The wonderful thing about a beach walk is the diversity it presents. Wind, tide, shells, sun, ships, sand, sky, temperature, birds and people provide subtle or drastic variations every day. One morning after a night of howling winds, the beach was decorated with great swaths and mounds of seafoam. The wind broke small sections away and sent them rolling along the beach like snowballs. The vigorous waves produced a salty mist that we could taste and a fuzzy view of the distant hotels down the beach.
Some days, it is rare to find a shell where others provide huge clusters to examine. The shell collector is faced with many choices, picking out only the perfect ones, favouring one colour shell such as yellow, pink or black, selecting the more interesting broken or textured pieces or hunting down a particular size. On certain days, sea slugs wiggle in the wet sand and on others, sea urchins and seaweed are washed ashore.
Other creatures include coral, crabs, stars and jellyfish. The sand is employed by child architects who create fun structures that eventually become swallowed by the waves.
Birds are ever-present, the pelicans glide above the surf or hang in formation under the clouds. Shore birds feed along the beach and dash in and out with the waves leaving trails of their tiny footprints in the sand. One bold heron perched out on the pier beside the fishermen. I suppose he wanted someone else to catch his lunch for him for a change. A controlled burn in the park cleared roadside overgrowth. The ground was smoking beneath the tree where the Osprey often feeds and we figured that he might be enjoying a barbequed fish lunch that day. There are also the human-made birds, the airforce jets and helicopters swooping the beach. One evening at sunset we watched a helicopter perform a chase sequence far off shore. (pictures are blurred but interesting)
A couple of days ago, we welcomed our friends Sheila and Steve, from Ontario. They booked a campsite next to ours here at St. Andrews State Park. In the cool and windy weather, we had to don multiple layers for our hike on the beach. After a great visit and dinner together in the motor home, we stepped out to bid each other goodnight and were met by crazy warm temperatures.
Chris checked the Weather Network before we turned in to discover that a Tornado Watch was in effect for our area, Panama Beach and the State Park. Around two am. Chris was up watching the approaching storm cell which was estimated to hit us around three am. We dressed and pulled in the slides on the coach. We grabbed our wallets, camera and computers, gathered Dixie, Sheila and Steve and headed up to the concrete washroom to wait. The winds were screaming at this point and the lightening and thunder began soon after. Surprisingly few campers joined us. There was no warning siren for the park and we assumed that most people just hunkered down for what they thought was a crazy rain storm. All over the US, a warning signal is sent out on iPhones to warn about weather alerts. A few folks arrived later in their drenched pajamas. We watched the red dot on the weather map get closer to our shore. The intensity of the wind was immense and the rain was pelting down as thick sheets. One body-shuddering thunderclap made us all jump and its impact could be felt from head to toe. We sat for about an hour and luckily the Tornado did not touch down. We watched on the iPhone weather map as the wild mass of red, yellow and green storm icon moved further north, away from us. Relieved, we returned to bed around four am and tried to settle our swirling brains to sleep.
sky colours changed with each lightening strike
stormwatch and wait
We found out the following day, that a tree has been struck by lightening and cracked straight through its trunk. The rains that poured down for hours, left broken pine and palm branches, a variety of tree debris and small ponds in every camp site.
Our trip to the beach was exhilarating. Actually, most of the sand was covered with waves and there were limited places to walk and see the sea. The danger flags were flapping at top speed, warning people and boats to stay out of the water, just in case the bitter wind and icy temperatures were not enough to dissuade them.
The dark gray skies and slate coloured Gulf added to the dramatic views from the pier. The sun pushed through a few times bestowing a serene edge to the violent waves. Spray thrown into the air produced a haze that extended down the beach softening the outlines of the hotels in the distance like an English fog over the moors. Sand in the air added to the effect as the top icing sugar layer had been blown away revealing more mealy, rough beach beneath. The horizon was bumpy with wave tops and the wind gusts made it difficult to hold the camera still. The swells were six to eight feet high and pushed up and over the sand escarpment where usually, even at high tide, there is an eight foot buffer from the water.
At the rock wall along the channel, the wave action was even more spectacular where water spires were thrown high in the air sending curtains of spray flying. The sand was churned into the water creating a murky soup and henna-tinted foam. One area seemed to have trapped small fish that were being devoured by terns that swooped above the swells, bashed about by blasts of wind and white caps. Around the corner, sheltered from the weather by the dunes and canal wall, stood a long line of birds facing into the breeze. A few crazy ones floated nonchalantly on the calmer waters. I know which location I would be in if I was a bird that day.
We warmed up in CC with snacks, beverages and conversation. It was a really nice change for us to hang out with friends. Our last supper together was over seafood at Uncle Ernies in Panama City. We said our goodbyes before bed as Sheila and Steve were leaving early the following morning headed southeast, for a few days, then on to The Everglades for their annual camping and kayaking adventures with a group of like minded friends. Hopefully the weather will lose its chill for them.
Our weather was threatening but nothing compared to the winter snowstorms that hit the northern states leaving destruction and death. With all our technology and scientific knowledge, we remain vulnerable to the hands of nature.