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Sunday, March 28, 2010

Day 9 Key Largo to Key West finale

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Our last day paddling from Key Largo to Key West dawned clear and beautiful as we departed from Geiger Key Marina & Campground. As we passed Boca Chica Beach, we were treated to an airshow by NAS Key West. Here’s a video of an F-18 practice landing right over Bill’s kayak!


From there, much of this side of the islands are undeveoped and you can see lots of birds and sealife. My kayak passed right over a 4-foot loggerhead sea turtle sitting on the bottom!


We took out at Lazy Dog Adventures, where Sue is kind enough to let us haul out our boats. Our good friend Christine met us with the van and helped us load up, then we all sat down with a cold pitcher of Key West Sunset Ale from Hurricane Joe’s.


We’re thinking this route would make a great day trip for next season’s trips, starting with breakfast at Geiger Key Smokehouse and ending with the sunset celebration at Mallory Square. If you’re interested, email us!



Saturday, March 27, 2010

Day 8 Key Largo to Key West



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This was a day of extremes, starting with a cold rainy paddle and ending with a toasty St. Patrick’s Day at the Geiger Key Smokehouse Grill (and campground, great place!).


From Sugarloaf KOA, we paddled through beautiful Sammy’s Creek, and popped out on the oceanside to sunny skies and clear, glassy waters. It was one of those days where you couldn’t tell where the sea ended and the sky began. Simply surreal. We live for days like this (well, the afternoon portion, anyway!). Here's a comorant drying out his wings:



Even in Florida, especially this winter, you have to be prepared for cold, wet weather and watch for signs of hypothermia. We geared up pretty well with a synthetic base layer and rain gear. For lunch Bill pulled out the camp stove to heat up hot cocoa and tea to warm us from within! What a guy!



The sun was shining when we pulled up to Geiger Key after our 11-mile paddle with plenty of time to set up camp and dry out our wet gear in the sun. That evening was St. Patrick’s Day, so we celebrated at the Smokehouse Grill tiki bar. We were joined by our friend Cameron from Big Pine Key, and met some folks from the Eastern Shore of Virginia, namely the golf pro at Bay Creek! What a small world!




Kayak Fishing in the Florida Keys


Here's a link to a blog post by the Pork Belly All Stars, a group of fishermen Bill took out into the Lower Keys backcountry in early March. Great guys. Hope to see you again!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Day 7 Key Largo to Key West

Today we paddled 13 miles from Big Pine Key Fishing Lodge to Sugarloaf KOA along the oceanside of the Florida Keys.

Here are two videos of Jill doing the "wrap rap." (We do tend to do a lot of wrap sandwiches for lunch since they don't squoosh like regular bread!) and a silent video of ibis feeding in the flats at low tide. Kind of a "CBS Sunday Morning" feel to it.


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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Days 5-6 Key Largo to Key West

No, we haven't fallen off the edge of the world, and yes, we've finished the 100-mile paddle to Key West! Just got too busy (and tired!) to post each night. Sooooo, here's the 'rest of the story!'

On Day 5 we were joined by an adventurous family of four for the Seven Mile Bridge crossing and a night of primitive camping and a pasta dinner on Molasses Key.

From Knight's Key in Marathon, we paralleled Henry Flagler's 100-year-old bridge span and made our way to the tiny island the boys nicknamed "Survivor Island." They gathered firewood, adopted a couple of hermit crabs, and picked up what little trash we found washed up on shore.

Next morning we completed the crossing, accompanied by pelicans diving for schools of shimmering, jumping fish. The boys were really wishing they'd had their fishing poles!

Here's a video I took of sunrise while everyone was asleep in their tents!

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Sunday, March 14, 2010

Day 4 Key Largo to Key West

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When you're guiding trips in the Florida Keys, you have to be prepared for a lot of things, but most importantly wind and weather. You have to be flexible. You have to be willing to adjust your route to the conditions, and you need a bail-out plan.

OK, enough of the "Burn Notice" narration! Our Day 3 ended with a downpour and impending thunderstorms. We were going to camp on Long Key, but decided to take our friend Edie up on her lovely gesture of a hot shower and a warm, dry bed for the night! Edie ran support for us to prep for two paddlers joining us (and brought hot coffee!). Thanks, Edie!

Day 4 dawned sunny and beautiful, but with heavy winds. Frankly, the wind kicked our butts! But we had two awesome paddlers with us, Jill and Kathy from Big Pine Key, with great attitudes and a willingness to be flexible.

We launched from Long Key State Park in the lee side of what turned out to be W-NW 20 knot winds gusting to 24. Not so much a problem on the oceanside, but once we hit the Long Key Viaduct bridge, we were basically ferrying across, inching along with probably 2-3 foot swells.

At the other side we tucked up into a lee and took out the sandwiches, already discussing a change in our route, which was to go to the bayside and camp at Jolly Roger Travel Park. Thankfully, there's a little marina on the oceanside not far from Jolly Roger, where they let us pull our boats up and unload. Norm from Jolly Roger was kind enough to bring his truck and pick us up with all our gear. We had a book-signing under the pavilion and great night's sleep.

Thanks, Norm, Tania, Debi and Angie at JR!

Pictured are Norm, Kathy, Bill and Jill. And the truck that has bailed us out before (check out our KL2KW blog from 2008 and scroll down to Day 14!).



In Memory: Today's paddle was the same one we did with our friend Krueger Nicholson (Edie's husband), who passed away this past November. He was a ranger at Long Key State Park and a great friend to paddlers. Here he is making the same crossing of the Long Key Viaduct with us back in 2008 (under much better conditions!). We felt like he was with us on this trip. Take care, Edie, we'll see you soon.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Day 3 Florida Keys Paddling Trail

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Friday, March 12

This morning at Coconut Cove Resort, Bill gavea demo of packing tips for filling a sea kayak with camping gear. Click to watch the video!

Today we passed from the oceanside of Islamoarada, past Holiday Isle, cut through to the Bayside to hide from the wind and go through some beautiful mangrove creeks. We passed by many great lunch spots: Lorelei, Morada Bay, Zane Grey Lounge, but our destination was the Kayak Shack at Robbie's Marina (home of the famous tarpon), where we met up with John, owner of this great kayak shop offering tours and rentals to Indian and Lignumvitae Key. What a chill spot to have lunch and get a healthy smoothie at the Hungry Tarpon!

Our day's destination is Long Key State Park, a long day of about 16 miles. See you tomorrow!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Day 2 Florida Keys Paddling Trail

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Day 2 on our 100-mile Paddle your Atlas off, Key Largo to Key West! We did about 8 miles from Tavernier on the bayside, through Snake Creek to the oceanside, accompanied by Dave and Christine, long-time paddling buddies.

We passed by reggae singer playing at the Island Grill, to land at beautiful Coconut Cove Resort, which has a lovely, shady tent area. It's really the only place paddlers can camp in Islamorada. Thank you Paul and Magda for the wonderful hospitality! They do great weddings here too, on the beach or under the tiki.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Key Largo to Tavernier: Day One


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Here's a video blog on the start of our 100-mile paddle from Key Largo to Key West, dubbed "Paddle Your Atlas Off" since we're doing book-signings along the way for our Florida Keys Paddling Atlas, as well as our just-released Knack Kayaking for Everyone.


We're following the Florida Keys Overseas Paddling Trail, the sister trail to the bike trail (thanks Monica with Greenways and Trails for seeing us off!)


We have some folks joining us along the way, so stay tuned for updates on the adventures, camping all the way and stopping at historic sites and paddling under Henry Flagler's beautiful century-old railroad bridges.


We started at Florida Bay Outfitters next to the famous Caribbean Club in Key Largo on Florida Bay. Along the way we passed through the magical Dusenbury Grottoes and entered another world in deep and rough Tarpon Bay. Lunch stop was on the pretty beach at Key Largo Grande Resort, where the tiki bar serves awesome grouper sandwiches and Margaritas. In about 12 miles we reached our friends Dave and Lynda's for the night in Tavernier. Here's Bill's map of today's trip (click for a larger image).


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