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ON TOP OF MY WORLD
Written By: OC Fotoguy
*Click images below to view larger versions.
ON TOP OF MY WORLD
ON TOP OF MY WORLD
ON TOP OF MY WORLD
ON TOP OF MY WORLD
ON TOP OF MY WORLD
ON TOP OF MY WORLD
 
Some days you know it’s just going to go right and why not. Every day has been  80, 80, 80 degrees except for a few since I arrived in the Keys the day before Christmas, as the second leg of my Adventure XV to the warm places of our Country in the winter. I’ve enjoyed the solitude and natural wonders and beauty of the Everglades and now that being in the Keys has worked; especially parking my nest (pickup with a slide-in camper) overnight for free with no hassles from anyone or anything.
Today the sky is blue, there’s little wind and the water is warm on this 20th day of January, here in Islamorada. This is a great day to kayak to the island of Legumvitae, where there’s a State Park; but I don’t go there, I go to other places on the island where it’s peopleless. As I put in at MM 79 from last bridge before Robbie’s, I look down and there is a cowry shell about as big as a silver dollar. Wow!  A rare find to start! The shell is uninhabited, too. Most conch and shells I’d like to collect still have the critter in it or it’s a hermit crab’s home. I usually let the user keep them and don’t take those, except if I’m going to eat the conch, oyster, clam, etc. I’m in the water early so there’s no hurry. I feel very relaxed as I slowly paddle with my eyes peeled on the bottom and all around me to see what I can see. There’s dolphins, sea turtles, a myriad of bottom critters, and lots of fish and water birds here.
I’m on top of my world, unlike a poor guy who has run his pleasure cruising boat up on a sand bar. He’s irritatingly waiting for high tide that will bring more water, which will lift him free from where he ran aground. He’s not very far outside the buoy and close to where he should be, but this isn’t horseshoes and he certainly wasn’t lucky. He’s dressed in a black golf shirt and black shorts and in the sun. Black is the hottest color you can wear. It soaks up the heat. He looks miserable. I stay away from him. There’s nothing I can say that will help and it’s several hours to high tide.  Hope he has sun screen on.
I’d like to see a dolphin, but none appear; but I do see the fin of nurse sharks in deeper water. Most of this bay becomes shallow or a sand bar at extreme low tide. I’m paddling in 6-12” of water, which is plenty for a kayak. As I arrive at the island I begin to search the mangroves for the opening to the lagoon in the interior.  Egrets, Great White Herons, Blue Herons, and other birds fly as I approach. Then I see a disturbance in the water and a big “cloud” of silt makes the crystal clear turquoise water murky, where a fish accelerated. I begin to see more nurse sharks, but no opening.
Last December and January when I was here it was hard to find and I said to myself, “someday the mangroves are going grow together and seal the lagoon from invaders like me and Mother Nature will preserve it for the inhabitants.” I remember it was like paddling around on the surface of a huge aquarium and I could see the diverse aquatic plants and many mangrove snappers, barracudas, and other eating size fish that I don’t know the types. My remembrances are interrupted by a 30-inch  Snook that lingers at the edge of the mangroves, and then takes off leaving a storm of churned up silt.
He was too quick for me, because I wasn’t ready for a photo op. I violated my own rule! Be there, be ready, be looking, and of course, be lucky. I was preoccupied with looking for the lagoon opening and my desire to enjoy its scenery. I’d love to catch and eat a fish like that. I search in between mangroves in many places, but can’t find the opening. Then I see a nurse shark in shallow water and raise my camera and wait and hope for it to swim close by so I can get a photo. It does and I get the photo, nice one. I look up and there’s dozens of birds soaring way up there, pelicans, wood storks, frigate birds, buzzards and hawks I can’t ID, plus an eagle. Eagles are always a thrill to see.
I paddle further towards the Key West end of the Island. I use towards Key West and towards Miami as my directional words. U.S. 1, the OverSeas Hiway, generally goes east to west, but it’s far from a straight line. My directional words are always easily understood. I think the opening was more in the central part of the island towards Rt. 1. All mangroves look pretty much the same, and the opening was not marked. Next time I’ll bring my saw. If I do, as I’m cutting a Park Ranger will surely appear out of nowhere!
I’ve gone too far, but I always have a plan B. There’s an ancient reef on the beach on the Key West side, so I head there for some beach combing. That’s where I found two King Conch shells several years ago and two years ago found two chocolate colored cowry shells, that were bigger than my fist. The Florida Park Service said they were common. I’d never seen any and I’ve been paddling my kayak here every year, sometimes a dozen times, and look for things like that continually. I don’t see any of those today, but there are plenty of opeehees of Bizarre Foods fame, which he eats - oodles of little fish, like the ones in people’s aquariums, and a strange fluke-like fish.
I check the camera’s time indicator and there’s enough time to paddle leisurely back, shower, and be on time for HH at the Lor E Lei with abundant ACBs, so I head towards my nest. At the Lor E Lei I get a bonus, a gorgeous sunset. Life Is Good and I reward myself with a pound of delectable steamed Keys shrimp!
Bob R  o.c.FotoGuy more photos @picasaweb.google.com/o.c.fotoguy2009
& facebook.com/OCfotoguy
PHOTOSAsYouWantThem.biz, articles @ Coconuttimes.com 
 
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