Cape San Blas: A Photo Gallery of Florida's Best Kept Secret
Ten miles east of St. Port Joe, Florida, I walked along Cape San Blas and stumbled upon these fallen trees. They made a natural frame for the ocean as my fiance' played with the dolphins near the second sand bar. (You cannot see the dolphins without zooming to the dead center of the photo, but they are there. I picked them up with an 18 times zoom.)
The winds blow inland, but the trees seem to go out with the tide along this stretch of Cape San Blas. It's not uncommon to see horseback riders ambling down the shoreline or into the sunset. There is an historic lighthouse just inland from this photograph.
When I see this picture, I see more than a shore littered with sea shells. The angle makes it appear to me as though the objects that clutter this seventeen mile barrier penninusula have fallen out of the sky rather than washed up on the shore. The composition of the shell justaposed against the heavens, struck me as a fallen angel, rather than a broken shell.
The Sand Dunes
There are enormous sand dunes running parallel to the beaches. Some of them are twenty to thirty feet or higher with sharp drop offs cut out by the wind. Others are between five and fifteen feet high with gradual slopes.
The dunes are covered with indigenous plants and animals such as sea grass, sand pines, lizards, and birds. Signs are posted to protect nesting areas of indigenous birds and sea turtles.
The dunes are close enough to the ocean that high tides can do 'creative' damage to them. Yet it has not destroyed them. They have merely been displaced over time and encroach upon the sidewalks and parking lots behind them.
(Below) Trees which used to line the beach are so deeply entrenched, they now stand petrified against the test of time and elements.
A mermaid's purse is a rare find on any beach. This black sack, which is rubbery to the touch, is basically the womb of unborn sharks. Once born, the sacks shrivel up and this one had washed up on the shore along with beautiful starfish.
(Below) Playful dolphins ran up and down the beach within eyeshot while sea birds flew overhead.
The Bay Side
The eco-system on the opposite side of the cape is a striking contrast to the ocean side. The bay is replete with palm trees of various kinds and the brush is plush and dense. Large snakes of the non-poisonus and poisonus variety can be seen if you have a keen eye. Crabs are so dense that when you walk along the docks, the sound of their scurry sounds like soliders marching out of sight.
The dense eco-system of the bay gives rise to a wide variety of conchs, crabs, crayfish, and the birds which feed upon them.
(Below) This naturally dried sea grass lies along the shore of the bay for hundreds of feet. Beneath this carpet, another set of living creatures yet to be revealed.
Conch shells of every size, color and type love the bay environment. Be careful when you pick them up. You are also picking up the lifeforms that depend on the conchs for their survival - crabs. See below!
Horseshoe crabs are as abundant as any other form of wildlife in or near the bay. Passing over coyote tracks in the early dawn, we found two horsehoe crabs mating in the shallows. Unfortunately, they were lifeless.
When the water levels have fallen, it is difficult to navigate the bay until you are hundreds of feet from the shoreline. Then, in an instant, high winds can quickly capsize or carry a small boat toward the Cape side. My partner and I headed out in this canoe and quickly learned we would have to turn back. The turn back took us in a complete circle for two hours, where once we found purchase on the floor of the shoreline, we literally had to drag our boat back to shore. There is a subtle irony in the fact that old salt mines which were destroyed in the civil war are in the same visible distance as the tumultuous current which took control of our boat.
The Wildlife Refuge
About thirty miles from San Blas is a wildlife refuge referred to as St. Vincent's. Here the beaches are extraordinarily desolate and well-protected. Following a ferry ride and then a long bike ride through the sand, we found dozens of sand dollars, angel wings, and giant cockles along the beach.
This shot looks like the dead of winter, but it is actually quite warm and in the month of April. Cape San Blas is called the "forgotten coast," but it is NOT a place that I will ever forget.