January 4-5, 2017: Our first camping trip of the year
Wildlife-spottings everywhere as we kayaked past mangroves!
Taken from the top of Cabbage Key
Riding into the campsite
On a walk with perfect light
I’ve been summoning the guts to do a kayak camping trip to Cayo Costa for 2 years. I’ve heard so many great things about the trip: there are islands along the way with great jaunts where Jimmy Buffet used to sit and relax, the water when calm is stunning and peaceful, there’s a lot of wonderful wildlife, there is great shelling on Cayo Costa itself.
But it’s an 8 mile trip one way, two people had died in the bay the year before, I wasn’t truly sure we could make it that far or make it in the direction we were intending, and really, water is a scary force to reckon with.
To add to that, at midnight the night before the trip, Kyle’s father called us to warn that the next day held thunderstorm predictions, the tide was going to be against us (though not strongly), and there were potential winds predicted.
On the morning of our trip, we hauled ourselves to Matlacha, where we rented a tandem sit-in kayak. They had no spray-skirt (a scary prospect to me) and the shop attendants ominously warned us that they themselves would never choose to go out in the conditions at hand.
Never-the-less, the weather report predicted “1 small storm” on the drive to Pine Island and another around the time we might be taking a break. And somehow, miraculously, that’s exactly what happened.
We strapped the kayak down to the top of our tiny rental car, prayed it wouldn’t fly off, and took off for the launch site on Pine Island, just as it started to fiercely pour. And it stopped on arrival!
We loaded the kayak with our camping gear, Kyle taught me quickly how to use a compass on the map we had purchased, and of course I wasted no time immediately leading us astray in a (slightly) wrong direction.
Upon course correction, we headed for the “part” of Part Island, into which we kayaked and hunted for the mangrove tunnel that would take us to the other side. It was a slightly windy day, but once you’re surrounded by land, the water is peaceful and calm and the mangroves offer unparalleled solace, except for the unnerving spiders making webs overhead.
Heading for the part in Part Island
Mangrove tunnel, offering silence after all the wind
After we came out the other side of the island, we headed North for Cabbage Key to get a cheeseburger from “Cheeseburger in Paradise.” Just as we were finishing our burgers, the sky let loose again, so we went inside the building to get dessert on their charming back porch.
The final haul to Cayo Costa was…a haul. But we made it and our night, though hastily slapped together, was close to perfect. We had time for walks on the beach and the island, were able to make a nice fire to roast our soaked Publix subs, were serenaded by the boys camping next to us, and were even offered S’mores when another group didn’t want any more! We slept that night under a shared sleeping bag that was given to us by Tanya, with whom we’d hiked in the Fakahatchee. It was a serendipitous night.
In the morning, we stopped by a cove in Cayo Costa, where you can kayak with manatees and spent a little while lazily following them before heading back. We even caught sight of a dolphin on the way!
We grabbed dinner at a bay-side fish shack next to the kayak rental shop to round out a truly perfect outing.
- Exact trip details: https://paddling.com/reports/pine-island-sound-calusa-blueway-florida/
- Tidal chart: http://www.startribune.com/paddling-into-the-blue-in-florida/103710124/
- Water Conditions: http://www.ndbc.noaa.gov/data/Forecasts/FZUS52.KTBW.html
- Wind prediction: 10 knots on the way out from the southwest, 5 knots on the way in (return)
- Emergency return from Cayo Costa/Cabbage Key: Tropic Star Ferries
- Obtain Cayo Costa camping reservation
- Kayak Rentals: http://gulfcoastkayak.com/kayak-rentals $75/24 hours
- Map (purchased at kayak shop), additional map apps on phone: “Gaia” and “Maps with me”
- Extra paddle
- Lighter, fire starter
- Wood available $3/bundle ranger station