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Sunday, March 23, 2014

Cedar Key, Florida - Paddling to the Keys - March 23, 2014

Cedar Key, Florida - March 23, 2014                Miles Traveled 9.9, Total to Date 252.6
Me, Scotty, Dina, Dick
9:45 til 3:30,  Average Moving Speed 2.5 mph, Maximum Speed 5 mph
High Temp 76 degrees, Slightly overcast skies
Rain was predicted (30%) in afternoon, but we had none.

Cedar Key is a funky, laid back little town; lots of quaint little shops and hotels.  We launched at Cedar Key Boat launch which is right on a sandy, white beach next to a playground.  We paddled 1/2 mile out to the first island, Atsena Otie Island and paddled the circumference of the island.  This island is surrounded by TONS of old oyster beds everywhere!  The funny thing is that Tony's Restaurant at Cedar Key is known for its clam chowder!  We docked our kayaks on the sandy beach and walked on the island into a cemetery.  The path leading back to the cemetery was lined with pine needles and Spanish moss hung overhead.  There are about 25 graves and they date back to the 1800's.  Many of the tombstones were cracked and cemented back together.  They are thin concrete and either broken by tropical storms or people.  After our walk, we had lunch on the beach.  Throughout this day, we saw lots of wildlife.  We saw 2 cute little raccoons that kept peeking their heads out of the grass to look at us.  The cormorants are black birds that can dive under water and will come up at a different point.  We always got excited when we saw dolphins, but they were just too fast to get a good picture.  Other birds we saw included herons, pelicans and seagulls.  We saw 1 stingray doing a flapping like motion on the surface of the water.  There were also jellyfish on the beach.  In the water we saw crabs, conch, lots of jumping fish, bugs and a horseshoe crab.  Also on our walk, we saw many dead horseshoe crabs which I put into a circle - just for fun!  We paddled from this island out to Snake Island.  Along the paddle, we came across a small narrow island appropriately named Grassy Key.  I stood on this island and claimed it as mine, and this is when I was told it was already named :(  We paddled at the long paddle out to Snake Island, long because we were headed into a headwind.  It was very beautiful with ferns, palms, lots of vegetation and lots of grass (even the bad kind of grass which we threw into the water).  We didn't stay here long, as the skies were looking dark.  The 3 mile paddle back was even longer and once again we seemed to be heading into a headwind.  We all heartily agreed to eat at a restaurant on the island and headed to Tony's Restaurant.  It was about 4 and we could still order off the lunch menu.  We had a $20 platter of seafood that was huge along with a salad and french fries.  The seafood included fish, scallops, oysters, clams, shrimp, a soft shelled crab and a blue crab.  After our first day of paddling on this adventure, it was delicious!!
We stayed at Shell Mound campground, aptly named as there were shells and shells and shells everywhere!  The caretaker liked to talk a lot, and Scotty seemed mildly relieved when I came into the office to get him.

The first day of our adventure.

Launching from downtown Cedar Key.

I love my kayaking partner!

Setting out towards the gulf!

I'm a happy paddler!

Look!  A dolphin!

Oyster Beds surround Atsenie Olie.

Yikes, a horseshoe crab.

And more horseshoe crabs.

We spotted a raccoon, and the raccoon spotted us!

Lots and lots of birds.

On the first island, Atsena Otie Island.

This dock led inland to the island.

Spanish moss covered the trees along the path.

Yum!  Lunch!

I found an island.


Heading to Snake Key Island.

We came back, and the birds were still there :)

Tony's Restaurant, I highly recommend it!
Look at this $20 meal for two!

This is why the campground is called Shell Mound.

Shell Mound Campground

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