In Key Largo, Let a Pelican Be Your Guide
Erik R. Trinidad
full of pick up trucks, beef jerky, fast food restaurants and K-marts'.
my friend Donatella said as we laid out by the pool at the less-than-modest
but affordable Travelodge in Key Largo in between scuba dives as our bodies
rid of absorbed nitrogen. "Lets go explore." (We both
had issues with just sitting around to sunbathe because, lets face
it, it canand inevitably doesbecome boring.) But where to
go exploring in Key Largo was a different question. We had no guide or
concierge or anyone to lead us in any direction.
you hear the words "Florida Keys," you most likely think
of turquoise waters, a relaxed attitude, water sports and Ernest
Hemingway. If youve actually been to The Keys, you know that
these thoughts only apply to Key West, and the upper keys dont
fit the stereotype. Key Largo, just 40 minutes south of the glitzy
Miami is the exact opposite of its southern sibling, full of pick
up trucks, beef jerky, fast food restaurants and K-marts. If it
werent for its proximity to the John Pennekamp Coral Reef
State Park, you probably wouldnt think of going thereyou
might as well plan a trip to the middle of South Carolina.
We left our friend Robin for a short whileshe had much more
of an attention span for sunrays than we didand hopped in
our rental car to head south on US Route 1 aimlessly. We traveled
down the asphalt path through the backcountry and there really wasnt
anything of interest. Luckily Donatella spotted something out of
the corner of her wannabe J-Lo sunglasses. "Look, theres
a bird sanctuary." It was really the only thing we had going
for us without having to drive all the way to Key Westwhich,
if youre behind a Floridian driver, takes an eternityso
we parked the car on the gravel driveway.
The bird sanctuary wasnt a huge high-tech conservatory or anything.
Like the rest of Key Largo, it looked like it was just pieced together
by some country guy who had a lot of wood lying around. "I reckin
Ill mak me a burd howse," he probably said, perpetually expanding
it with his plethora of wood since he was probably bored of just laying
around sunbathing. But there was no such fellow to greet us by the supposed
entrance, and it felt like we were trespassing on someones property.
However, we were greeted by the unlikeliest of hosts: a pelican. You know,
one of those birds about two feet tall with the long beak of which the
lower bill has a pouch that cartoon characters usually hide in. He stared
us right in the eyes and we waved him back a hellothe type of wave
you perform to greet an animal.
He turned around and started walking down the pathway. "I think he
wants us to follow him," I said. And we did. "Peli" as
Donatella soon dubbed him, lead us to the different sections of the sanctuary
like a butlerwhere injured pelicans recuperated, where they ate,
where they went to frolic in the watereven to the actual human we
found who was preparing fishy treats. Peli lead us to the places of interest
and let us take it in, and then lead us to the next stop. It was quite
unusual to be escorted by a waddling little bird, but entertaining nonetheless.
We were directed all the way to the marshy beach where we were awarded
with a beautiful view of the ocean. It was a great way to spend an afternoon.
Peli, the gentlebird he was, escorted us back to the parking lot. What
a nice gesture I thought. "Bye Peli!" Donatella waved back.
He truly was a gracious host to have shown us a good time that day.
So if youre ever in Key Largo with nothing to do, look to the birds.
If youre lucky, youll get a pelican as entertaining as Peli.
© Erik R. Trinidad September
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