The paddle dips lightly in as the water swirls a brown/green ripple pattern. Ahead the opening sits guarded by a lone cement post with a solitary number on it, I do not know what the number means, I have not been here before. I let him move forward first into the dark sinister looking jungle that beckons us in with a small rush of water, the current pushing the craft deeper in. We move forward slowly, meandering around branches that dip their heads into the water like wooden birds, into the gloomy murk that is below us. I wonder for a moment about slithering things and reptiles that lurk, waiting for a light snack but the silence here is all that greets my ears. There are small black crabs the size of a quarter on the branches above us, which makes me now watch where I grab, they scurry away quickly and the current is not allowing me to take a shot of a small beastie crab without crashing into tentacle branches that could house snakes in hiding…no pic of the crabs, sorry.
The path begins to tighten and a fork in the proverbial road meets us. We slide to a stop, or at least crashing into each other as the current wants us to go one way and we decide on the other, the less traveled perhaps but we do not know until we venture down that “road”. I look into the water below me, seeing some movement of things but I do not know what they are, strange white puffs moving in the underwater breeze, and ahead we turn the bend to find a dead-end. Not enough room to turn around, paddles getting caught in the branches above and the ones in the water, so with no choice, I learn to paddle backwards to get back out onto the main drag and wait for the man. He arrives finally after losing his sunglasses somewhere, dragged off by a branch above his head, and we move down the original path we didn’t choose. Voices in the distance lead to a man and a boy in a kayak crossing our path. The boy holds a five dollar bill in the air, as I laugh and tell him there’s no candy store out here to use that in and the father tells him to put it away. We let them pass in the direction we had come from and suddenly more voices. We again pull off to the side, only to be told there’s about 13 of the kayaks all together on a nature excursion. Again, we wait as the hapless kayakers try to navigate around the turn to where they are going, one tandem kayak holding two laughing women, each paddling in a different direction and wonder why they aren’t getting anywhere and the last paddler following them. The nature guide told us there are starfish in the water clinging to the mangrove roots, if you pick one up, keep it wet but put it back as a 500$ fine to remove any living thing from this park. Not a problem as I’m not sticking my hand in that murky water anyway. This is a man….in the mangrove.
We find the solitude again with the passing of the crew and move forward once more. We took several more trails, on the last one encountering a tourist group of 20 and decide not to wait and head back to where we began. It’s funny how dark and sinister yet peaceful it is in there yet when you emerge, the skies are blindingly bright and beautiful.
We hit the open water only to find 20mph winds which made for a trip of endurance, paddling against the waves and wind, and I think I have some new muscles on my lack of muscles in my shoulders now but I don’t take selfies on the kayak, but here is my view.
This was before the open water when I could prop my feet up and relax a spell whilst I searched for manatee and gators….didn’t see either. These were taken at Lido Key, hence the Lido shuffle in the mangroves with the other kayakers…a fun day but I think I may need a nap to recoup before a swim to soak the aches.
The sad part is, through all the quiet and peacefulness of the excursion, you know you’re always going to emerge somewhere and come face to face with progress. This view is of a high-rise somewhere in Lido Key by the ocean. Sad…..but someones got to pay the bills I guess to maintain these parks. A highly recommended trip, just wear your sunscreen and don’t go in the water….not sure if starfish bite or not.