A Respite Along Destin’s Sandy Shores

by admin | May 17, 2024 9:12 am

DESTIN, FLORIDA — The wind is whipping from the south-southwest at up to 25 mph Another band of storms has rolled in from the sea, sending up whitecaps along the beach as the waves slide to shore. Thunder peals in the distance. The beach is abandoned on this mid-May Monday afternoon, all the beach chairs safely inside their storage boxes before being sent careening down the sand. Gulls fly about, buffeted to-and-fro from the wind. I am sitting on a fourth-floor balcony of our condo, wearing a hoodie, and feeling pleasantly chilly. An especially stiff gust of wind compels me to flip the hood up over my head.

Thanks to the generosity of some close friends back in East Texas, we again have access to a lovely condo on a Destin beach for several days. Peak tourist season here is at least a few weeks away. Even yesterday, with the sun shining and pleasant temps, the beach was sparsely populated. Right now, one could toss a chunk of driftwood and not hit a single tourist.

Several pods of dolphins come ambling by, just their dorsal fins visible as they hunt for lunch. I rush to grab my camera with its long lens and fire shots from the balcony, but the result is not nearly as satisfying as actually just watching them[1] gracefully bob along the current — just the fins popping up in an expanse of turquoise water. After a while, the dolphins head on down the beach, out of sight.

Eventually, after the worst of the first storm passes, a lone fisherman sets up on the beach, screwing a metal pipe into the stand. Decked in a thick camo hoodie and shorts, he casts a line into the water and sets the pole into the post. As I was walking yesterday, when it was sunny and much warmer, I inadvertently walked beneath a cast line, recognized my error, and backtracked around the pole. The fellow handling it said not to worry about walking underneath, but it felt like walking beneath a ladder — possibly an auger of misfortune.

Each morning, after gulping down a few sips of coffee, I have headed to the beach to walk barefoot along the water’s edge. I am not normally a barefoot kind of guy, but my choice is to wear tennis shoes and walk in the thick, dry sand, or schlepp along the water, letting the waves peter out over my toes. I chose the latter. My routine is to walk 30 minutes in one direction, then reverse course. The sand provides resistance to make the walk more vigorous than usual. I step around little kids making castles in the sand, their parents hovering nearby.

Sanderlings, a tiny shorebird about 6 inches in length, flit along the edges of the waves, looking for food by poking their bills into the wet sand. These little guys have a tough job, poking their beaks into the sand only to be rudely interrupted by an especially boisterous wave from which they are forced to flee to dry sand. Looks to me as if they are burning more calories than they can gather, but still they persevere.

I manage to get back to the condo just minutes before the skies open and sheets of rain sweep across the beach, which is now deserted. The beach staff has put out the red-flag warning, meaning a dangerous rip tide precludes swimming safely. The water is too cold for a wimp like me to do much more than wade no more than shin-high along the shore. Even then, the rip tide current pulls me outward, so I follow the sanderlings to dry sand.

We share the beach, the birds eyeing me warily as I look in vain for a unbroken sand dollar. They are in scarce supply these days, thanks to climate change, pollution, and destruction of habitat. Seaweed appears to still be a plentiful commodity, however, keeping the beach crews busy early each morning.

Several days on the beach truly have been a respite. We are grateful for the break.

  1. [Image]: http://garyborders.com/pages/a-respite-along-on-destins-sandy-shores/destin-beach-chairs/

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