I went for my 30 minute beach walk today and came across a sign on the beach that read “HOCO.” How apt; as returning to this nature preserve, after a long stay in Gouna and a month in the Algarve is a homecoming of sorts, I do like to walk alone on the beach, which is rare anywhere you go, usually, but is pretty much the norm here, even in season, especially if you arrive early. There’s nothing liking seeing the osprey kamikaze into the water, and the seagulls and pelicans too, following the shoals of fish in water that is obviously clearing up after the summer’s red tide. The wind was fresh in my face, and I retrieved a few more coral rocks to place around the cypress mulch beds around my house. But this place is really my home — and by that I mean this particular beach, and the wildlife that inhabit it: that, and nothing else — the way Aida beach was once, a long time ago: it’s a beach I have been coming to for many years Unlike any other beach in the world that I have been to so far, it is usually empty — there is no annoying tout, as you find in Gouna, trying to extract money from you in some way for a service you do not need — for it is a protected nature preserve, not that easy to get to, and you have to pay to get in, even if just for a modestly-priced Federal duck stamp that you can get at the post office, this a pass that’s good for a year, and accepted in any Federal park or preserve anywhere in the United States. You walk through saltmeadow cordgrass to get to the shore itself, stepping around or over the numerous beach morning glory rhizones that keep the dunes in place. Here you will always see numerous sandpipers running in front of you, and sometimes in the distance you might spot shark or dolphin. A beautiful enough place, despite the horrifying effects of the runoff from the toxic sludge they dump into the three rivers nearby that feed out into the ocean. It clears the mind to walk for miles on a beach, and here the sand gives way slightly underfoot, so it makes for a good workout too. As we move deeper into winter, I will take even longer walks here. My goal one day is to the reach the St Lucie inlet, which is well over 5-7 miles away, each way: a good beach walkabout by any standard, but I shall work up to that slowly, as I am not in good enough shape for that yet.