Sunday, July 20, 2008
Nightwalk On The Sandspit At Cedar Key
A Cedar Key sandspit sunset.
Friday night, as I stepped out into the cicada din to let Bear out for one more business trip before bed, there was this big fat moon shining through the Spanish moss adorning the PFHQ live oaks.
"Hmmmm. Looks like spring tide time ... I wonder if there's an evening low tide."
Back inside, I clicked on my Cedar Key tide link and lo and behold, a midevening low for Saturday night.
Perfect for a night time walk on the sandspit.
The sandspit is a long sandbar that sticks way out into the estuary at Cedar Key. During the day, it's neat, but at night it gets downright magical sometimes with bioluminescent comb jellies and nocturnal beasties that you just don't get to see during the day.
It's just different at night ... things get a little more exciting after the lights go down.
The question was ... would the weather hold?
Yesterday, like clockwork (only really flashy, loud, dangerous clockwork) terrific T-storms boiled over PF, but they cooked off by evening.
I asked Junior if he wanted to go and he asked if Bear could go along.
Now, the poor Lab pup has never so much as waded in real water yet. This is Pure Florida and you can't just send him out after tennis balls in a Florida lake or river, unless you enjoy watching your dog getting eaten by an alligator.
They are thick as fleas here and it's not worth the risk, so Bear was definitely in need of hydration.
We put a collar on him, grabbed his leash, and tossed a gallon jug of rinse water and some beach towels into the JEEP and off we went ... old boy, young boy, dog boy.
(I'm using collages just to keep the loading time short)
We got to Cedar Key with an hour of ebbing tide left, which is just about perfect. The evening was cool (relatively) from the afternoon storms with a bug proofing breeze coming off the water.
Lots of folks were standing on the shore watching the water.
We walked right past these timid souls and walked out to sea. At this point in the tide cycle, the spit was just incognito ... barely under water. If you don't know it exists, you would expect us to suddenly vanish beneath the dark waters and I heard an onlooker express that very thought.
We walked on, confident that up ahead the sandspit was already rising up to greet us in the dark.
The little sparkles in the upper background are the lights of the Cedar Key restaurants and shops ... so, you can see we were way out there.
Bear was thrilled by real water and his genetic "l'amour de l'eau" kicked in almost immediately.
He got pretty exuberant.
Once we were past a small oystery area, we unleashed him to release his inner Bearness and the resulting rompnicity would have warmed anyone stricken with "l'amour de Labs".
Junior and Bear ran about in the mud burning off their pup energy while I concentrated on getting y'all some pics of the nocturnal sandspitians.
The photo above shows a burrowing anemone extended for feeding. These Cnidarians are one of the most obvious denizens of the sandspit at night.
Behind the anemone, at the bottom of the picture, are the arms of some Echinoderm ... perhaps brittle stars.
I didn't notice them at the time or I would have dug them up to discover who was there.
(It doesn't hurt them purist nature handsoffians)
This seastar was cruising slowly across the sand. I have video of this ... lit by flashlight, which I will try to upload to YouTube today.
This might be a Grey Sand Star ... need to check into that.
Remember these pics are lit by flash, but it was dark as ... well, ... night out there.
The collage above is mostly about a large lightning whelk that was burrowing along. Lightning whelks are voracious predatory snails and very common on the mudflats in the Gulf. The upper right shot shows the snail's operculum which is used to shut the door when he retreats inside.
Bear was cautious, but interested ... same goes for his attitude about the molted horseshoe crab exoskeleton in the bottom right shot.
After about two hours of discovery, romping, photography, a discussion of dictators of the 20th century (who was the worse? ... I picked Pol Pot and his killing fields, but dang, there's so many to choose from, how moon snails feed, how Taiwan came to be and how China sees the issue, and a beautiful rising red moon, we started walking back in.
The tide was beginning to come in and it would not be good to ignore that in the dark.
We arrived back on terra more firma like strange muddy visitors from the sea.
A tourist kid with a flashlighting beachcombing family asked about where we had come from, was there land out there, etc.
I gave them my "The tide's about to turn, you shouldn't go out there now" warning and we trudged up to the JEEP.
We poured the gallon jug of fresh water over Bear, toweled him off, and loaded him into the JEEP.
We drove home through pine and cypress forests, the windows down, the A/C off, and the sound of dog snores emanating from the back seat.