We recently had a weekend off together and wanted to go somewhere. Typical, I know. After our horrendous experience in Tallahassee...midnight (all night, actually) fire alarms, rude staff, etc., we had enough hotel reward points to stay somewhere free. We just had to decide where! The answer was south, so we got up early one Saturday morning, loaded up the kayaks, and headed for St. Lucie Inlet Preserve State Park.
The sky was overcast as we launched, and the tide was going out as well. Paddlers on their way back in assured us we were in for a tough paddle, and they recommended we follow the island south. We knew there were paddling trails in either direction, but being new to the area we took their advice.
Once we turned into the mangrove channel, the wind died down and we relaxed. The sun peaked out for a few minutes, too. I looked around and realized we were surrounded by mangrove crabs:
I knew there was supposed to be a small passage to the beach side of the island, but I wasn't quite sure what I was looking for. We rounded a bend and, honestly, I would have missed the beach entrance if it weren't for a boat sitting there:
We got about 10 feet from shore when the mud had us stuck. Oh yeah, low tide! So, I took one for the team and got out to pull the boats in. Here was my reward:
Oh yes, that was some stinky, shoe-sucking mud! Well, we beached the boats and grabbed our beach gear. The passage to the beach was cut through the sea grapes, and no-see-ums had begun to attack us fiercely. Around this time the ladies with the other boat showed up and left, so we were pretty sure we had the island to ourselves.
Sure, we had the island to ourselves. I think most normal people had read the weather forecast and seen the storms threatening the area. But we aren't normal people, so we sat there and played at the beach. The wind was so fierce...honestly, I've never experienced wind like this...and we sat there feeling like our skin was being taken off with the finest sand paper. It was beautiful and painful at the same time!
We toughed it out as long as we could, but I think we were all pretty miserable. The wind was just too much:
Soon enough, it was back to the boats and a quick lunch. From here, our plan was to paddle further up the paddling trail so we could see the boardwalk that traverses the island. We tried. We really, really did. Unfortunately the wind here was again too strong, and I freaked out because I was afraid of getting lost. Still, what we got to see was pretty!
Eventually we paddled back out the main mangrove channel and up the side of the island, hoping to check out the dock and buildings. The wind here was strong, but we managed!
There were so many birds on the island! We saw limpkins, roseate spoonbills, little green herons, and this guy. He's a black-throated blue warbler:
Finally it was time to leave the island. We made the short paddle back to shore, loaded up the kayaks, and grabbed some takeout before heading back to our hotel. We were all exhausted and still had a full day planned for Sunday!
After a good night's sleep and a decent hotel breakfast, we made our way to Seabranch Preserve State Park. It's right down the street from St. Lucie Inlet, but the parks are completely different. Our goal here was to hike and geocache. First, though, we were treated to a rare sight: the elusive Florida bobcat! See it, right there in the last picture?!? Okay, okay, I'm kidding. They're apparently making some improvements to the park, and I'm referring to the piece of equipment by the sign. :)
It was extremely bright, sunny and hot as we set out, a marked difference from the day before. There were some clouds in the distance, but we didn't let them deter us!
Florida Rosemary, pictured above, was everywhere. Olivia got quite fond of pinching a few leaves and rubbing them between her fingers. It smelled so good!
Onward, we marched, finding geocaches and enjoying our surroundings. The rain did eventually fall, but we were so hot and it felt so enjoyable! I've got to hand it to Olivia...she was a real trouper despite it being the longest hike she's ever been on (4 miles, give or take).
Not too much further, and we were back at the trailhead and parking lot. We ate lunch and changed our shoes...nothing feels better than putting on flip flops after finishing a long, hot hike. Then, the trip home. Two days at two distinct and very different state parks, each a stone's throw from the other. We had a phenomenal time!