The Weekly Watch
Surf, Sand, Sun, and Fun...
We went to the beach this past work week...to Grayton Beach State Park in Florida. We hadn't been there since our college days when we would pile a bunch of us in a cabin, cut up and carry on as young folks do. Every coast holds its own beauty and attributes, but the gulf coast along the panhandle, the red neck riviera, is one of the prettiest we've experienced. A few years ago we visited the Alabama and Mississippi coast, which I wrote about back at issue 65 of the WW... it has some pretty good photos which were fun to review. I noticed this week's edition is the 250th, so it was time for another beach vacation. We scored on weather, and it was a great trip. Come along on a photo journey this Sunday.
As you can see the park has three beach areas with developments in between. We were in the far western portion of the park where you can see a tent on the map. The white areas are developed with many rental units. Along the white colored private rentals and green park borders are drainage outlets from lakes which are behind the dune system. These little creeks are dark from tannin in the water.
Here's an aerial view of an outlet to the gulf
You can wade across each creek outlet and walk the entire park along the beach. Here you can see one of the developed private areas. Notice no dunes, and building right on the beach.
From the beach itself the mixing waters are unique.
The waters have a brown color against the beach and grade to the greens of the sand bars and the blues of deeper water.
The dark tannin water has good reflective ability.
The borders between protected areas with dune systems and the developed parts of the beach provide a stark contrast.
The park cabins are behind the dunes in the most western section of the park. To access the beach is a short walk to and over a boardwalk.
The economical cabins ($110/night) are situated in the piney woods behind the dunes. We spent most of our time out and about, but when we were at the cabin we hung out here on the porch...
Looking out over the palmetto in the piney woods.
We found a bike rental with delivery and pick up service and had bikes at our cabin on arrival. There's a 18 mile bike trail (Timpoochee trail) that runs along the park border and to several towns. We used the car only once the entire trip.
The nature of the gulf coast is to be lined with dunes...a smaller foredune and larger hind dune.
The fore dunes are protected with Sea Oats.
...and other vegetation like seafoam morning glory
The hind dunes can become completely vegetated.
...or be covered in flowers.
The vegetation on the tops of the dunes is salt pruned by sea winds.
These dunes are protected by live oak...
Coming down the backside of the dune other vegetation begins as it grades into the piney woods.
The piney woods has its own community too...like Yaupon Holly
A thousand years ago, Native American traders dried, packed and shipped the leaves all the way to Cahokia, the ancient mound city near the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi rivers. Native Americans sometimes used it in purification rituals involving purging (this led to its Latin name, Ilex vomitoria — a misnomer, because yaupon is not an emetic). Traveling through North Carolina in 1775, the naturalist William Bartram said Cherokees called yaupon "the beloved tree." Early settlers even exported yaupon to Europe.
In the park the piney woods grade into salt marsh along the lakes with its array of rushes, reeds, sedges , grasses, and blooms.
While looking at the sky above the lake, I caught a fuzzy picture of an eagle.
We saw many osprey but failed to get even a fuzzy picture.
Throughout the area is the gulf fritillary...
Along the beach are other birds and animals...
However we found it disconcerting that there were so few birds. We only saw one group of pelicans and only a few gulls all week. This is quite a contrast to the abundant bird activity here 40 years ago.
There were some primitive life forms which I'm happy to say I avoided contacting...
One of the nice aspects of the gulf coast is seeing both sunrise and sunset...
The eastern view looks over a developed area and houses, but it was beautiful none the less.
Panama City sits several miles to the East.
And dawn unfolds...
To the west lies Destin, once a sleepy fishing village, but now a busy vacation destination.
Notice the empty state park beach and the activity down at the development to the west of the park. Fortunately the sun sets over the ocean this time of year, so sunset shots were fun.
So I'll close with the setting sun and a bit of reflection. In the forty years since our last visit to Grayton, it seems every square inch where development has been allowed has been developed. Once sleepy towns and villages are now bustling vacation resorts which seemed like ant beds that had been kicked. Wildlife was around. Like at home, we even had deer browse past our porch. However it was the decline in the number of animals, especially birds, which caused us alarm. Turtles nest on this beach. There have been seven nest this summer on the stretch of beach where we were. Only one was successful. Storm surge swept away the eggs in the other six nests. Since our last visit, the foredunes have been washed inland all the way to the foot of the hind dunes as you may have noticed in the pictures. I can remember twenty or more feet between them. These ecosystems are sensitive and make obvious the strain we are placing on the planet. We saw many mosquito control spray trucks in the area; the number of visitors and their trash, sewage, and water demands; the large track hoes deforesting the piney woods for even more development; are just a few of the many impacts of people on our fragile coastal systems.
I know we added impact with our visit, but we did our best to tread lightly. I'm glad we supported the state park with our rental, and am glad their development is behind the dune system. We enjoyed the short bike ride to the beach, and bike access to brew pubs, restaurants, and seafood outlets. We spent a good bit of time walking the beaches, and I can still feel my calves. Walking on sand is very different than our up and down the mountain hikes. I hope you enjoyed traveling with us today and look forward to your shoreline and coastal stories below. It is still an amazing planet... which would be more appropriately named Ocean rather than Earth.
Have a lovely Sunday! The thread is open to any or all thoughts, stories, and ideas.