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Sunday, May 3, 2009

Walking a Beach

The way you walk a beach says a lot about you. My wife and I often walk the same beach in totally different ways. When I first get on a beach, I make a couple of calculations. The first is whether there are fewer people to the east of me or to the west. I always lean towards the less crowded areas. Our beaches on the Crystal Coast run east west. My second thought has to do with light. I prefer to walk with the sun to my back when I first start out. The color in pictures is easier to control and that lets me walk back into a sunset on our return if we time things correctly. If I have a conflict between number of people on the beach and sun at my back, I usually walk with the sun at my back. Beyond picking your direction on the beach, you also have to decide where in relation to the water you will walk.
Deciding how near to the water you will walk often provides some quick personal information. Assuming the water is anywhere close to warm, I will walk in the water since I do not mind getting wet. Actually I like to get wet, and in warm weather I am often in a bathing suit with a towel back at the car. I use the towel to keep my car seat dry. When it is really warm, I often go for a quick swim. It is not a surprise that I am a fisherman.

My wife dislikes getting wet but loves to look at shells. She often walks just a few feet above where the waves are reaching. She also does not like the sand to stick to her feet. If she keep her feet dry, she can easily brush the sand off. If the weather is hot enough for her to get her feet wet, she will likely have chosen a beach which provides water to clean the sand from your feet. My wife loves the beach, but she would prefer that the sand stay on the beach.

While I enjoy looking at shells, I would much rather see some bluefish chasing menhaden in the surf. The possibility of that happening would explain the fishing rod that is sometimes my companion on beach walks. I end up looking like the ultimate tourist with camera around my neck and a fishing rod over by shoulder.

The great thing about the beach is that you can look like a tourist and not feel bad about it. Our beaches are all about enjoying the beach while not worrying about how you look.

You do not make many trips along the beach before you figure out that it is ever changing. The beach you walk on tonight might be gone tomorrow and replaced with one which feels totally different.

Sometimes the beach sand almost sucks your feet into it. Other times it feels like soft sandy pavement. Often you can be walking and watch as the beach changes character right in front of your eyes. As the water drains from the sand, the beach become firm. As the water saturates sand filled with shells, the beach becomes challenging for walkers.

We see all kinds of people walking on the beach. There are the first timers who have just rolled up their blue jeans and are barely getting their toes damp. The tanned year round residents are often in sun bleached clothing and walking for exercise.

The young children are the most fun to watch. It does not take them long to figure out that sand and water create almost unlimited opportunities for fun. The only creature better adapted to a beach would be a water loving dog, There is nothing more entertaining than watching a Labrador retriever get wet in the surf and then search out the driest and finest sand for a nice dust bath. The beach is a spa for many dogs.

Wind also changes the beach. I can remember walking near the point last year after a very windy period. All the light sand had been blown into hard packed dunes. You could walk on hard-packed sand, and your footprints hardly showed. The wind had also sculpted the beach into areas where the sand was coarse, very hard packed, and red in color. Some pictures towards the end of this slide show illustrate that.

I have seen people who love to walk in the wet almost mud like sand of the beaches to the exclusion of all the other types of sand. I figure those folks just love the feel of wet sand between their toes.

Most of all I enjoy walking the beach and staying on that line which goes from wet to almost dry back to wet with each wave. The walking is usually great at that line. My feet stay wet, and I catch the odd wave to remind me that I am on the beach and subject to getting wet at almost any time.

The only thing close to being as relaxing as walking on a beach is watching a sunset while kayaking.

By the time I walk back through the fine white sand, you often find just as you enter a beach, I have enough sand on me to earn a disapproving look from my wife. While she is used to me by now, she had to keep up appearances in spite of being very mellow after a nice beach walk.

Treat yourself to a beach walk this week, but do not use my words as a guide. Make sure that you write up your own manual for beach walks. After all, you might just be defined by the way you walk the beach.

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