While visiting grandparents in South Florida, our adventurous family was itching to get out and do something cool. We don't do well sitting around next to the pool for very long. That's all good for a day or so, but then we have to get out and explore. Nicole started looking at maps and researching online for places to go, and stumbled upon a little-known state park near the coast and it was only 20 minutes away from our hotel. Lover's Key looked like a cool little state park with a paddling trail and a beach. It wasn't big, it wasn't super exotic, but we could rent kayaks and explore the estuary for manatees, birds, and gators. Then we could go out to the coastline and swim at the beach.
When we got out of the rental car at Lover's Key state park, the heat hit us like a mack truck. Us Coloradans are not used to the heat and humidity of South Florida. Every building here is airconditioned on turbo, and the humidity makes it pretty cold any time you are indoors anywhere. So you kind of forget how hot it is until you step outside. We gathered our stuff and went over to the rental booth to get some kayaks. We rented two tandem sit-on-top kayaks and listened to the speal from the attendant on where to go and what to look for.
We walked down the boardwalk to the boat ramp and loaded into two bright yellow tandem kayaks. We set up with girls in one boat and boys in the other. Rhys, my 9 year-old son was with me, and we weren't off to a good start. Suddenly his ankle started hurting and he went down the path of complaints. It was one thing after another for a few minutes until we gave him some food and then he turned the attitude around. He was his normal fun guy after that. Nicole and Zoe took the other kayak and they were off ahead of the complaining before we knew it.
As we wound our way through the water trail we explored into the thick mangroves and got really close to some beautiful birds. We saw Ibis, and Herons, and Cormorants, and even two giant bald eagles frolicking in the air together. We floated quietly along the shore to see the Ibis poking around in the mud for food. It's nice to be able slow the pace and really watch the birds do what they do. We enjoyed some shade under the mangroves for a bit while the birds were hunting.
As we headed out into the waterway, we could see the fuzzy round snout of a manatee coming up to the surface. We slowly and quietly floated toward it, and by the time we got over there it dove to the bottom and we couldn't see it through the dark brackish water. At that moment we heard a big splash and looked up to see a large fish landing from a jump. We floated around and did some swimming and then started heading back. Just before getting back to the boat ramp we noticed a tiny baby alligator clinginging to a mangrove root.
After returning the boats we got some ice cream at the shop, and then headed out for some beach time. We were hot from all the paddling, and walking, so we went straight into the water for a swim as soon as we set our stuff down. The shells can be pretty cool on the South Florida beaches so we walked a ways along the beach looking for shells before it was time to meet the grandparents for dinner.