Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Little Torch Mangroves

I've been looking forward to Winter for a while. Not because I like the cold or anything like that, but because the winter months offer different entertainment than summer. This is the time of year that rains dry up and the back country dries out. Which in turn opens up trails through the mangroves well off the asphalt:I'd had my eye on Stewart Road on Little Torch Key since I'd discovered it last summer while out riding my bicycle. With the advent of winter and endless days of bright sunshine and cold winds I thought it was time, so I pedalled back out there.Stewart Road is not very big and has four or five homes along its length, each house set back and surrounded by shrubbery for maximum privacy. Mind you they are a long way out at the end of the road on Little Torch in the first place. It takes a certain commitment to get this far out from Highway One...in the land of dead end streets:But even out here the county organizes trash pick up, and it seems some people have lots of it:In some ways I find these rural outposts bucolic and desirable,but then again I'm not sure how well I'd do this isolated, as I rather like living upwind of the highway (no traffic noise in an east wind) yet not so far it's a trek to find a packet of milk or a gallon of gas. However the Keys, contrary to expectations, do offer isolation for those that need it.

The trail is not exactly advertised:My idea was to park the bicycle and take a stroll but I'd forgotten to bring a lock. So I stood there dicking around wondering what to do. It seemed absurd to be worried about someone stealing my bicycle in the abomination of desolation but on the other hand...When I was out sailing I developed a way of weighing the odds on a particular line of action and it went like this. What's the worst thing that could happen? Generally I'd be trying to figure out if it was worth taking off into potentially bad weather, or if I left the dinghy on the beach while I went inland what might happen? In this case I asked myself what if I left my bicycle here and it was taken. Granted there was almost zero chance it would get stolen...but how would I feel if the unthinkable occurred? Clearly I wasn't going to be happy so I decided to ride the bike down the trail and out of sight before ditching it in a convenient bush.However the trail, which started out bushy and overgrown...Opened up and became a freeway through the shrubbery... ...so instead of ditching the bike I kept riding......until I simply ran out of trail...And as there was no way to go further forward, on two wheels or on foot, unless I was ready to hack out a fresh trail through the mangroves, I stopped, listened to the wind and watched the wind waves on the water in the distance.Then I turned around and started back across the wilderness.I wasn't completely alone...But there were no bicycles thieves in sight so I expect I could have abandoned my ride in the bushes...The drag was that the trail itself was probably less than a mile long and by bicycle it took no time at all to get out to the end. The good news was I had a few miles to ride home and despite the lack of gradients and variety in the view I always seem to enjoy myself in the back country pedalling the main roads.I wonder when I will get bored with buttonwoods and mangroves and empty open spaces?