Tag Archives: Dry Tortugas

To be a human in the wild

“Twenty years ago, fresh out of college, I was too poor to afford the most expensive name gear. I did have a great back pack (Lowe Alpine Contour), but a cheap tent, Walmart ground pad, and low end hiking clothes, etc. Several times on the trail, I would meet people and outfitters who would judge me on my apparel/gear. It was like the trail had become a country club and I was not welcome or good enough to be a member. I feel now, the same way I felt then. If you love the outdoors, hiking and camping, then you belong.”

/u/mein_liebchen on Reddit

It’s not Martin Luther King. It’s not Ghandi. But my goodness did this dude put it perfectly. To provide some context, people have been incessantly bitching about the movie Wild and the resultant flood of backpackers. This guy was fed up with the elitism from a portion of the hiking community. Continue reading To be a human in the wild

Overpowering fear: open ocean kayaking

Nothing in my life has ever sparked such overwhelming fear as sitting alone on a beach in the early, early morning, long before sunrise with intentions of paddling a kayak across an enormous body of water to a foreign island. There was lightning on the horizon, too distant and sparse to be a sure no go, but not clear enough to make me feel confident to paddle out. The wind was blowing from the north and would launch me down to Cay Sal on an open ocean kayaking voyage in under 12 hours. I would arrive there before dusk and set up camp on the uninhabited island in the Gulf of Mexico. I could see the tall palms swaying high overhead behind me and knew the wind coming from the other side of the island was strong. Within the first mile of paddling the wind would catch me and launch me faster and faster from the island until eventually I would not be able to paddle back. It was a commitment that gave me chills.

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Continue reading Overpowering fear: open ocean kayaking

Key West to Tortugas, Part 3

My boat glided up onto the beach as I popped open my spray skirt. The dense smell of sweat and urine assaulted my nostrils. I slipped out of the boat and fell into the water, tried to stand, and contented myself with wading. I waded in the water for minutes, looking up on the island at the campers. Occasionally one would walk by and give me a look of total confusion, but the refugee Cubans arriving moments before distracted them from my arrival, at least long enough for me to learn how to walk again. Continue reading Key West to Tortugas, Part 3

Key West to Dry Tortugas kayaking, Part 2

I was on the east side of the Marquesas so I had a few miles before I even reached open water. I paddled through the center of the circle of islands all the way to the west side where I saw three boats anchored in the lee of the island. In the flats I could see a couple fins swaying to-and-fro. I knew what they were but paddled up to get a closer look. A very large 7-8 foot nurse shark was sifting through the murk to find crustaceans. I startled him as he startled me and I continued on my trip. I soon was out into open water and felt the gusts pick up on my back. It would be a tailwind ride the entire way, making for a questionable return in the coming days.10380547_10204212389648781_7354232033001364636_o

Continue reading Key West to Dry Tortugas kayaking, Part 2

Key West to Tortugas, Part 1

It’s hard to understand the months of preparation from any other vantage than my own. They think I just though of the idea of an open ocean paddle this morning, and they think I am crazy.

He asked me how far I was going to be paddling out and I responded saying I was headed for the Tortugas. “Do you know how far that is?” he asked with a concerned expression on his face.

I laughed and said “yes, yes I do”. It is a common silly question in a long list of them that I have recently become accustomed to. Minutes later, as I prepped my boat on Higgs Beach in Key West to set off for my open ocean voyage in a standard kayak, another man walked up and asked me if I was training for something.

“Actually, I was training for what I’m about to do right now,” I responded. Continue reading Key West to Tortugas, Part 1

Middle Keys to Key West

I landed on the Man o’ War covered Smathers Beach on the south end of Key West at around eleven in the morning. I jumped out of my kayak in front of dozens of tourists trying to tan their wintery white skin. My face was coated with zinc oxide, my eyes sunken in from lack of sleep, my clothes wet and smelly. I sat on the beach in the warm sand for a moment reflecting on what I had just done. I had paddled a kayak the same distance it would be to paddle to The Bahamas. The absurd goal, an unfathomable distance, didn’t seem so crazy anymore. The only difference, no bugs to fend off, no unpredictable currents, just open water and solitude. Continue reading Middle Keys to Key West