happens here around low tide.
I’m told the tunnel is about a mile long but it seems like I am seeing the opening much sooner than that.
Soon we are out in the open on the far west side and turning south where we find some pricey real estate.
We’re just drifting along when I spy a pelican doing the same until he spies us.
Look at that wing span. I’ve read it’s up to eight feet but boy they look maybe even longer here.
Another mangrove tunnel presents itself and I’m all in. Love these dark tunnels.
Hmm, how much further can I go? I never quite know until I get there.
This time I spot a tree snail on this red mangrove branch. Now I can clearly see where it got its name.
David gets a picture of its flower.
Shortly I spot the mangrove tree crab. Hope Heyduke sees this. It’s hard to tell in these pictures but the crab is tiny, about the size of a silver dollar. I only spotted this one because he was moving up a tree limb to my right. But looking closely when you are in the mangroves, you will spot them all over the place especially once you see one.
On my way back out of the tunnel I start looking more intently down in the water. There are a lot of these upside down jellyfish. Shallow water and particularly mangroves are their habitat. They are really beautiful and often hang out on the bottom in an upside down position. I sure wouldn’t want to step on one. Water shoes! Skin suit!
Looks like a surface floating jellyfish type thing but I’m not sure. It’s lovely but I don’t think I’d like to touch it.
Other beautiful and unknown things on the bottom as we paddle along.
We are nearing home. As I am coming along the east side of Deer Key I hear a ruckus ahead of me. I round the corner and find this group of cormorants perched on the red mangrove roots near the water.
David comes along behind me, closer than I to them and they scurry across the water stopping nearby
The sun is getting high in the sky. The temperatures are hot. It’s time to move inside for the heat of the day. We leave the kayaks under a tree so we can return for sunset and take them out again.
Walking back along the shore I find many more shells than I have seen here before.
Things are taking on that golden glow when we come back out to the water at 5:00. Yes, you heard me right. Five o’clock and sunset in less than an hour. Whose idea was this?
Winnona looks happy by the shore.
The color coalesces over the campground just to the right of Winnona. I love its reflection in the water.
And then the sunset comes with its rays of sun beams flying high into the sky and reflections of the color shimmering in the water. Enough to take my breath away. How lucky are we to see sunset over the ocean from the ocean.
As the blazing sun colors fade, pastels take over the sky. It’s hard to tell where the water ends and the sky begins. I feel like I’m floating in a wonderland.
I am paddling in toward the shore to call it a night when off to my left side streaks a drop dead gorgeous spotted eagle ray. He’s near the top of the water and moving at a good clip. He’s huge. They reach 8.2’ without their tail and 16 feet with tail. He’s magnificent, one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen in the wild in the water. Not a chance in the world for a picture but I’ve taken this picture from the internet so you can see what I saw. Of course what I saw was in a very background but still just unbelievably dazzling.
Seeing the eagle ray sets my heart pounding and is the only interruption to such a perfect and peaceful closing to this great day on the water here in the Florida Keys.