Biscayne National Park, Part Two: Afternoon

FloridaKeys-674

White Ibises

All eight of us had spent the morning of November 19, 2016 kayaking in Biscayne Bay and in the mangrove estuaries along its mainland shores. Now it was time for a picnic lunch at Convoy Point. Our time at Biscayne National Park, having only just begun, was also drawing short. And that meant that our whole Florida Keys adventure would soon be concluding.

FloridaKeys-645

Miami

Looking north from Convoy Point, Miami rose from the ocean like Atlantis.

FloridaKeys-646

FloridaKeys-647

FloridaKeys-648

We had reserved our kayaks for the whole day, and most if not all of us would be going back out on the water after food and rest.

FloridaKeys-649

FloridaKeys-650

One of the things that we almost immediately noticed about Convoy Point was how much it functioned like a metropark. Biscayne National Park is immediately adjacent to Miami, and a great range of people, young and old, black and white, Cuban and Muslim, were enjoying the free facilities at Convoy Point that Saturday afternoon. Sean, Bethany, and I had noticed a similar phenomenon at Shenandoah National Park, which is within easy striking distance of Washington DC and Charlottesville.

FloridaKeys-651

FloridaKeys-652

FloridaKeys-653

FloridaKeys-654

One of the arguments for protecting Biscayne Bay, particularly the keys on its eastern side, was that the Bay functions as a protection for Miami and the east coast of South Florida from hurricanes. Sure enough, in 1992 Hurricane Andrew made landfall directly over the Park. Although the damage to older and historically interesting structures was severe, the newly completed Park headquarters were basically unscathed. (Since our trip, Hurricane Irma has badly damaged Biscayne National Park, but it was not a direct hit like Hurricane Andrew.)

FloridaKeys-655

FloridaKeys-656

FloridaKeys-657

FloridaKeys-658

FloridaKeys-659

Brown Pelican

FloridaKeys-660

Red Velvet Ant

By 1:30, we were back on the water. Noah and Nick decided to stay behind and hang out at Convoy Point. So the rest of us reshuffled. Sean and Juan paired up. I went with Kam. And Adam took Ion.

FloridaKeys-661

We again paddled north along the shore, but this time we ignored Mowry Canal and explored some of the secluded natural channels lined with mangroves farther along the coast.

FloridaKeys-662

FloridaKeys-663

Tree Snail

FloridaKeys-664

FloridaKeys-665

FloridaKeys-666

FloridaKeys-668

Osprey

There was a lot more bird activity than there had been in the morning. Most spectacularly, we watched an Osprey catch a fish and then land with it and tear at it.

FloridaKeys-669

Osprey and Turkey Vulture

FloridaKeys-670

White Ibis

We also came upon a small flock of White Ibises.

FloridaKeys-671

FloridaKeys-672

FloridaKeys-673

FloridaKeys-675

Turkey Vulture

FloridaKeys-676

White Ibis

FloridaKeys-677

White Ibis

FloridaKeys-678

FloridaKeys-679

FloridaKeys-680

FloridaKeys-667

After exploring the shore for a while, Sean and Juan decided to head back to Convoy Point. The rest of us made for two small islands not far out into the Bay.

FloridaKeys-681

Like portions of the mainland, these islands seemed to collect some floating junk, including the remains of a sofa.

FloridaKeys-682

Double-Crested Cormorant

They were also a hang-out for Cormorants eyeing the shallow waters for fish.

FloridaKeys-683

FloridaKeys-684

Double-Crested Cormorant

FloridaKeys-685

FloridaKeys-686

We made our way around the north end of the islands and passed to the sunnier south side, opposite Convoy Point farther south across a calm, glistening stretch of shallow water.

FloridaKeys-687

FloridaKeys-688

FloridaKeys-689

Bottlenose Dolphin

Suddenly, a Bottlenose Dolphin surfaced very close to our kayaks. It explored all around us, and at one point it went right under Adam and Ion’s kayak. I wished Sean and Juan hadn’t already gone back to shore…

FloridaKeys-690

Bottlenose Dolphin

FloridaKeys-691

Bottlenose Dolphin

Video: Brandon Hayes

FloridaKeys-692

Bottlenose Dolphin

The Dolphin was with us for a good ten minutes before it continued on its way back out into the main expanse of Biscayne Bay. With that excitement capping our time on the water at Biscayne, the four of us paddled back to Convoy Point. In all, we had spent another hour and a half on the water for a total of four hours paddling at Biscayne National Park.

FloridaKeys-693

FloridaKeys-694

Image: Sean M. Santos

Back on shore with the others, we examined a bottle of nasty water that someone had found.

FloridaKeys-695

FloridaKeys-696

I settled up with Danny from Nec-Flo Paddlesports, thanking him again for letting us reserve kayaks for the day. It had worked out perfectly.

FloridaKeys-697

Those who had been hanging out on land were pretty much ready to go, but I had time for a quick walk out onto the boardwalk and spit of land that comprised the tip of Convoy Point.

FloridaKeys-698

FloridaKeys-699

FloridaKeys-700

FloridaKeys-701

FloridaKeys-702

FloridaKeys-703

FloridaKeys-704

Had we not rented kayaks, this small park area would have been all we could have experienced of Biscayne National Park. It truly is a National Park that can only really be experienced on the water. It will be well worth a return visit someday to cross over to the keys to camp and hike. Or to take a glass-bottomed boat tour once they return. Biscayne, Sean’s and my twenty-second National Park, deserves much more than a day-long visit.

FloridaKeys-705

FloridaKeys-706

FloridaKeys-707

FloridaKeysAddenda-16

Treatment: Noah Powell

We headed back to Key Largo, stopping at Corks and Screws to get some more wine and provisions.

FloridaKeys-709

FloridaKeys-710

Image: Sean M. Santos

We spent our final night relaxing at the house with pizza delivery and wine.

FloridaKeys-711

Image: Sean M. Santos

Next morning, the Detroiters had a much earlier flight than we Chicagoans did. We were all up fairly early tidying up the house and preparing to head to Miami.

FloridaKeys-712

FloridaKeys-713

A Florida fireplace

FloridaKeys-714

FloridaKeys-715

By ten, the Detroiters had departed, and the other four Chicagoans sat by the canal behind the house while I did a final walkabout and locked up.

FloridaKeys-716

FloridaKeys-717

Spotted Eagle Ray

We were all sad to be returning to real life, our jobs and the national news. Some rays passed by in the canal as if they were wishing us safe travels.

FloridaKeys-718

Image: Sean M. Santos

To Noah’s great chagrin, before we left Key Largo, we made one last visit at Shell World.

FloridaKeys-719

Image: Sean M. Santos

On the way to Miami, being homosexuals of a certain age, we listened to the just-issued twentieth anniversary remastering of Tori Amos’ Boys for Pele.

FloridaKeys-720

We had lunch at Berries in the Grove, where Juan’s sister Stephanie works. She seated us upstairs in a private area and treated us to sparkling wine. And the food was great.

FloridaKeys-721

FloridaKeys-722

After lunch, Stephanie joined us for a quick visit to downtown Miami where we walked along the water before we had to head to the airport.

FloridaKeysAddenda-1

Image: Sean M. Santos

FloridaKeys-723

FloridaKeys-724

Miami International Airport. Image: Sean M. Santos

FloridaKeys-725

Our flight was delayed a bit, but soon we were on our way back to Chicago.

At O’Hare, we bid the boys farewell, and Sean and I took a cab home.

FloridaKeys-726

And when we got there, Elsa was pleased to see us.

Epilogue: Sean had purchased a nice shell at Shell World. And he took it to his office to have on his desk.

FloridaKeys-727

Image: Sean M. Santos

Video: Sean M. Santos

But a few weeks later he realized it had a funny smell. Picking it up and shaking it, some weird little bugs fell out.

FloridaKeysAddenda-9

Image: Sean M. Santos

Oops.

 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s