As I launched my Kayaks today from the far edge of Sombrero Beach, I watched the beach goers all seeking refuge on the lee (down wind) side of the beach. A stiff East wind blew everybody to where things were a little more friendly and maybe a little less sand in the face and drink. I thought to myself, “well, that’s what I’m doing today, but at least I’m not stuck on the beach!” I dislike being stuck with not too many options!
My group arrived on time around noon. A family of four and two nice girls, here for Spring Break. We all met up and made introductions and made preparations for launching. A small gathering of people watched from the pier as we went over trip details and set out on the “three hour tour.” I bet the onlookers were questioning our judgement to kayak today, but they are unaware of the fun to be had just beyond their shore.
These trips are tidally sensitive and the timing of the tour is set to ideally ride the last of the incoming rising tide into our mangrove canopy trails and have the tide switch in time to push us back to the beach as we come out of the mangrove forest. With the added wind and 2 young children on the trip, it was essential that the predicted tidal times held true.
Clearly, this trip was about the two young girls. Full of questions and curiosity, we all gravitated to the interests of the kids. Without realizing it, this is where the separation from life on land begins. A subconscious regression to one’s own childhood takes affect and the simplicity of shaking seaweed and examining the unfamiliar contents, brings everybody to the same level. All become engrossed in the mission of collecting handfuls of sargassum seaweed, fresh from the Atlantic Ocean, and dislodging shrimp, crabs and fish from their grassy safe haven for inspection. For a few hours, it is special to see kids that are constantly preoccupied with technology and a million modern distractions, become kids again. Really, how often does that happen anymore? These kids were special and this set the tone for the rest of the trip.
We paddle deeper into creeks that become smaller and smaller and the reminders of land begin to disappear. Just birds hunting at the water’s edge and fish darting and splashing to keep interests high, as I answer questions and hop through local stories about the history of the area. A small obscure opening in the mangroves is the beginning of the first trail. Apprehension turns to awe as it is like entering a time capsule of what the settlers first saw as they pioneered their way through an endless maze of natural winding tidal creeks that all look the same. Your eyes and awareness shift and it becomes a game to find all the hidden creatures in and out of the water. The trails become smaller and paddles are rendered useless. From here, you adapt to a Tarzan climb to propel you from one root to the next branch in a zen-like sequence of motions that keep your kayak gliding and turning through the trails.
I could tell you more, but I don’t want to ruin it for you! It just gets better! What I can say is, if you participate in this tour for the right reasons, you will get exactly what you want out of it and likely more! This appeals to all age and skill levels and can capture the attention and imagination of nearly everybody. These trips are purely “organic” and is about my guests as much as it is about the trails and scenery. Collectively, it is an “experience”, each unique to the day and the people and natural elements that comprise it.
When we got back the the beach, each person is smiling. I can see they are still in the moment. The girls have a pile of little treasures they found along the way and are looking after pet crabs and such. You step out of the kayak and stretch and take a look around the beach. Every time I feel a little sorry for all the land dwellers, as I see them doing all the same things people do at the beach every day. It makes me grateful to have shared a more memorable experience with a select few new friends that chose to do something unique to the keys. Best part…there is still plenty of time for them to hang out at the beach or do whatever is next on the list, but they have a memory and a story for the day that nobody else does.
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