Wednesday, April 6, 2016

We're in the Sunshine State!

Our original plan this winter was to travel east down the Gulf coast. But we ended up taking a detour north, that we have really enjoyed. We still wanted a little beach time, so we crossed the state line, and finally found ourselves in Florida! Denisa was really impressed with the Florida visitor center that offers orange or grape fruit juice to welcome you to their state. Besides her juice, she is also holding a Florida brochure, and a fresh orange. We were only three miles from the state line, and she had already determined that she really liked Florida!

It's nice to see all those palm trees again! We drove south through the panhandle, and crossed the cause-way of East Bay and its sparkling blue water.

Our destination is the little town of Mexico Beach. Situated right on the Gulf of Mexico, it's 30 miles southeast of all the hype in Panama City and its spring break crowds.  That is a very positive characteristic to us.

We are camping at Rustic Sands RV Park (another Passport America campground), just a half-mile bike ride to the white sand beach. So as soon as the motor home was parked and plugged in, we were walking on Mexico Beach.

This sand is made of fine quartz pieces that are like powder. We found that it literally squeaks as you walk on it. We talked to a local that explained we wouldn't see the turquoise blue water that this emerald coast is famous for, until later in the year when the rain curtails. For now, the water looks a little brown, as the spring rains are bringing run-off from the area rivers to the gulf.

The water of the area rivers are stained a dark brown from the tannin in the cypress tree roots. We saw evidence of this tannin when we walked to the area where one of the canals empties into the gulf. Our new friend explained that this entry point will silt over in time, but busts open again with a large rain. In the meantime, the children on the beach loved swimming across the tea-colored canal.

It was great being just a short bike ride from the beach, so we went there often. It was amazing that it could be calm at our campground among the trees, but blowing gale-force wind at the beach or the pier. Note to self--it's a waste of time to fix your hair in the morning before going to the beach.

Another by-product of that wind is sea foam. Denisa remembers having a sea foam green crayon in her big box of crayolas. But this day we were getting sea foam tan as the tide was receding and leaving it trapped on the shore.

If we tired of the beach in our little town, we got directions to get to Crooked Island Beach. We heard rumors that this was a better place to find sea shells. Just four miles outside of town, it is part of the neighboring Tyndall Air Force base, but open to the public. After parking the car, we walked a long boardwalk over the dunes. The boardwalk keeps the foot traffic from trampling the sea oats, so important to keep the sand from blowing and keeping the beach habitat healthy.

Few tourists know about this beach, so we shared it only with a few locals. We met a couple people carrying buckets of shells back to their cars, so we decided that the rumor must be correct.

Sure enough, about a mile north of the parking area we found a widening of the beach, and began finding more and more shells.

Knowing that several buckets of shells had just left the beach, we wondered what it had looked like early this morning. We didn't find any of the big shells on the beach, so Mark waded into the water to find some new ones just washing up on the shore.

He would watch under the water as a new wave brought a fresh supply of shells that had never been seen by human eyes. Then the game was to reach under the water and grab the treasure right before the next wave swept in to drench him and take the shell back out to sea. He was loving this game!

He was finding some Atlantic Giants, sand dollars, conch, and olives.

We also found a horse shoe crab on the shore. We were pretty sure it was dead.

When we found the second horse shoe crab upside down and with a broken tail, we were real sure it was dead. Being from land-locked Oklahoma, we are amazed with all these sea creatures.

We are also amazed with all the beautiful shells we found on Crooked Island Beach! We feel like we are wandering His wonders when we see the intricate beauty that washes up on the beach. God sure makes beautiful "beach trash."

The clouds were heavy on this second afternoon on the beach, and we were forecast for a rain storm. So we felt lucky to get this second day on the beach. But our dry weather wouldn't be lasting much longer . . .

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