Diving is a lot about metrics, air consumption, depth, ocean current, water temperature and more. The experience is colored by each diver’s focus. My experience for this set of dives could have been characterized by all the small details that can go wrong. Days later, I’m still itching from the stings of baby jellyfish across my legs and arms. Small knicks on my hands, knees and elbow are still healing from contact with fire coral and barnacles. Pondering all the possible adjustments for improving gear and physical conditioning for the next dive, I choose to recall the minutes differently.
I remember the hammerhead shark swimming by on an ascent.
I remember the turtle speeding away from the light of my flashlight during a night dive.
I remember the stingray gliding above the sand and reef.
I remember moving about the hull of a boat wreck with barracudas.
I remember big blue.
Three days out from this trip, I can still close my eyes in silence and feel the rocking of waves on a boat, back and forth repeatedly. Men aren’t meant to be under the glow of office fluroscents. Men are meant to be under the open sky.
John Pennekamp State Park @ Key Largo, Florida was the first stop on a recent road trip through the Florida Keys. Different friends and family had suggested checking it out during my travels. One friend had posted this park being one of their favorites. Another had recommended it for the serene surroundings. The last had mentioned the Statue of the Christ underwater.
Upon arriving at the park, winds were brisk and skies overcast. With tide being out, I was dissuaded from going into the water. Staying ashore, I had walked past up the beach past two antique canons facing the waves. Nearby a picnic area was freshly landscaped with a kids’ play area in the far corner. The real appeal of this area were the low hanging tree branches. They had reinforced the laid back appeal of just gazing out across the ocean.
Moving across the street, past the showers were several charter boats handling the onslaught of incoming tourists on buses. I had mixed feelings about that level of tourist activity; however, I had walked past these boats to the nearby dive shop. Inquiring about their daily dives trips, the blonde guy behind the counter had responded these outings kicking off daily at 9 AM and 1:30 PM. “Hmm,” I had wondered.
After getting this piece of information, I had decided to get back on the highway. The goal of the day was getting to Marathon Key. I had conceded returning another weekend with calmer seas and more time. For now, I had withheld my final appraisal of the park’s unexplored offerings. I had known an unfinished adventure in scuba diving lay offshore Key Largo, Florida.
John Pennekamp State Park is located at 102601 Overseas Hwy, Key Largo, FL 33037
Hours: 8:00 a.m. until sundown, 365 days a year.
$8.00* per vehicle. Limit 2-8 people per vehicle.
$2.00* Pedestrians, bicyclists, extra passengers, passengers in vehicle with holder of Annual Individual Entrance Pass.
$4.00* Single-occupant vehicle or motorcycle.
*Plus $.50 per person Monroe County Surcharge
John Pennekamp State Park (floridastateparks.org)