The Florida Keys. An Island paradise you can drive to. One doesn’t even need a passport to escape to the perfection of the keys. I am from Pennsylvania and this summer we visited some family in Marathon, one of the towns comprised of several of the Middle Keys; Knights, Boot, Vaca, Long Point and Grassy Keys. http://www.ci.marathon.fl.us/
We flew to Miami, and then my aunt drove us down US 1, the Overseas Highway. The US 1 is the only road to get from the mainland to the keys, and is the only road to take you to Key West. It took us just over two hours to drive from Miami to their home in Marathon.
As this was my first time to the Keys, I was surprised by the humidity. It felt like the air was twice as thick and weighed a ton. My first day I could hardly breathe and was sweating instantly, thank goodness for air conditioning! I got quickly acclimated to the humidity and warm temperatures though and the rest of the vacation was wonderful. There is so much to see and do on the Keys.
Our short trip was nowhere near long enough to do everything I wanted to. My aunt and uncle, like most people on the keys, have ocean-front/gulf-front property. They live on the gulf side, which is considered to have less swimmable beaches, but prettier coral reefs. The side you stay on is not exactly important since most of the keys are less than a mile wide. If you wake up early enough, you can see both the sun rise and set over the water, and that is a glorious sight everyone should experience.
This island is about 200 yards out from my aunt and uncle’s dock, and there are probably thousands of tiny islands like this in the keys. This particular island is rented out for set periods of time. It is very small, not any larger than a football field, and completely composed of exposed coral and limestone (like the majority of the keys). There is a small cottage with a generator for electrical needs. A quaint dock is available for mooring your boat.
While I was in Marathon I took part in many of the recreational activities. I snorkeled and checked out the coral. I saw many different species of tropical fish and even spotted a small octopus! I kayaked on the sea, and my aunt gave me sailing lessons on their tiny Sunfish sailboat. It is meant for one to three people. I think I’ll need many more lessons before I sail anywhere on my own. It is very fun, and I think with enough patience anyone can learn to sail this type of boat.
Most people who reside on the Keys have small Sunfish along with larger boats. My aunt and uncle have a 38 foot long Motorsail. It has both a sail and motor for transportation. They took us out one day so we could snorkel in the deep, open ocean several miles out. We passed Sombrero Key Light http://www.lighthousefriends.com/light.asp?ID=701
, which almost looks like a giant buoy or a small oil platform. The lighthouse is a very popular dive and snorkel site, so we stopped here for a while. There are usually several boats here, taking in the coral reefs and tropical fish.
I saw a school of parrotfish swimming below me. One of the fish got curious and he swam up to investigate. He nipped at my wrist and, satisfied with whatever he found, returned to his friends. We continued snorkeling for a while, investigating the brightly colored reef. Here one can find many different reef types and I was amazed with the diversity of fish swimming about.
When I told my aunt about the parrotfish nipping at my wrist, she says I am blessed; normally the parrotfish are afraid of people. She also warned me, saying that usually barracudas are the fish that investigate snorkelers or SCUBA divers. Barracudas have nasty, sharp teeth and can sometimes mistake glinting jewelry as small fish darting around. That made me a bit more nervous about snorkeling, but I soon remembered that I wasn’t wearing any jewelry and therefore had nothing to worry about.
In the evenings we would either relax on the dock and watch the magnificent sunset or take a walk on the Old Seven Mile Bridge to see the sunset while we are above the water, walking west. It felt like I was walking into the sky, the bright oranges, pinks and gold’s melting gracefully from the sky to the waters. Whether we were on the dock or bridge, the sight was amazing.
My brother, the amazing photographer responsible for each of these masterpieces, would sit patiently, clicking away on his digital camera. I would wonder how he took such splendid pictures every time. He answered that it’s simple when the Earth is continuously changing and revealing a new beautiful subject for him to capture. Well he said it much less eloquently, being 17 years old and all. I enjoyed just sitting on the edge of the dock, dangling my feet in the air, just above the sea, and watching the sun set. No matter how many evenings I spent on that dock, I don’t think I would have gotten used to the magnificence of the sun setting into the water. No wonder the Greeks used to think Helios drove across the sky and sank into the sea each night.
As I watched, the warm colors would melt into yellows, greens, blues and indigos. The twilight hours slowly melted and stars would peek out. One night I stayed out later than usual and laid back on the dock. I watched the first stars come out. That peaceful moment I felt perfectly relaxed. That is what a vacation should be about. That is the Florida Keys.
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