julia-yarbough_new_web.jpg“I’m going to pass on the kayak trip today. The Weather Channel says severe thunderstorms will move through the area.”

A friend and fellow adventure seeker said this, and dropped out about 30 minutes before departure for a Sunday morning kayak excursion. Destination: Stiltsville in Miami-Dade.

I respect meteorologists, but having lived in South Florida for almost 14 years, I also know we have to sometimes look at the sky, trust our guts, and forge ahead as planned!

I had always heard about the spattering of uniquely designed homes perched precariously on wood and concrete pilings  – or stilts – smack dab in the middle of the ocean, just south of Cape Florida, in the shallow water of Biscayne National Park. But I had never ventured out to view them for myself.

So when a co-worker suggested we kayak to Stiltsville, how could I refuse?

Getting there was easier than I thought. We set off for Bill Baggs Cape State Park bright and early, about 7:30 a.m. An easy drive south down Interstate 95, across the Rickenbacker Causeway, then through the quaint community of Key Biscayne, brought us to the entrance to the state park.

Visitors to the park can relax on the beach, swim, snorkel, fish, ride a bicycle, and visit the famed Lighthouse. Built in 1825, the Lighthouse, the oldest building in Miami-Dade, served as a beacon for mariners, so they would beware of the shallow reefs while approaching the region.

We headed south from shore for a relaxing paddle through the calm greenish-blue waters. My favorite entertainment at such times is to begin singing, “…for a three hour tour….” in reference to Gilligan’s Island.

Suffice it to say, we did not become stranded on a desert island, but it did feel like we were much farther from home than we were.

A few minutes into the trip, I spotted the Stiltsville homes on the horizon, just small dots in the distance. Each paddle stroke pulled us closer to the brightly colored and odd-shaped homes. The only residents we encountered at first were birds, confidently perched on the rooftops – herons, cormorants and pelicans. They gazed down at us as if WE were the intruders floating into THEIR habitat.

At house number two, we joined a family who had anchored their boat nearby to take advantage of the fish population congregating near the piling base of the structure. It was perfect timing for us, as the dreaded “severe storms” my friend feared did indeed materialize.

We slid our kayaks under the raised Stiltsville home to seek shelter, made friends with the fisherman, and waited out the storm.

Fifteen minutes later, under clear blue and sunny skies, we slid back into our kayaks for the return paddle across the channel.

I’m glad I ignored the forecast.

For more information on Bill Baggs Cape State park and Stiltsville, go to: http://floridastateparks.org/CapeFlorida/docs/brochure.pdf or www.nps.gov/biscayne.

Editor’s Note: Julia Yarbough, a former news anchor at NBC 6, writes periodically on her outdoor and other adventures. To read more of Julia’s columns, log onto SFLTimes.com.


Photo: A wooden house in Stiltsville.