Miami to Key West


December 20, 2009 by Bethany

You didn’t think we’d abandon you and not tell the story of Miami to Key West did you? Of course not!

We’ll just right into it right now in fact…

From Miami and Thanksgiving goodness, we paddled a short distance south to South Beach. We paddled through the canals instead of straight there via the bay because we wanted to see all the buildings of Miami Beach. It was impressive. We even had a packed lunch, thanks to Jaqueline, and ate it, floating down the canal. Can’t beat that.

We arrived at South Beach Kayak and meet Anna-Marie and Keenan. They were greeting us with huge smiles. They took us to the shop where we stored our kayaks and gear overnight. Keenan gave us a driving tour of South Beach, Ocean Dr, Lincoln Ave. and the like. It was a really show-y place. I think I recall seeing 3 Lamborghinis in 30 min or so. Yeah. Also saw a lemur on a guys shoulder, and the lemur had a broken leg in a cast. Crazy stuff. Keenan dropped us off at Anna-Marie’s apartment where we relaxed for a few hours. That evening Dan and I went out on the town and enjoyed the shopping along Lincoln Ave. We slept well and wore up the next morning to coffee and pancakes. Can’t beat that either.

Now for the scary day… After we left Anna-Marie in South Beach, we had to cross the Biscayne Bay to the northernmost keys, including Soldier Key, Boca Chita Key, and Elliot Key.  It was a pretty intense crossing. It happened to be a Saturday, Thanksgiving Weekend, in MIAMI meaning everyone and thier brother was out on a boat zipping every which-a-way all over the place. I describe it as crossing a 4 lane highway, when all the drivers are blindfolded, a terrifying game of Frogger from a kayak… call it “kayagger.” Not fun. We made it across the confusing area where the ocean-bound channel was, and we were able to relax a little more. The day improved after that. The weather was fabulous and the water was crystal clear. We made it to the camping area on Boca Chita Key and were aparantly arrive at a Cuban campout party. There were so many motor boats there, blaring spanish language music, people dancing, grilling out, footbal games… it was CRAZY! Its a national park campground with a marina… and no ranger on site in the evening. Pretty much a free for all. We set up our tent, cooked dinner, and went to bed, to our first sunset in the Keys… and a crazy fiesta going on all around us.

We slept in the next morning because we only had 5 miles to go. It was either 5 miles or 30 miles and we decided to take it easy. Key Largo could wait. We paddled leisurely to Elliot Key campground, getting there around noon. It was hot. It was buggy. There was no wind. We made lunch and got in the tent, where we stayed until the following morning. Dull Day. Restful day.

It was the day for Key Largo! Long ago, on Jekyll Island in GA, we met Catherine and Rainer of the Pearlita. They are from Toronto, CA, and they are fantastic. We didnt get to spend any time with them at all in GA but we were planning on meeting up with them in the keys. This was the day. We paddled 25 miles on calm flat water to Gilbert’s Resort and Marina, in Key Largo. Catherine met us at the beach, pointing us towards the dingy dock. Rainer greeted us with 2 beers and we had a little lunch. Why is it that when youre hungry youll eat anything? They had raisin bread, american cheese, and salami… and it was the best sandwich ever… and i would have never made that in my kitchen at home. who would have thought. We got a room at the hotel on-site, showered, took a nap, and were back at the Pearlita just in time for sunset, cocktail hour, and dinner. We had a great evening, not to be forgotten, enjoying fabulous food, artwork on coconuts, (that Rainer does himself), and meaningful conversation. Trail Magic.

The next morning, we met the Pearlita crew for coffee and breakfast and then they followed us in thier dingy two miles across the water to Florida Bay Outfitters, where we were going to meet the famous Frank and Monica, who we had heard about so much along the Florida coast. We got to pass the mariners “Welcome to the Florida Keys” sign along the way. It was very exciting indeed. After getting to F.B.O., we bid farewell to Catherine and Rainer and paddled 12 more miles to a park near Farnk and Monica’s home, where we were planning on staying. Monica picked us up and took us to her house. It was beautiful. Frank had done all the work on it and I was very impressed. We stayed in the apartment downstairs, newly remodeled and very chic. Took us by surprise for sure. We showered in rainwater from their cistern, ate a good dinner of bison, rice, and beans.  Josh and Joel from the shop, came over and we all enjoyed a campfire in the backyard. Good times.

The next morning, we took a rest day. There was a threat of a storm front coming through. We relaxed, went to the post office and the grocery store, relaxed some more, and then… it was evening again. Sometimes rest days go by way to fast. We had papa johns with Frank and Monica, and got some good beta on the days to come from them, since they are keys paddling experts.

The next morning, the were worried about the thunderstorm forecast but knew we had to press on. They had been calling for it the day before but it didnt come. We thought we would get on the water and paddle until the storm came, since there were multiple places to stop along the way. We paddled a while, a rather unmentionable day until we stopped. We got really tired for some reason. I don’t know why but we were exhausted after about 10 miles! We decided to stop at a “campground” that was on the Florida Trail, the Coconut Cove Resort in Islamorada. WHAT A RIP-OFF this place was. It was incredible. If we hadn’t been so tired and so stinkin hot, we would have definitely moved on. We paid $50 to camp on the front lawn of this outdated hotel/resort. The pool was awesome but that was about it. The “Tiki Bar and Grill” was actually a bar, open only during special events, and an actual grill that we were “welcome to cook on if ya like”… ummm…. really? Thank goodness the “nature area” we were told to camp on was filled with fire ants. otherwise we would not have been able to sleep in the presence of the HWY 1 cars and bright lights for the entrance to the “resort”. We walked “right next door” to the restaurant 3/4 of a mile away to eat. After we ate our dinner, we walked back and got into our sauna of a tent, and slept a rather sleepless night. My hair was WET from sweat. It was bad.

We woke up to rain. Besides the elation I felt that the sun had risen, signalling that the night was over, i was depressed because of the rain. Its hard to describe how depressing it is to pack up a wet tent, in the rain. We took it slow in the morning, waiting for the office to open at 9 am so we could enjoy the coffee and packaged honey buns. So luxurious. We watched the rain and finally convinced ourselves to pack it up and head on out. The weather cleared right after we finished eating and we were able to pack up in clear weather. The storms had STILL not arrived so we decided to push on through to Long Key State Park. It turned out to be a beautiful day thankfully and we really enjoyed the paddle. The water was again, crystal clear and we got to enjoy some very good sealife. All that staring into the water kept us from paddling very fast. We watched the sunset on the water, which also means we had to paddle in the dark. It was a very very dark night too.  We had called the state park earlier, and they had given us a free site in their overflow campsite and we enjoyed the night in a circle of palm trees.

The wind blew hard all night, which was a hint that the front was FINALLY going to come through. We decided to paddle 1 mile to a hotel for the day/night. It was a good call. We got to the hotel at 9 am and spent the rest of the day watching tv and relaxing. The thunderstorm was quick but intense, and following it was lots of wind, whipping up waves on the bay. I was so thankful that we were not out on the water.

The next morning, the weather was beautiful again and there was no longer a threat of a thunderstorm. That was a good feeling. Another good feeling was the fact that we were headed to a house in Marathon, that was offered to us by a friend we met in Portland, Maine. All we had to do was paddle across aqua clear water and watch pelicans dive for fish all the way to Marathon. We had very deep conversation and I was thankful for the time we have to talk to each other.  We have had so much time to talk and get to know each other. I feel so close to Dan as a result of this trip. When we got to the house in Marathon, we had to scale a pretty high seawall, with the help of a small ladder. It was quite the challenge and I’m glad we had a lot of experience to pull from for this take out. I dont know if we would have been able to do it, if it had come at the beginning on the kayak trip. We enjoyed that night and following day, completely relaxing, watching TV and eating foods that have to be refrigerated. It was luxurious. THANK YOU CHRISTY!

Only a few days left on the trip. We were starting to allow ourselves to get excited. We paddled the next day past the most beautiful beaches in the keys on Bahia Honda. It was gorgeous. Imagine Paradise… and you get Bahia Honda. We took a break for lunch there. It was so unbearably hot, we also took a swim, which we rarely do, as in, never do. We made it to Big Pine Key and the Old Wooden Bridge Cottages and Marina, where we were staying for the night. Bill of Big Pine Kayak, met us there and let us store our kayaks. He gave us our final bits of advice for the rest of the keys AND suggested we ate at No Name Pub. Good advice. Crazy place. We left a dollar on the walls, along with the rest of the world.

Two nights left. We paddled to the Southernmost KOA from Big Pine Key. It was quite possibly the most boring paddle of the whole trip except for one thing. We were in a tight canal, looking for a campsite before we decided to go to the KOA, when 4 men in a fishing boat blew around a corner going really fast. They slowed down so we didnt have to worry about thier wake, and when the engines quieted, we heard that they were listening to Kelly Clarkson… loud. It was entertaining to me. We got to the KOA and had a great second-to-last night on the trail.

It was now the morning of our last full day on the water. It still hadn’t hit us yet. We paddled a short paddle to Geiger Key Marina RV Park, watching the sealife all the way. I saw a spotted devil ray, (devil ray or eagle ray?) which was incredibly beautiful. We walked up to the marina office and they happened to ask us where we had paddled from. HA! How perfect. We told them the story and they were amazed. It was our LAST NIGHT! They let us stay for free, and upgraded us to an RV that they rent out on for campers. We had lunch/dinner at the Grill on-site and met our last kayak trip friends. It was an odd realization to know that these were the last people we were going to meet while on our kayak trip, and get to spend time with. They were so nice! They work as crew on yachts, so we got to hear fun stories about travel from them. When they heard that we were landing at the Southernmost Point Bouy that followingday at 11am, they rescaduled thier camping trip for Saturday, so they could see us land. Talk about nice people to meet.

It was hard to fall asleep.

We woke up early, feeling strange. It was an odd feeling. It’s really hard to explain. We did what we did every morning, packed our boats up, and got in for a short paddle to Key West. We had winds behind us. God was giving us a weather “high five” I think. We were way ahead of schedule. We didnt even have to paddle very much and we were going over 4 miles and hour. We got to a sandy beach on Key West, and took a break, waiting for the clock, so we could land at the bouy on time. Still…. it hadn’t really hit us, that this was the last day. We just kept on with the same normal ways. At around 10:45, we shoved off the beach and headed to the bouy, marked on our GPS. As we closed in on the waypoint, things started to move fast. The GPS said we were there and we couldn’t see it! We knew it was at a seawall, and all we could see was sandy beach, and rocky beach, and then the end of the island, which we knew was past it. Had we missed it?!?!! How could we mess this up?? Where was the bouy? Ridiculous.  Then we passed a corner and there it was.

We could see the BOUY!

We were finished!

We saw a lot of people clapping, Our Moms, Dad, sister, Papa, Grannie, and friends from the keys, not to mention all the unsuspecting people who just happened to be at the bouy too!

There was so much excitement and anticipation and the result was normalcy. I shed a tear of happiness, we landed, hauled our boats over the seawall and we were done.

465 days.

2,500 miles.

14 states.

Dreams achieved.

Wonder how long it will be until it will sink in?

4 thoughts on “Miami to Key West

  1. hal yoder says:

    i shed a tear with u! it’s never a small thing to realize our dreams!!! as i’ve followed your expedition, it’s made me realize how many like us are out there. and how few get to stand where u are and say “it is done.” i think at one point i was hoping your trip would kind of galvanize an “atlantic trail” for kayakers. a new version of the appalaccian trail for “water moccasins” like us. the thing is the atlantic will always remain an untamed wilderness and everyone who undertakes this kind of “trek” will make it their own…..thank u, thank u, thank u for taking us with you! many of us will never make that key west buoy…. but it will be in our eyes, our minds and our hearts! merry christmas and god bless!

  2. Stretchsportguy says:

    Well spoken, hal yoder. Well done, Dan and Bethany.
    From Jaime and Jacqueline in Miami
    We will never forget you.

  3. Mom says:

    What an amazing journey to celebrate. I am porud of each of you. Dan for not giving up on this long awaited dream, and Bethany for being a bride Dan can depend on for support and fun. Congratulations to you both. MISSION ACCOMPLISHED !!!

    ( and welcome home )

  4. Mike says:

    Well writing I love your article its really helpful to kayaking.

Comments are closed.


The Map

This is the map we created with our Spot Satellite Messenger of the whole trip.

Click Here

Featured In

The Key West Citizen, Vero News, Sun Sentinel, TCPalm, The Orlando Sentinel, The Jacksonville Times Union, The Immersion Research Blog, The Coastland Times, The Great Outdoor Provision Company Blog, Coastal Sussex, The Gloucester Times, and The Munjoy Hill News
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