|The park is a site for multiple weddings each weekend. This couple speak their vows under a canopy on the beach.|
Memorial Day weekend at the park was for the record books. Thousands of people flowed through the gates. Jo brought in more than $3,000 in admission fees at her booth. More than 8,000 folks came to visit the park on Saturday.
I was out on my magical mystery tour, trolling up and down the beaches, fighting the never-ending flow of garbage that was deposited by folks leaving the beach. I met up with a man from Vancouver, B.C., who wanted to know everything I knew about the beaches, the birds, and the ferry. He even began to tell me about day-trading on the stock market. I spent a half hour chatting with him before I bid farewell so I could continue my journey of collection.
The flow of garbage was so overwhelming I decided I needed to quantify the crap. So I kept tabs on the numbers of trash bags I filled from the barrels along the beach. In my five-hour shift, I collected 48 bags of trash. The dumpsters were so full, the rangers had to use a forklift on the front of a tractor to press down and compact the garbage so more could be loaded. I calculated each bag averaged about 25 pounds. And I had to lift them twice: once after bagging the trash from the barrels and once from my electric cart into the dumpster bins: 2,400 lbs. or so.
The following day was just as bad. Sunday was hot, hot, hot and I returned to the workshop area after my first cart load of crap. I drank greedily from the water fountain and said the only way I could keep up the pace was if I got help. Chuck was the answer to my prayer. My radio crackled. The front gate ranger announced Chuck, a volunteer from Palm Harbor up the road, had just entered the park and was being sent to the workshop area. When he walked in the door, I pounced. Chuck didn’t know what hit him! I told him we were going trolling along the beaches. He worked alongside me for four hours before announcing he couldn’t do any more. But he was a god-send to me and I sent him on his way as the sun slipped below the horizon – with yet another green flash.
We’ve finished our first month at Honeymoon Island. It’s been fun and memorable. Mostly, Jo and I like having the park to ourselves in the late evening. We love the wildlife which surrounds us. We’ve both encountered 4-6-foot-long diamond-back rattlesnakes as they wriggled across the roads. We have two raccoons that play havoc with Jo’s lettuce pots. We laugh aloud at the antics of a silly female cardinal who alights on the rear-view mirror of our Honda Fit. She is beside herself with frustration every day when she sees her image in the mirror and seems unable to understand it is a reflection. To her, this is an intruding competitor who is interested in her male cardinal who arrives at the same time and who never looks at himself in the mirror. He simply perches on the roof or the radio antenna of the car and watches his mate with bemusement as she goes through hell trying to scare off the competition in the mirror.
The gopher turtles live here in abundance and look us with a mopey look of “please don’t disturb me” when we pass them on the road. They pull their head into their shell and wait for us to move along. Eventually, they peek out and decide we are not there to do them harm. And, finally, we are endlessly entertained by the endless array of wading birds and fluttering seabirds. The other night, as we walked the beach, two least terns fluttered overhead. They would hover in the air, their beaks pointed directly below them, eyes straining to pick out the tiny fish in the waves. In a split second, they spy their meal and drop like stones into the water. Up they come again, with a tiny fish in their mouth.
All in all, it’s a life that might be recommended to anyone. Chuck, by the way, was astonished that we would want to – as he put it – “live out of a suitcase”. I tried to explain to him that we don’t feel we’re living out of a suitcase. It’s more like being a gopher turtle, I said. We carry our house around with us and it is always there as a comfort and place where we can find peace. Chuck, who is a retired professor of gerontology from the University of Georgia, was intrigued but couldn’t get his brain around the concept.
|This Least Tern hovers while eyeing the potential for a meal in the Gulf of Mexico.|