Day 227 – 4/14/21 Kayaking at John Pennekamp State Park, Key Largo.

We had a nice day kayaking at John Pennekamp State Park.

I had a busy morning today.  I woke up at my usual time, wrote a post and went for a run at 7:30am.  I ran to the left of the campground this time, and it was nice.  The path is very nice, wide, and I only had to stop once to cross the street as the path merged into the middle with the path from the other side.  The direction I went is towards key west, so I’m guessing the roads will get narrower as we get closer to there, and maybe this awesome path is not there.  We’ll see.  When I got back, Carol and Bia were up, so I got Bella up and the girls started school.  I moved my computer outside, including the computer desk, and had 2 calls back to back out there.  It was great to do the calls outside, the temperature was nice, just warm enough and with a nice breeze.  Carol helped the girls inside while I was on my work calls.  After my calls, I finished writing a post I had not finished, and now I’m all caught up again.

Carol started getting things ready for us to go to John Pennekamp State Park.  The park is right next door and is the first park to have underwater protection as most of the park is under water, protecting a coral reef.  To access the reef you need to take a boat though, so it’s not that close to the park shores.  We ate lunch, and were just waiting on Bia’s last class to finish so we could go.  I had tied the Paddleboard to the back of the truck, putting it bottom up on the bed, and tying it to the side of the truck bed, and to the hitch.  Carol wanted to kayak there, so we decided to bring our board in case it worked out to use it.  After lunch, we cleaned up and finished getting things ready to go.  I also washed our goggles, and the two snorkels we have so we could bring and explore.  Right after Bia was done, we left, which was around 2pm.

The park is about a mile away, so we were there in no time.  We paid $10 to get in, and I drove around to show Carol the beach options, and we decided to park at the beach past the bridge, near where there is a kayak launch (just in case). 

We had talked about renting kayaks to go in tandem, but Bella did not want to do it, so we didn’t rent ahead of time.  As we parked and settled a bit, Bella said maybe she would be ok with a glass bottom kayak, so we left to go check out the options.  Bella and I walked towards the kayak rental place, and I asked if they had glass bottom ones, but they didn’t.  We then went to the store where you can rent all kinds of gear and I saw the sign for the glass bottom boat, so I asked her if that would be ok and she said yes.  I got in line, and when it was our turn, no deal, they were sold out for the day.  Dang it!  So, Bella and I just went back.  On the way back, she was all complaining that we could not do what she wanted to do, and I had to tell her that these places are operating at reduced capacity and are very busy, so if we want to do something, we need to plan ahead as it won’t always work to make a last minute decision.  She was still a tad upset, but we moved on. 

When we met with Carol and Bia, Bia had gone in the water already and asked me to go snorkel with her, so we got our gear in the truck and just as we were going in, Bella convinced Carol to go see if a boat snorkel tour would be available, so they left.  Bia and I went in the water to snorkel.  Right as we walked in, and Bia put the snorkel in her mouth, she went in the water and came right back up, taking her mask off and spitting something into her hand…. She had just lost a tooth.  hahahahaha… she had this loose tooth for a few days now, and I guess the mouth piece from the snorkel hit it just right.  Bia went to the truck quick to put the tooth away, and came back.  The water is very clear, but a lot of the bottom is sea grass, so it makes the water look dark.  The areas that have sand at the bottom, you can see clearly.  Bia and I floated around for a while watching what we could under water, and aside from a few fish here and there, and tons of sea grass, I eventually spotted a crab.  That guy had moss all over its shell. I had my camera in the hard waterproof case, so I got a good picture of him.  Without a lot of stuff to see, we left the water.

They have a rinse station right by the beach, so we both rinsed ourselves good and walked towards the little beach next to where we were.  As we were walking, Carol and Bella arrived and called us, hurrying.  Carol had rented kayaks, and we had two hours to use them, and the clock was ticking since they closed at 5 and it was 3pm.  Boat tours had been cancelled for the day, so kayak was the only option, and since Bella finally agreed to do it, off we went.  We put our stuff in the truck, and left in a hurry to make it.  Carol had gotten the girls some ice cream too at the shop, so while we walked in a hurry, the girls were trying to eat their ice creams too.

We made it to the kayak place fairly quickly, so quickly the girls still had ice cream. Hahahah… it was a bit busy with people coming in and out, but not bad.  We all got life vests and got setup with the tandem (double) kayaks.  Bella came with me, and Bia with Carol.  While we waited to get setup with kayaks, Carol put sunscreen on everyone’s arms, face and shoulders.  Once we had our kayaks, and a map, we got pushed off and started our adventure. 

They have two sections you can go and the guy said we had just enough time to do them both, so I went first with the map, and we did a turn around the spot we launched, then went towards the first buoy and into the intermediate level path.  The intermediate is called that, we found out later, because the trees of the mangrove’s leave a tight area to maneuver, and your paddles end up hitting trees, and sometimes people get stuck.  It was all very fun though.  Bella was a bit afraid, but eventually got used to it and trusted that we would no fall in the water. 

We saw a lot of fish, lots of plants and birds.  The water is very clear all around, especially when the bottom is sandy.  Bella didn’t paddle at all, which was fine as she was not complaining.  Bia and Carol were behind, sometimes far behind, but seemed to be having fun, at least until those tight spots where they got stuck and Bia was complaining.  Hahahah.  The maps we were given were not too hard to follow, but it takes a bit to get used to them as small paths can get confused with other ones and there are not a ton of signs. 

After we got out of the intermediate area, we started our way back through the beaches, and that required more work as we hit a much more open area with lots of wind, so we all had to paddle non stop (minus Bella).  When we were close to being back it was hard to see the bridge we had to go under from the spot we were in, so that was a bit confusing, but it was there, just behind the trees.  We ended up pulling into the sand right at 5pm, so we made it around almost the entire trail just in time.  I asked how everyone felt and we all loved it.  Bia and Bella were not big fans of the intermediate part, where the paths were tighter, but said they liked all the rest.  As we walked out, we rinsed up by the restrooms, and walked back towards the truck.  From there, we left the park.  I’d say this is a cool park to go to if you’re doing the kayak trip around the area.  The beach is not great, so not a good place to just hang out.  I’m sure the boat tours to the actual reef are pretty cool.  We stopped at the Publix next to our campground before getting back so we could get some steaks for dinner.

When we got back, I started packing things for tomorrow, since we move to Key West.  I put the bikes away, put the Paddleboard away, etc.  When I was done with most stuff, I got the grill out and made dinner, and after we ate, and finished putting things away in the truck bed.  Everything outside is pretty much done and ready for tomorrow, I’ll just need to take care of tanks and hoses, hitch and we are off.  Carol was working on stuff for her parents, some documents for her dad and logo and stuff for her mom.  She did that from the time we arrived all the way to like 10pm.

After we all had dinner, the girls had showered and were playing inside, drawing or what not.  I had them read their books for a while, and then let them watch some TV.  After I was done outside, I came inside and showered, then did the dishes, and just watched some videos on Dry Tortugas National Park.  I let the girls stay up until 10, so after we put them to bed, I went to bed myself.  Carol was still up and showered, then did some laundry.  We left our little washer out so she could use tonight for the swim gear we used today.  It is easier to leave it out when we are near the beach anyway.

We had a great day kayaking at John Pennekamp State Park today, and enjoyed our last day in Key Largo.

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