But darn it, the weather just won’t cooperate. Two years ago we spent three weeks in the Keys in early November. It was unseasonably hot, humid, and the no-see-ums were relentless. High winds churned the seas, making it too choppy and murky for snorkeling. In 21 days, we spent one hour snorkeling—it was a less than ideal day, and we merely snorkeled in the mangroves—but it was that or nothing. I assured Eric that this was not typical weather for the Keys. And so I vowed we would try again, and reserved the first two weeks of December in our favorite waterfront site at Curry Hammock State Park.
Our site was idyllic, tucked into the mangroves and overlooking the ocean. We strolled on the beach in the early morning and at sunset, enjoying the antics of the wading and shore birds. We launched our kayak just steps from our campsite, paddling out into the beautiful shallow aquamarine waters. Other days, we navigated trails through mangrove tunnels, sharing the dense thickets with Yellow-crowned Night Herons and Snowy Egrets. It was gorgeous—almost paradise—except for the heat, humidity, bugs, winds, and thunderstorms.
Apparently the Keys were in the grip of a weather pattern that would not relent. “This is unusual,” everyone kept saying. (Not for us, apparently.) We dodged the rainstorms, or got soaked while biking or walking on the beach. (Who cares? It’s a warm, tropical rain!) When the wind wasn’t too ferocious, we kayaked. I think we managed to kayak every paddle-able waterway in the middle Keys. If we weren’t in or on the water, we were in the trailer with the A/C on, because we were suffering mightily from the heat and humidity. (In our defense, so were the natives.)
And we spent lots of time in the company of family and friends, which made everything better. Fellow travelers and bloggers Sherry and David (In The Direction of Our Dreams) were camped a couple of sites down from us, and we had a great time catching up with them after our last meet-up in Florida two years ago. We kayaked together, took a boat trip out to Lignumvitae Key for a holiday celebration, walked on the beach, and enjoyed being neighbors in our tropical locale.
We also spent many delightful days and evenings with Rick and Karren, my aunt and uncle who have called the Keys home for many years. Sitting on their lovely screened patio overlooking the water while sipping gin and tonics or floating in their pool provided a welcome respite from the heat. We biked with them on No Name Key (and had a brew at the quirky little No Name Pub); enjoyed several delicious seafood meals together (including an evening of Florida lobster at their beautiful home); and went boating when the weather cooperated, including a cruise through Toilet Seat Cut.
We tried for two weeks to find a day to go snorkeling. But every time we made plans, the winds picked up and the seas sported white caps. But finally—finally!—a morning dawned when the sun was shining, the seas were calm, and no storms loomed on the horizon. By chance, it also happened to be my birthday. I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect gift. Rick fired up the boat, and we sped out to Lighthouse Reef, one of the premier snorkeling locations in the Keys. Paddling around the reef, scores of colorful tropical fish weaving around us in the beautiful clear waters—it was just as magical as I remembered. I want to go back. But I think we’ll try February next time.
About the campground:
Curry Hammock is our favorite Florida State Park campground in the Keys. It’s small, the sites are spacious and private, and there’s excellent beach and kayaking access. In our opinion, the best sites are on the waterfront. It’s not cheap, at $38.50 per night (water and electric only)—but it’s a bargain when you consider that anything else in the Keys goes for around $100 and up per night in season. It is absurdly difficult to get campsite reservations in the Keys, and the competition is fierce. Persistence and luck seem to play a big part in reserving a spot in paradise. Being good has nothing to do with it.
Next Up: Everglades Exotica