Sometimes you get unique opportunities in life and you can’t let them pass by. When Tara asked me to go with her to a wedding in Miami, Florida, in February, I jumped at the chance. I’m a thirty-year-old man and have never vacationed in Florida. For reasons unbeknownst to me, my family never went to Florida when I was growing up. As I have progressed through adulthood, I’ve never really had the opportunity to go either. The overall experience was surreal and almost felt like stepping into another country.
On one of our few free days we struck out to a nearby park called Virginia Key Beach. For obvious reasons, our outfits were completely different than any other hike this year. With temperatures in the high seventies or low eighties, I applied my SPF 60. (Yes, I’m whiter than any friendly ghost you may come across.) I threw on some shorts, a T-shirt, sunglasses, rocked those sweet blue Salomon’s too.
For those of you not familiar, Virginia Key is an 863-acre barrier island in Miami. We covered about 2 to 3 miles of trail that combed a dense tropical forest and beaches along the Atlantic Ocean. There weren’t too many hikers out, but a strong population of bikers that quickly pedaled along the roadsides. The trail was mostly comprised of a combination of dirt and white sand. As we walked down to the trail, I quickly realized I was out of my element. The plants were very unfamiliar. The trees and shrubbery were dense and seemed to be ancient. There were sounds and signs of wildlife at every turn.
The thing that pops out to you the most about Miami is the overabundance of good looking people. It seems like it’s a requirement of every resident to be tan with six pack abs and flawless looks. When we dumped onto the first beach, we saw a couple on one of the break walls. The girl sunning herself, the guy putting himself through a rigorous abdominal workout. We continued on the path and saw a ton of bags piled onto a picnic table. I assumed a homeless person setup camp there… I was wrong. We quickly heard two guys speaking Spanish and coaching a young lady as their cameras clicked and flashed. We stumbled on a photoshoot with a bikini clad woman in a shaded grove.
We turned around and had decided that we needed to get deeper into nature. Model shoots and ab workouts aren’t my ideal subjects while hiking. I did learn that a new environment puts me on high alert. I quickly remembered that we were in Florida and alligators are a thing. There was a very strong population of small lizards on the island as well. They sounded thunderous as they crashed through the leaves and vegetation. And finally we stumbled on this sign:
Are you kidding me?! Killer raccoons?! I was ALREADY trying to save Tara from any movement in the forest. Whether it was moving leaves, a weird breeze, or a lizard… in my mind, they were all thirteen foot alligators looking for lunch. Now I’m looking around for rabid raccoons? The weather was sweltering at this point. We continued down the trail until we dumped into a public beach where they were shooting a TV commercial. Tara wouldn’t let me be a part of the commercial, so we turned around.
We did address a VERY important aspect of our hiking… LUNCH! We drove to South Beach to eat at Puerto Sagua, a small mom and pop diner that was packed. We had the most delicious potato balls with hot sauce and hot homemade Cuban sandwiches. Let me tell you, the Cubans know how to cook. SOOOO good! After we filled our bellies, we ventured out to the ocean. We kicked off our shoes and walked hand in hand in the Atlantic Ocean. I will admit, I’ve never seen so many butt cheeks in my life… guys and girls all trying to minimize their respective tan lines. The ocean was crystal clear with vibrant shades of green and light blue. It was a perfect way to cap off our hike.
Overall, Miami exceeded my expectations. It was great to get out of my comfort zone, out of our state, and enjoy a new terrain in a new state. I look forward to more out of state and hopefully out of country adventures with Tara, tanned butt cheeks, thunderous mini lizards, and alligators be damned!