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.


egretsnest said...

I have a deep l'amour de labs and Bear looks like he was having the time of his life! What an adventure!

pablo said...

I'm glad to see that Bear loves the water, and I'm glad to see that your son has a shirt with sleeves (I keep clicking on your ads to raise your income). Also nice to see the preferred term "seastar" used. Had you told me it was some strange, subtropical banana peel, I would have believed you (just like I believe that the lights of the town really show how far out you waded -- NOT!).

Sandcastle Momma said...

Aaahhh! Nightime in the water is always pure bliss. That whelk is gorgeous. I found one years ago in St Joe Bay that was almost as long as my lower leg and it was empty! It now sits on my coffee table and people always ooh and aah over it because it's so big. I haven't seen a horseshoe crab in years - they are so funny to watch. Looks like ya'll had fun and I'm still grinning over the idea of the tourists watching you come ashore LOL

Floridacracker said...

His first real water! I think it truly WAS the time of his life so far :)

You may not be comprehending the sandspit. It may be a good mile in length and we are not timid when armed with knowledge of tidal flow.
We really were that far out.
You get here on an evening spring tide and I'll take you out there ... of course, you won't be in Kansas anymore ...

SC Momma,
There are usually lots of live horseshoe crabs out there, but not on this night.
Your whelk shell sounds like a great decoration.

Susan said...

Who could be afraid out there surrounded by the bouncy, splashy happiness of Bear?

And Bear was probably thinking, "It must be okay. I've got my guys."

pablo said...

All I'm saying is that when I embiggen the photo, it sure looks like the beach is about twenty feet back.

Shouldn't you be working on remodeling somewhere instead of blogging?

threecollie said...

What an adventure!
You folks sure do know how to have fun.
And aren't those unplanned talks fun? Our boy and I had one while lying on the dock trying to get up gumption to go swimming(and get past the coldness of the water) the other morning. Amazing kids these days. They know and understand so much

Anonymous said...

Well, if you didn't invite the whole world into your little piece of paradise every day it would be your own private piece of the world. But, don't you dare stop blogging, more great pics that you don't see to often here in the Mid-West. What a treat seeing Bear take the beach with no casualties. He'll be ready to go back!
Bro J

Floridacracker said...

He is pure bouncy happiness. I think we wore him out pretty good tho!

Hey, you're right on THAT photo that bouncey Bear lunge was not long after we entered the water, BUT we walked out to sea much, much farther.
Too far and too dark for a good photo to show the distance. (Same reason I have no beautiful rising moon shots ... all handheld blurry)
I guess I need to rewalk it on a daytime spring tide to illustrate how darn far you can go.
Pretty amazing and the offer still stands :)

Yes, you never know where the conversation will go.
Cold water in July ... now there's a concept!

Bro J,
We guided him through the one spot where there were sharp oyster shells so he COULD take the beach with no casualties. After that it was all sandy mud.
Hey, if you like armadillos and lab pups, do I ever have a video for you.
Just shot it and am still laughing.
Too funny.

Freste said...

Being a converted felinitarian I can only guess how much fun the nocturnal labridocity splashing was.

Twenty feet or 2000 feet out, I don't think it matters how far you were. Sounds like something none of us will ever do, which makes it all that more special.

lej619 said...

sounds like the "guys" had a great time. Great time making great memories. the spontaneity of it all makes it even that much better!

Anonymous said...

How about, an armadillo, a Norwegian Elkhound, and my not so bright youger cousin? This was back when I was 18, so no cell phone or video shots (they weren't around back then!) but it a good story to tell!
Bro J

Doug Taron said...

This is the kind of post that keeps me coming back. I love your guided walks- makes me feel like I'm right there with you. I'll get to have a bit of Atlantic fix myself in about a month.

Miz S said...

You know, I read something like this, about a man, a boy, and a dog, walking in the water, splashing, exploring, talking about real life, and it makes me happy in a way that is not easy to explain. But it has something to do with family bonding and solid parenting and how awesome teenagers are despite the way they are portrayed in the media. And something about parents taking the time to really BE with their kids. You know what I mean?

Floridacracker said...

You are getting the lingo down dude!

How true about the spontaneity.

Bro J,
I can picture it.

Thanks. Hope Hurricane season cooperates with your plans.

Miz S,
I know EXACTLY what you mean.
Thank you.

kathy said...

Aww, I would SO love to be able to do this! How about next vacation my family takes, we come see you? :0 Or maybe you could just steer us in a nice real Florida beach direction? We always come to the Panhandle several times a year...Rosemary Beach, to be specific. The most uninhabited beach we've been to was out on Cape San Blas.