All eight of us had spent the morning of November 19, 2016 kayaking in Biscayne Bay and in the mangrove estuaries along its mainland shores. Now it was time for a picnic lunch at Convoy Point. Our time at Biscayne National Park, having only just begun, was also drawing short. And that meant that our whole Florida Keys adventure would soon be concluding.
Looking north from Convoy Point, Miami rose from the ocean like Atlantis.
We had reserved our kayaks for the whole day, and most if not all of us would be going back out on the water after food and rest.
One of the things that we almost immediately noticed about Convoy Point was how much it functioned like a metropark. Biscayne National Park is immediately adjacent to Miami, and a great range of people, young and old, black and white, Cuban and Muslim, were enjoying the free facilities at Convoy Point that Saturday afternoon. Sean, Bethany, and I had noticed a similar phenomenon at Shenandoah National Park, which is within easy striking distance of Washington DC and Charlottesville.
One of the arguments for protecting Biscayne Bay, particularly the keys on its eastern side, was that the Bay functions as a protection for Miami and the east coast of South Florida from hurricanes. Sure enough, in 1992 Hurricane Andrew made landfall directly over the Park. Although the damage to older and historically interesting structures was severe, the newly completed Park headquarters were basically unscathed. (Since our trip, Hurricane Irma has badly damaged Biscayne National Park, but it was not a direct hit like Hurricane Andrew.)
By 1:30, we were back on the water. Noah and Nick decided to stay behind and hang out at Convoy Point. So the rest of us reshuffled. Sean and Juan paired up. I went with Kam. And Adam took Ion.
We again paddled north along the shore, but this time we ignored Mowry Canal and explored some of the secluded natural channels lined with mangroves farther along the coast.
There was a lot more bird activity than there had been in the morning. Most spectacularly, we watched an Osprey catch a fish and then land with it and tear at it.
We also came upon a small flock of White Ibises.
After exploring the shore for a while, Sean and Juan decided to head back to Convoy Point. The rest of us made for two small islands not far out into the Bay.
Like portions of the mainland, these islands seemed to collect some floating junk, including the remains of a sofa.
They were also a hang-out for Cormorants eyeing the shallow waters for fish.
We made our way around the north end of the islands and passed to the sunnier south side, opposite Convoy Point farther south across a calm, glistening stretch of shallow water.
Suddenly, a Bottlenose Dolphin surfaced very close to our kayaks. It explored all around us, and at one point it went right under Adam and Ion’s kayak. I wished Sean and Juan hadn’t already gone back to shore…
Video: Brandon Hayes
The Dolphin was with us for a good ten minutes before it continued on its way back out into the main expanse of Biscayne Bay. With that excitement capping our time on the water at Biscayne, the four of us paddled back to Convoy Point. In all, we had spent another hour and a half on the water for a total of four hours paddling at Biscayne National Park.
Back on shore with the others, we examined a bottle of nasty water that someone had found.
I settled up with Danny from Nec-Flo Paddlesports, thanking him again for letting us reserve kayaks for the day. It had worked out perfectly.
Those who had been hanging out on land were pretty much ready to go, but I had time for a quick walk out onto the boardwalk and spit of land that comprised the tip of Convoy Point.
Had we not rented kayaks, this small park area would have been all we could have experienced of Biscayne National Park. It truly is a National Park that can only really be experienced on the water. It will be well worth a return visit someday to cross over to the keys to camp and hike. Or to take a glass-bottomed boat tour once they return. Biscayne, Sean’s and my twenty-second National Park, deserves much more than a day-long visit.
We headed back to Key Largo, stopping at Corks and Screws to get some more wine and provisions.
We spent our final night relaxing at the house with pizza delivery and wine.
Next morning, the Detroiters had a much earlier flight than we Chicagoans did. We were all up fairly early tidying up the house and preparing to head to Miami.
By ten, the Detroiters had departed, and the other four Chicagoans sat by the canal behind the house while I did a final walkabout and locked up.
We were all sad to be returning to real life, our jobs and the national news. Some rays passed by in the canal as if they were wishing us safe travels.
To Noah’s great chagrin, before we left Key Largo, we made one last visit at Shell World.
On the way to Miami, being homosexuals of a certain age, we listened to the just-issued twentieth anniversary remastering of Tori Amos’ Boys for Pele.
We had lunch at Berries in the Grove, where Juan’s sister Stephanie works. She seated us upstairs in a private area and treated us to sparkling wine. And the food was great.
After lunch, Stephanie joined us for a quick visit to downtown Miami where we walked along the water before we had to head to the airport.
Our flight was delayed a bit, but soon we were on our way back to Chicago.
At O’Hare, we bid the boys farewell, and Sean and I took a cab home.
And when we got there, Elsa was pleased to see us.
Epilogue: Sean had purchased a nice shell at Shell World. And he took it to his office to have on his desk.
Video: Sean M. Santos
But a few weeks later he realized it had a funny smell. Picking it up and shaking it, some weird little bugs fell out.