I thought to myself as we pulled our loaded down lime green kayak into the Florida Bay. All we could see was open water and vessels much larger than ours. And we would soon be paddling ourselves out to join them. But it was our last spring break of college so we wanted to do something at least a little crazy.
I would end up in the Everglades with my friend Christian. The start of his spring break would span from one end of the east coast (Maine) all the way to the other (Miami) and mine would be spent on a cruise out of Miami to the Bahamas. We reconvened in Miami and set our sights on Key Largo, Florida for an adventure like none other.
What do you think of when you hear the everglades? Air-boats? Swamp? Alligators? Snakes? Mosquitoes? But I am here to tell you that there is another side to the Everglades that most probably have no idea even exists.
The entire week prior we were monitoring the weather in hopes that our plans would work out. It seemed as if mother nature was plotting against us. The plan of intended movement was to head across Buttonwood Sound and then into the Florida Bay to a relatively small island called North Nest Key.
The island itself is not a secret, but the cool thing is that you get a camping permit. We drove to Key Largo knowing chances of actually being able to go out would be up in the air.
At the rental company, we were informed that if we were not highly experienced kayakers then the conditions of the trip could be dangerous. Both days of our two day trip would be choppy and the winds would be high. We felt with our previous experiences, and our pride, we were strong enough and experienced enough to make it across the several miles of wide open water.
Wind was whipping and the waves were crashing, but we put the kayak in the water and underway we were. The first mile or so was not terrible at all. As we got further away from shore, waves continued to grow, current grew stronger, and winds stayed relentless.
Staying on our intended track grew more difficult as we took big waves directly from the front. This paired with the strong winds didn’t exactly make our lives any easier. We probably spent more time pumping water out of our kayak that ran over inside than actually paddling forward.
Tipping over into this water wouldn’t be tragic but it was the last thing we would want to deal with it. To add to our issues, some boats did not use the appropriate etiquette when passing near by. Because why should you be concerned with the two idiots in the kayak?
Eventually we made it about halfway out and to a narrow pass of mangrove trees and calm waters where we were able to catch our breath, eat some lunch, and relax for a bit. As soon as we came out the mangroves we laid eyes on the island we were headed to, but also the endless white caps standing between us. So close, but so far away.
After another several hours of pushing on, we eventually made it out to the island and we were greeted by about five other boats filled with little groups of people. Fortunately evening was coming soon, so we knew the boats would be moving on.
We pulled our boat ashore and explored the island a bit before taking a swim in the crystal clear turquoise Florida water. After unloading the kayak we set up our camp for the night.
We were exhausted, sun-kissed, and our bodies were more than a little sore. Conditions were against us, the wind was against us, and we were convinced not to go out that day, but we made it. We watched the sun go down while enjoying the best Heineken that I will probably ever have in my life on an island in the Everglades completely to ourselves. We sat on the dock reflecting on the moment, the journey, and how accomplished we were feeling. The island was ours for the night, but the next day we would make the journey all over again.