As we walked together speechless, I took pictures of: Fort Jefferson inside and out; the water where we snorkeled and the moat where we could not; a hard-boiled egg we brought with us that got smashed; Caleb’s finger-painted, sun-burnt back; the flora and fauna, my sandy feet; the tent with our flip-flops sleeping outside; the cave stalactites formed in the fort, dripping to form stalagmites on the floor; the Junior Ranger badge I received; and the hour-long sunset that we watched in amazement from the moat wall.
Of course we had wanted to take pictures of what we saw under the water as well. This trip cost us the price of a new underwater camera, so we purchased a disposable one from a shop in Key West. I took most of the pictures, of course, and only the six that Caleb took came out; one being of himself. We were on a short snack break and this hermit crab began crawling all over me; I did encourage him. As soon as Caleb grabbed the crab it was airborne – “He pinched!”
As campers for Dry Tortugas we were told to be on the pier by 6:30 am. We were guests at the Naval Air Station Key West Truman Annex and walked to the corner of Greene and Elizabeth St for a ride on Sunny Days Catamarans dragging our cooler, camping and snorkeling gear, and gallons of water. When the crew arrived after 7:00 am, they were surprised to see us there so early. The crew packs the gear at the front of the boat and out-of-the-way. We sat outside with sunglasses on and cameras ready.
We neared the fort at 10:30 am, set up camp in under a minute (drop gear and pay $6 camping fee), and would let all the tourists enjoy the water while they could; we were going to take a tour of the fort. There was a ranger-led tour and we listened for a while, but I have problems being nice around destructive children and irresponsible parents, and then detoured to earn our Junior Ranger badges! An hour later we were enjoying a comes-free-with-ride lunch of PBJs and fresh fruit and veggies.
We change into goggles and swimwear and smear some (emphasize the some) sunscreen on random body parts. Hours later when we take a break, we will notice Caleb’s sun-burnt back. I forgot he would be dead-man floating in the sun all day. We will also get blisters on our feet, for carrying the flippers (for water use only) and the water shoes (that we bought for this trip specifically), from walking on the moat wall. We camped in site 8 under the shade of the trees with a picnic table that accompanies each campsite.
We hadn’t thought of night swimming (don’t know if it’s allowed) but the sunset offered a nice alternative. We watched for over an hour as the sun’s rays painted the clouds different hues and let our brains wonder while our burns and blisters relaxed. We lay in the humid heat later that night and moved our tent every which way trying to get better air flow. The only movement we got was from all the hermit crabs crawling about. I was up before the sun wandering the beach in the dark. I would take some semi-lit photos before we were back in the water.
It is worth camping out there, as I’m sure the other two couples agree, being able to experience the island without the cluster of crowds that are frequent during mid-day. We helped ourselves to some leftover lunch to ensure all the paying mouths were full and then headed back into the fort to say our Junior Ranger pledge and receive our badges. We didn’t see any sea turtles this time but I am willing to go back for another chance. For the return trip we sat inside and enjoyed a well-earned nap.
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