Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Dry Tortugas Thankfully

As you read this I hope to be with half a dozen or so friends settling into a campsite at the Dry Tortugas National Park. The house, the vegetable garden and the Bonneville (without the ignition key!), are in the care of a house sitter and for four glorious days and three cool nights we will be under canvas somewhere here.
The blog will have to soldier on without me, as will Key West PD until I get back on the Saturday afternoon ferry and rush off to my uniform waiting for me in my locker when I take up the reins of civilized life once again. I am very happy to be escaping the bonds of civilization for a few days, and I very much appreciate this ideal wilderness we have just 70 miles (110 kilometers) from Key West. At Fort Jefferson there is no food, no water, no cell phones, no nothing very much unless we load it on the ferry.
The weather forecast advises us a cold front is about ready to hit the Keys and we can expect rain in squalls with wind and cooling temperatures, possibly into the mid 60s at night (17C). We have a supply of extra blankets and red wine to fight off frost bite. As you might imagine, with half a dozen women in the party we will leave nothing to chance. Last May I was a pack mule getting our modest heap of stuff from the ferry to the campground.To those that wish it, I hope you get all the snow, yellow leaves and changes of season you can stand. To those forced to stand in line in airports, or in traffic jams on freeways, felicitations, I'm sure your families appreciate the sacrifice. To riepe, I apologize in advance for the posts the next few days which will look exactly like normal but I won't be available to be your whipping boy. Tell your bud in Alaska that if God and I were on speaking terms I'd be asking for a Government Writer's Program like the WPA had, for Christmas. Failing that perhaps we can ask China to annex us to Hong Kong and send us Cuban doctors to take care of our health needs. Remember: They may have a perfect welfare safety net in Norway but they don't have seascapes like these: Till next time then, I'm off to find a campsite and eat turkey on my very own, more-or-less private, desert island. Happy Thanksgiving Everybody! (Even Canadians who've hogged the turkey and had theirs in October, greedy guts).

Cudjoe Stumble

Last spring my colleague Noel told me of some adventures he had with friends on all terrain vehicles on Cudjoe Key. (Cudjoe is pronounced Anglo style: Kud-joe, not Coo-joe or even Coo-hoe, just so you know).It had been my ambition to check out the trails, but summer intervened, season of heat humidity mosquitoes and standing water. I decided November was a good time to check this place out, as the rains have dried up and one has to hope the mangrove bogs have too. The trail looked promising at the start, with a nice big red diamond marking the end of navigable pavement.
I paused to allow the ibis to do their foraging... ...and took off down what promised to be a simple enough exploration. The trail was hard packed, quite possibly an old planned development that never happened, and left behind a usable roadway. The bicycle coped just fine though I was tempted to ditch it. The problem with cycling the backwoods is that you are essentially using a vehicle and it demands your attention. The benefit is that you get where you are going faster, which, as benefits go, isn't much good if you are just out for a ramble. Pink Crocs haul you along just fine if you are walking.I have heard some people marvel at my audacity wandering the woods of the Lower Keys, as they fear rattlesnakes, and my defense that I have never met a rattler therefore they don't exist cuts no ice for them. Too bad because these areas are a great place to go for a walk, especially mid week at midday when no one else is around.
Besides, I am not out to chase, kill or harass snakes so I figure they will mind their own business if I walk with my eyes open. So far so good.

And then naturally we met our first impediment, standing water. This particular trail is pretty close to tidal waters on the edge of the island so I guess it is more prone to flooding. At first I planned to ride on through ( and wash the bicycle at home with copious amounts of fresh water), but a glance up the trail revealed the awful truth.This wasn't just a puddle, this was a state of mind. All I could see was a trail of water disappearing into the horizon. I surrendered. It wasn't the ride I had intended, but I got to enjoy a morning out, and as it's only five miles from my house I will have to come back later in the winter, deeper into the dry season, to see what other trails may poke their heads above water.