Monday, January 02, 2012

Florida Keys - New Years 2011

We jetted ourselves down the the Florida Keys for the week between Christmas and New Year. We try to spend this week somewhere warm, just with each other, every year. Well...let's say we've tried to do it every year, with varying success. As my better half says, there's no better way to ring in the new year than under the rustle of a palm-frond roof, a gently lapping shoreline limned with Tiki torches. Tough work if you can get it.

This year, we went to the Florida Keys to paddle and snorkel - and met up with the guys we'd paddled with in the Finger Lakes, and serendipitously, a couple with whom we'd shared a very lively conversation over beers and burgers. We were guided through some particularly magnificent spots, where the mangrove channels get so small that you have to stow the paddle, and haul yourself through, hand over hand...sometimes while lying on your belly.

We also went snorkeling in a lively and healthy coral reef about five miles off the Sombrero Beach in Marathon, where we were staying. I will attempt to share any pictures that come out of the underwater camera we got for the occasion. Highlights from this included swimming over a seven foot nurse shark and then an even larger stingray, hanging out with a small sea turtle as it nibbled its way along the reef, and bravely making our way through throngs of foot-wide moon jellies.

We took a sunset cruise around Key West on a boat that, by day, is occupied by frequently naked gay men, and by night is opened up to those of us who don't mass together in nude groups. Behind Alexis is Julie, half of that fun Upstate couple, and then Cody and Ryan from Finger Lakes Paddleboard.

We stayed in this unbelievably crappy hotel in Marathon. At first, we felt really far away from everything centered in Key West. It's funny, we just didn't understand that the Keys stretch about 127 miles from upper Key Largo to Key West. But, in fact, much of what we really would want to do in the Keys is better in the Middle Keys than in Key West at the Southern Tip. The Snorkeling was fantastic, the beach (Sombrero Beach) is the best of the Keys, and there is even great Mangrove and Wreck paddling. Next time, we will just head directly to the Middle Keys and ignore the drunken Croc-wearing crowds of Key West.

Even though our hotel was atrocious, we had great meals:

A great dock to share with the pelicans:

And the first Mimosas of the New Year:

As we drove north on U.S. 1 to Miami - salt drying in our hair from a final swim and listening to oldies WWUS (U.S. 1 radio broadcasting out of Big Pine Key) - I turned to Alexis and said what I'll say to you: It's going to be a great year.