Sunday, August 19, 2012

“Few people know how to take a walk. The qualifications are endurance, plain clothes, old shoes, an eye for nature, good humor, vast curiosity, good speech, good silence and nothing too much.” - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Rising like huge exclamation marks on the beach,  the towering Australian Pine trees on the end of Stump Pass State Park  beckon you past the main beach and on to the the beach less traveled. As a non-native species of tree, the park service started eradicating the pines some years back because they emit a chemical that kills all nearby plants and inhibit the growth of new vegetation. The island is now thriving and blooming with native trees, mangroves, & flowering bushes but the landscape near the southern end of Stump Pass is a surreal driftwood sculpture garden of huge fallen trees and their gargantuan root systems. 

The entrance to the park is a good base camp for walking the mile out the the southern end. The Weston Wanna B Inn Resort (see my last post) where I stayed last week is located a shell's throw from the park & the end is an easy walk from there as well. Stump Pass State Park is a bare bones facility with only a soda machine for refreshments so bring a cooler stocked with cold drinks & snacks.  I would also suggest an umbrella for shade.  Definitely bring water with you on your walk to the end as well as a camera for the bounty of nature photo ops.

The walk to the end takes about 20 minutes IF you are not looking for shells, fossils, or shark's teeth which are there in abundance.  Inspecting the beach as you walk can add several hours to your travel time. A nature trail rambles up the center of the park out to the end.  Once on the southern end of Stump Pass you have a spectacular view of Knight Island, the Gulf of Mexico & Lemon Bay. The pass shifts & changes on the whim of every tropical storm or hurricane that blows through.  A popular destination for boaters & kayakers,  the pass is a busy place on the week-ends but week-days are usually quiet & serene.

After Australian pines kill off the sea oats & other native plants that hold the beach in place they topple over as the beach slowly erodes.

It is not uncommon to see a half buried root system festooned with shells placed by beach combers walking out to the end of the pass.

This non-native species has flat narrow roots not made for sand and give away during strong winds.

The birds make good use of the available perches.
 My beach buddy Lil Shorty & I took a walk out to the end last week and found a huge shell pile being uncovered by the ebbing tide flowing very quickly out of the pass. I love being in the right place at the right time.

All in a day's walk.