Paddling Don Pedro…

A few Christmases ago, Ron gave me an inflatable kayak to get out and about and do a bit of exploring on my own. Back in the days when our children were young, before our inflatable dinghy with small outboard, we had a hard dink we rowed. In those days our dinghy trips were often not about getting from here to there, but were times of exploration, of soundlessly approaching wildlife and watching. My inflatable kayak gave me a bit of freedom to explore mangroves and the shoals during our winters south, and was “me time” away from the boat, always at anchor or mooring ball.

The inflatable kayak worked well, but was always caked with salt after a winter south, with no access to fresh water for a thorough cleaning until we arrived back at the boatyard. It seemed much better suited to our clean, salt-free Great Lakes. This Christmas, Ron presented me with “Prairie Pup,” my bright yellow hard kayak.

Unlike the east coast of southern Florida, the west coast is not “high rises as far as the eye can see.” There are still wild areas, protected by the State, and those are the areas we’re drawn to. No way are we able to make a comparison to our Lake Superior or North Channel/Georgian Bay travels, but there are dolphins and manatees and pelicans and sun and warm air. And it’s winter!

Over the past month, traveling to and from Sarasota, we spent several days at my new favorite anchorage, just off the ICW (in a slow/minimum wake area), at Don Pedro State Park. There is a “land base” dock where we can walk to the nearby Publix store for groceries (we discovered a side street that runs parallel to the main road which makes for much safer walking); the beach is an easy paddle from the anchorage and the pounding surf helps drown out all the “noise” in my life of late. But my favorite part of this anchorage is a mangrove trail that leads to a small “lake” on Don Pedro Island. The lake isn’t much for exploring, but oh how I loved the mangrove trail! Each time I lucked out, being the only kayaker on the trail which allowed me to take my time, explore, and experience all that was around me.

Lots of dead/dying fish due to red tide in this area.

Effects of red tide were evident as I walked the beach at Don Pedro: throat irritation leading to the occasional cough and stinging eyes at times. The park ranger was wearing a respiratory mask.

Starfish just below me…

The mangrove trail is narrow, quiet, beautiful…

The wonders we see if we are quiet, approach slowly…

Life abounds even in these most shallow of areas…

A bend in the trail, then empties in a small shallow lake encircled by mangroves…

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