Peck’s Lake

It’s already been a week since I’ve returned to the USA after a 7-month stay in El Gouna, Egypt.

Now that I’m back in Florida, I’ve resumed my frequent walks on the wild beach where I like to spend two or three mornings a week. I walk for about an hour and a half, on both the hard sand of the beach face, and the much softer and more laborious to walk on sand by the dunes, which is a better workout.

Like many people, I like to go for long walks on a good beach. In Gouna, I think I walked twice along the beach during my time there, for Gouna is to good beaches what Egyptians elections are to real democracy.

Today I decided to walk to Peck’s Lake, which is about a two mile walk from the parking lot at the entrance of the Hobe Sound National Wildlife Refuge, then you cut just cut across the dunes on a path that’s been cleared through the sea grape stands to the InterCoastal Waterway.

It’s the only beach habitat I have ever found — other than outside of Marsa Matrouh in the 90s — that was both beautiful and empty.

Peck’s Lake is renowned as a choice snook fishing spot; lots of boats moor here in season, but today I was early, and it was completely empty.

When I think of an El Gouna beach, such as Mangroovy, I think three essential characteristic describe the scene there: soleil accablant, plage moche, mer pleine de cailloux et rochers.

Plus, you get the pain-in-ass kite surfers, when the wind is up; the usual pestering flies; ATVs and horseback riders that barge into your attempts to commune with Nature; the plastic garbage and decidedly strangely colored scummy water (I think plutonium green describes it best); not to mention that if you sit anywhere half decent, some kid is going to run over and attempt to charge you a hundred pounds Egyptian for the privilege; and lastly, there’s construction everywhere you go.

In short, the El Gouna beach scene sucks.

In contrast, the wild beach I go to in Hobe Sound is usually empty, especially off season and you go out far enough towards the St Lucie inlet.  I seek freedom and relative privacy and complete quiet on the beach, without being observed by the eyes of those who seek to make money off you, and where the only sound you hear is the roar of the surf and the squawking of sea birds.

And I detest dogs and and children running around and radios playing music when I am trying to get into some Zen like trance.

Ditto beaches where guys flex their muscles to impress whatever.

It’s not that I’m misanthropic; it’s more that I like to go to beaches where you can observe animal life, and that means beaches that are protected from development, and where few people go.  I think the beaches of the South of France in summer, for example, or the Sahel in the North Coast of Egypt are to me more akin to catching a subway at rush hour than being out in a natural setting.

So the Hobe Sound Refuge is ideal for someone like me, which is why I having been coming here for the last dozen years or so.  I saw one turtle nest already, so the season for that has already begun. Can’t wait to see them hatch and swim out to sea this summer.

The number of birds I saw on today’s walk was amazing.  But my crap camera does not allow me to catch osprey as they soar high above then make sudden kamikaze dives into the ocean.

For that, I would need to get a much better camera with some sort of telephoto lens.  There are many birds that migrate through here, and unlike third-world Egypt, no-one tries to net them: I would love to be able to take high definition pictures of them in all their plumed splendor.

I know there is at least one professional photographer who follows this blog, so any suggestions for modestly-priced equipment that does the job in that regard would be most welcome.

 

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Salt Life

salt life

 

If you’ve ever spent any time at all in South Florida, you’ve probably noticed the Salt Life decal glued to the rear window of some beat up Ford pickup with a heavy-duty aluminum trunk attached to its bed.

Salt Life is a genuine philosophy around here.  It’s taken to mean partiality to coastal living and, especially, fishing, but at its core it means something deeper.

If you go, as I did early this morning, to a place like Hobe Sound beach, you’re likely to find at sunrise a bunch of old guys fishing. Some will have multiple poles in the water. Some just one.

Some will be sitting on a canvas beach chair; others will just stand the whole time, usually wading thigh-deep into the ocean from time to time.

Some will have those beach carts with the big wheels; others will have carried their gear by hand.

Anyway you look at it, these stoic loners are committed to the Salt Life, which is an attitude that you adopt, usually in retirement, when things start to slow down, hollow out, and your empty days become indistinguishable from one another.

The Salt Lifer may appear to be doing not much, little by slow, but in reality he could be there to escape a whiny complaining wife.  He could be someone whose daughter was murdered in the forest.  He could be someone who was put out to pasture before he was ready to retire, and subsequently fell upon hard times. But instead of going the usual booze and opioid route, these kind of fellas opt to live salty instead.

I was at Hobe Sound beach early this morning to find Ozzie, an osprey that I missed while away in Gouna for seven months — a place where nobody does any shoreline fishin’.  I didn’t see him the other day, when I first went back to the wild beach where I like to walk.  So I came back early this morning to find him.

The Spanish Mackerel were passing through on their way to the Gulf of Mexico, and people were also catching Pompano — probably the most delicious fish around these waters.  A few guys were already raking the beach face for sand moles, which are used as bait.

Here’s what the beach looked like.

I kept walking, and looking up, trying to find Ozzie.  Finally I saw him. He almost came bursting out of the horizon in a brilliant flash of light, swooped down not twenty feet over my head, then disappeared as fast as he had arrived.

osprey

Ozzie

Hi, Ozzie, old friend.  Nice to see you again.

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To the beach!

hobe sound florida

The Banyan Tree Canopy on the way to the beach

I did a lot of things yesterday.  Got a haircut; bought a bunch of stuff I needed, including a new cell phone at T-Mobile; and made a few doctor appointments to make sure all is ship-shape. Getting that mole on my right knee removed on Tuesday.

I ended up not buying the Duck Stamp (see previous post), because the new one comes out in two months; I’ll buy it then.

Then I drove my beaaaaaaautiful and massively comfortable Ford Escape on A1A to the beach.  I have been looking forward to returning to this beach for months, and the 10-minute drive there was a pleasure.

It felt like such a luxury driving my SUV, after enduring the horrible, back-breaking tuc-tucs and buses of El Gouna, Egypt, which I thought would be a good idea to visit for an extended spell (it was, but not for the reasons that initially took me there). To actually drive a car with ample head room, a smooth as butter suspension system, over well-maintained asphalt roads that don’t have speed bumps every five minutes: oh what a lucky man I was!

By the way, since returning, I notice a vast difference in air quality. Not only does the dust-filled hot desert air dry out your lungs (causing phlegm emissions) but the lack of air pollution here, as compared to what you experience in El Gouna, let alone Cairo, is stark.  There are no emission standards in Egypt, and all those buses and tuc-tucs spew out diesel fumes something fierce.

Most of all, I was in MY car and in control, not crouched in the back of some kid smoking a cigarette and driving a ridiculous Asian-inspired contraption too fast, or, worse yet, being forced to endure the ruminations of some gabby bus driver.  No waiting around either.  Now that I’m here, if I want to go somewhere, I just go, instead of having to wait around for the bus or having to call a taxi or walking and having to endure the African sun not to mention the pestering bites of marauding flies. It’s called mobility independence, and there’s much to be said for it.

The weather was gorgeous as I crossed the Hobe Sound bridge. The flag at the bridge was flying at half-staff, in honor of former first lady Barbara Bush, who just passed. The Bushes once had a beach house here, on secluded Jupiter Island. I drove past it, down that long narrow stretch of road that leads to to my favorite beach. The parking lot was pretty full, as the snowbies are lingering, given that the weather up North is still crap. They’ll be gone, soon, and pretty much I will have this beach pretty myself to myself in a month or so.

jupiter island

path to the beach

I walked on the path that cuts through the sea grape forest and went to the edge of the water. It was limpid tropical blue and green and perfect for swimming; I wished I had brought my bathing suit.  Maybe next week.

The fishermen’s poles lined up like sentries, and past them, began the 5 mile stretch of deserted beach that leads to the St. Lucie inlet.  When I get my SUP board rack, I am going to drive to a spot I know on the Intercoastal Way, and paddle across, which will get me to that remote spot without having to walk the 5 miles, but this will be more like during the summer, when no one’s around and parking won’t be issue.

jupiter island

The beach at the Hobe Sound National Wildlife Refuge

On the way back, I stopped at the Village Bike and Paddle in Hobe Sound. I spoke to a woman named Dawn and she showed me a second-hand, heavy-duty Thule SUP rack that I can get for a good price. It’s only been used five times. I’m having it installed tomorrow afternoon. By the way, Hobe Sound is a charming, quaint little town, very Old Florida and picturesque. Once upon a time, people thought it would turn into Hollywood East, but things didn’t turn out that way.

Finally I went to Publix to buy a few items that I needed there. What a pleasure it was to shop at an air-conditioned American supermarket, with wide aisles, and a variety of brands and choices. I walked past the deli, and noticed that the roast beef was on sale at $12 a pound. I love roast beef, but I resisted. Instead I bought a roasted pepper and lemon chicken, and had  a thickly-cut slices breast meat on a on a fresh-baked baguette from Importico’s Bakery Cafe, with slices of locally grown bright red tomatoes that I bought at Country Club Produce earlier in the day,

Jupiter island

Gounaman is happy again

Life is good.

I’ve just spent the last 7 months in El Gouna where, to pass the time in a place where not much happens, I followed the exploits of Cristiano and the boys. Suddenly I no longer care what Real Madrid is doing in the Champions League, nor do I give a hoot that the El-Gouna International Squash Open starts today. Honestly, if I were an Egyptian living in Egypt, I would focus more on getting rid of President Peepee than getting all worked up about a bunch of kids hitting a small black ball in a plexiglass cage.

Not my problem, though.

I feel relaxed, at ease, and content.  I went 10,000 miles looking for Paradise, and as often happens, it turns out to have been in my back yard all along.

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