Exploring & Escapades

bits & pieces of my travels

Tag: adventures

Plymouth Bluff







Weekend hiking in Mississippi. We had been meaning to explore Plymouth Bluff  for some time, and now we finally have. Everything was beautiful, of course. But what really shocked me was the history. Just over one hundred years ago, a small town thrived in this river bend; today, it’s gone. There is no trace. 



Plotting my next adventures; spring, summer, & beyond. 

Bar El Chanchito


Bar counter

Bar pot

Bar, NicaraguaThe day was slow and relaxing. The evening, lively and fun. Slaughtered animals hang over the bar, a pot of nacatamales boils. An order of rum & juice yields only one full bottle of rum, sans juice, at a cost of $4 USD. The beer arrives in liters and costs less than $1 USD.

We are a bird-watcher from Canada, a law student from Texas, a father and a daughter from Vermont, a ballerina, Kiwis, Dutch, a man who has lived in Madagascar for the past sixteen years, an Appalachian museum curator. Last week, we were everywhere. Tonight, we find ourselves together at a small bar in La Concepción.

Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park

Sandy beaches, dunes, trails, wildlife, seawalls, even a lighthouse- Bill Baggs State Park at the tip of Key Biscayne is an absolute must-visit if you’re in South Florida and you like the outdoors. I can’t believe it took me over two years to find it!

I was feeling a bit restless on Tuesday after class; seeing as it was still before noon, I figured I could spend the day doing something a bit more adventurous than homework by the pool. I had heard of a park on Biscayne before, but didn’t know much about it except that it was close enough that I could check it out without being gone all day. Close by and new? It was good enough for me.

Next thing I knew, my two feet were being slapped by the waves as I stood in the ocean, looking back across the dunes. I couldn’t get over how perfect the whole scene was- the beach is actually rated as one of the top ten in the United States.  And the lighthouse towering overhead made it especially unique. My camera couldn’t capture the full essence of it, no matter how much I tried.


Cape Florida Lighthouse

Besides the beach, though, Cape Florida is full of other fun outdoor things to do too. We spent a lot of time exploring the different paths and trails throughout the park, most of which were full of massive spiders and equally massive lizards. The various piers along the seawall path were full of people fishing, bikers pedaled by on the paved biking trails, and we even passed a kayak launch site. And if you’re into geocaching, there was a greater concentration of caches in the park than I’ve found anywhere else in Florida so far; we found a really cool, well-hidden one in an old ammunition case off the beaten path- definitely a highlight of my day!

The park is located, literally, at the tip of Key Biscayne- to get there, you just drive down Rickenbacker Causeway, all the way to the end. It’s only open from 9 to 5pm, though, and you do have to pay a $8 parking fee- pretty annoying, but it’s still worth the trip.

Nearby and ‘away from it all’ at the same time, Cape Florida is definitely one of my new favorite places near Miami. I always love getting out and finding such great places in my own backyard! This one was close and easy enough that I plan on doing it again soon- and again many, many more times in the future.

The best part was that this was all in November… Gotta love life in never-ending-summer.

trail entrance

Trail at Bill Baggs State Park

Islamorada Kayak Adventures

Everything was perfectly still as we silently glided through the narrow blue-green lagoon, mangroves tangled overhead. We didn’t even need to paddle the kayak; we just kept drifting, drifting ahead, only pausing to steer. Somewhere, we were told, there were two crocodiles lurking beneath the surface.

lagoon kayak

No, this isn’t a Disney movie (or even a ride at Disney World, for that matter). This is real life in Islamorada, Florida- the village of the islands, my new favorite destination in the Keys. You think lagoon kayaking is cool? That’s not even the start of the absolutely amazing day that I spent in Islamorada-adventure-land. I kayaked to a deserted island with Native American ruins, jumped off a pier into the ocean, drifted through the mangroves, made island friends, feasted on mahi-mahi in a tiki hut, all in a single day trip. AMAZING!

Islamorada is just short of a two-hour drive away from South Miami down the A1A- close enough to visit for a day, but far, far from the “real world.” Everything was beautiful: the sun was perfect, the breeze was perfect, the humidity was nonexistent. Everywhere, blue and green, happiness, and island life.

Robbie's Marina

We spent the day at Robbie’s Marina (mm 77.5), THE coolest marina ever. Makeshift shack stands selling coconut heads and island art scattered the gravel parking lot, live music played in the background, people  clustered around the restaurants and watersport vendors on the pier, giant monster fish circled at the end of the dock. It was so full of life!

kayak shack

Here, amongst this perfect waterfront village, we found the Kayak Shack- literally a shack. Literally awesome. I want the life of the equally awesome guy that works there. (Getting paid to live this life everyday? Sign me up, please!). Or at least the life of his dog, who just hangs out on the shack roof all day- can you say adorable?

Anyway, we had come to kayak, so after a brief rundown on the pier, my friend Lis and I finally climbed into our big, red double kayak to begin our day’s excursion. Lis and I, for the record, are the worst kayakers ever. But it didn’t matter, we had too much motivation to care. So we dove right in, paddling thirty minutes out, under US-1, and across the ocean to distant Indian Key, a now deserted island, brimming with all kinds wildlife. There were even cacti!

overlooking Indian Key

We tied the boat on the beach and explored for about an hour. Sand paths and old wooden “street signs” gave us a sense of direction, old concrete foundations served as the only reminder of a time long ago when settlers inhabited the island, and a short scaling of an old wooden look-out tower revealed breathtaking views of trees and ocean. We later discovered a modern pier, built so that visitors could tie up their boat, on one side of the key. Of course, we jumped off of it into the turquoise water. It was too beautiful of a day not to. And of course, the water was perfect too. It was BEYOND salty, though. Kayaking back from the island after drying in the sun, I could physically see thick white powder coating my entire body.

THAT’S how salty it was.

"Just around the river bend!"At this point, we were just going to tie up, rinse off, and grab something to eat on the pier (last meal: breakfast at 7:00am, not ok), but we decided to at least paddle around the corner to see what we could find. Next thing we knew, we’re drifting down a perfect island lagoon, barely grasping that this was reality. Remember, we’re both from up North; we still think it should be 50 degrees and sweater-weather right now. Instead, while the rest of our family and friends back home buttoned up their jackets, we were drinking in the sunshine, the air, the incredible picture in front of us. I couldn’t describe the full essence of what it was exactly like if I tried. You’ll just have to go and see for yourself what I mean.

Lorelei, Islamorada

Eventually, we did have to return. But as sad as we were to leave, we did welcome the chance to finally eat a good meal and change into salt-free clothing. After a quick shopping adventure around the marina, we drove north a few miles to Lorelei Cabana Bar and Restaurant (mm 82) to sit back, relax, and eat before beginning the drive back to reality. With more music, a lively crowd, and waterfront seating, Lorelei could not have been a more perfect place for us to end our day. Every detail screamed “Keys,” right up to the old, fat dog lying in the middle of it all. Literally, I kept questioning if the whole thing was even real.

By the time we finally made it back to South Miami around 7:00 that evening, I was exhausted, but the trip was entirely worth it! I would absolutely go back to Islamorada and Robbie’s in a heartbeat, and I plan to asap. And whenever possible. For any reason at all. It was that incredible, a sanctuary in the midst of crazy-wild-real-world stuff. The fact that I spent a day there is still mind boggling to me, but I guess that’s life in never-ending summer for you.

Kayak Shack

Make time for the village of the islands next time you’re in The Keys. Stop at Robbie’s, feed the tarpon, give the roof dog a high-five. Explore, adventure, sing Pocahontas songs as you drift around the river bend. Really, it’s not a Disney attraction.

I promise, it’s all real- and it’s unlike anything you’ve ever done before.

%d bloggers like this: