Lido Key Attempt Number Three: Rain Free!

After rain canceled two previous attempts to paddle at Lido Key in Sarasota, we finally had a successful trip last Sunday.

The morning started out with some fog.  If you don’t care for heights, the Sunshine Skyway Bridge doesn’t seem as high if you can’t see the cables!

By the time we arrived at South Lido Nature Park, the fog was gone but the sky was still a little overcast, leaving it a little bit cool. 

As we carried our kayak and gear down to the launch site, one park resident was in search of some breakfast.  After failing to open the trash can, he posed for a picture and then moved along.

Raccoon checking out trash can at South Lido Nature Park

Raccoon failing at obtaining breakfast.

Raccoon at South Lido Nature Park

Raccoon at South Lido Nature Park

We loaded up our kayaks and headed out.  We had a laminated map from one of the kayak outfitters so we set off in search of post number one.

Oh where oh where is post number one?

The water was beautiful, quite clear and we could see everything underneath. Although it was shallow, we had timed it right with the tide as it was deep enough for paddling.

Breakfast seemed to be the theme for the morning among the park residents.  As we headed towards the first mangrove tunnel, a cormorant followed us.  He dove under the water and swam underneath our boats, grabbing fish as we stirred up the bottom.   It was quite entertaining but I guess he had his limits.  When we entered the first mangrove tunnel, he stayed behind.

Check out our paddling buddy underwater in the upper right corner of the photo.

Getting ready to go under the kayak!

Getting ready to go under the kayak!

That fish was tasty!

That fish was tasty!

The mangrove tunnels here are wider and taller than the ones at Weedon Island.  Quite beautiful and clear water.  As with Weedon, there are crabs crawling along the mangrove roots.  But there are also oyster shells so you want to be careful if you grab a mangrove root to steady your balance.

Soon we were out of the first mangrove tunnel and headed around the corner in search of the second one.  There are posts with numbers or arrows to let you know you were on the right trail.

We found the second tunnel and paddled our way through there.  I think it was in this tunnel where we really noticed the current.  With the water so clear and the push of the current, it felt like we were paddling in a spring-fed river.  The current made for some fun maneuvers at certain points in the tunnel.  So sorry there aren’t photos!

After exiting the second tunnel, it took us a few moments to find post number five.  Once we found the third tunnel, we were again reminded about the current, except this time, it was pushing against us, rather than pulling us along.  Also, the entrance was narrow so we had broken our paddles in half to avoid hitting mangroves above with one end of the paddle.  Perhaps this was not a good idea.

Eventually we got past the narrow part and put the paddles back together as one piece.  We made better progress, although every now and then there was a “stream” from one side or the other dumping into the main waterway. The current from the “stream” would try to push us off to the side.

This tunnel was the longest of the three tunnels.  Just before exiting this tunnel, this guy stood watch making sure kayakers exited the tunnel, rather than wander down another path, which was much narrower.  His friend stood in another tree nearby, perhaps for backup.

Keeping an eye on kayakers, making sure they take a left turn.

Keeping an eye on kayakers, making sure they take a left turn.

When we exited the tunnel, we headed to  the beach at Ted Sperling Park. It might have been at this point when the sun came out.   We stood on the beach, looking at the blue sky and the beautiful scenery across Sarasota Bay.  We watched sailboats and caught a picture of the very rare, kayaking alligator.

Pretty beach at Ted Sperling Park near South Lido Nature Park

Pretty beach at Ted Sperling Park near South Lido Nature Park

This was the only gator sighting at South Lido Nature Park!

This was the only gator sighting at South Lido Nature Park! (Click on the photo to see a closer view.)

Sailboat off Ted Sperling Park near South Lido Nature Park.

Sailboat off Ted Sperling Park near South Lido Nature Park.

After a short break on this beautiful beach, we got back in the kayaks and went in search of manatees.  We heard that if we paddled up a canal that took us close to St. Armands Circle, there was a chance we would see a manatee.

We paddled and paddled and paddled, almost to the end.  We did enjoy the scenery, looking at all the nice homes with pretty landscaping but we never saw a manatee.  As we headed back up the canal, one homeowner fishing on his dock mentioned the manatees left about two weeks ago.  Oh well. Maybe we will see some on another trip.

We headed back to the launch site, where we loaded up the cars and changed our clothes.

Next item on the agenda: lunch.  We stopped at the Lido Beach parking area.  One of the kayak outfitters had highly recommended their lobster rolls. However, we decided to head to St. Armands Circle for a menu with more variety. You’ll notice how diverse we were with our lunch choices.

We ended up at the Crab & Fin.  Three of us got the shrimp chimichanga.  The fourth got a grouper sandwich. One seems to build up an appetite when kayaking as at the end of our meal, the waiter picked up empty plates from our table.

Shrimp chimichanga at Crab & Fin in Sarasota

Shrimp chimichanga at Crab & Fin in Sarasota

Grouper sandwich at Crab & Fin in Sarasota

Grouper sandwich at Crab & Fin in Sarasota

With bellies full of good food we headed back to our cars.  We shared high-fives at finally having a successful trip to Lido Key.  We could not have asked for better weather.

Note: To see all of the photos from this trip, click here.

Here is a picture of the kayak trail map:

Kayaking Trail Map at South Lido Nature Park

Kayaking Trail Map at South Lido Nature Park

Also, follow this link for a Google Map of the kayaking trail map created by Wayne Douchkoff, a Sarasota kayaker.

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