Island National Seashore
South Texas, on the Gulf Coast near Corpus Christi
March 19, 2008
As part of our great 2008 spring break tour, Andra and I made a quick run to the Gulf of Mexico via Corpus Christi, to spend a night on Padre Island. Not the party-crazed, drunken-college-coed area, that’s South Padre Island. North Padre Island is an undeveloped national seashore, set aside for nesting birds, turtles although mysteriously open to vehicular traffic. Yes, apparently in Texas, beaches are considered highways, so if you’re tempted to walk the beach, watch your ass. Some of those guys go pretty fast.
arrived on a sun-drenched afternoon, and headed straight away through several
miles of vegetated dunes to the beach, where the pavement ends but the
tire treads do not. We drove about 50 feet down the beach, then squeezed
into a parking spot nose into the dunes. Cars lined the beach as far as
we could see. This isn’t exactly what we had in mind. Still, it was ocean,
beach, sand, warmth, sunshine. Yeehaw! All deep in the heart of Texas,
or maybe a little south of that. We hopped out of the car, slopped on sunscreen
and noticed that it really wasn’t all that warm out. Sweatshirts came out
of the trunk, and then we walked to the water. I took off my shoes and
waded in to my ankles. That’s about as wet as I got in the ocean on this
trip. The water was pretty chilly, but even moreso, the wind was downright
cold. While the air temp was hovering around 70, the wind was throwing
in off the water around 15 miles an hour. Not warm. Less than a minute
later, a ranger drove up in his truck. I quickly reviewed my act of walking
into the water…was that allowed here? I think so. I smiled at the ranger
as he rolled down his window.
We went for a lengthy walk on the beach. Box jellyfish were marooned on the wet sand at regular intervals, further dampening my desire to run laughing into the waves. Seagulls, killdeer and other shorebirds skittered across the sand, following the waves on their way out, pecking at unseen critters in the ground. The shore here is especially shallow, and the waves are very mellow. It would seem to be a fun place to swim, but I’d guess July would be a better time than March to do so.
Back at the tent, the sun was sinking low over the dunes to the west. We walked up to the first row of dunes to survey the view, and looked out over a sea of undulating, grass-covered dunes. Nothing dramatic, but quietly peaceful. Most of the cars and vans were heading out. A bright moon, nearly full, rose over the water into a rosy-pink sky. We sat and read our books in the last wedge of orange sunlight, burying our bare feet in the sand to keep them warm, and once the sun was gone, we took another walk on the beach to keep warm before retiring to the tent, a little reading by flashlight, then sleep. All night long, wind buffeted the tent, creating a steady white noise that almost drowned out the roar of the surf. I slept easy knowing that the car was parked safely on asphalt and there was no way it could float out to sea on some early-morning freak high-tide.
We got the car, drove back to camp and packed up. We snacked on PBJ and grapefruit juice while sitting in the front seats. I had boasted the previous evening that I would go swimming this day in the ocean, for the sake of spring break and all that is warm and subtropical. But that wind was no warmer, and I had yet to remove my sweatshirt. In the end, I let it be. We departed around 10:30 for San Antonio.