Friday, March 18, 2011

Padre Island Update

Marilyn on the beach with the Sargassum Seaweed
The day before we leave Padre Island National Seashore, we attend the Ranger program Beach Walk.  Brad has attended a similar program in Delaware with Brandon at Cape Henlopen, but this is my first, and it's very interesting, partly because of what happened yesterday.  The sargassum (rhymes with sarcasm) seaweed washed in en masse and now lies all along the beach; it continues to wash in today.  This happens all spring from March until May or June because of the prevailing southerly winds.  It's unbelievable to watch so much seaweed being pushed in by the tide.  We could see it floating in the waves several hundred yards off-shore as it slowly gets coaxed in.  It brings everything with it (as I mentioned before a lot of garbage) including creatures - tiny creatures like slugs, crabs, fish - some smaller than your baby fingernail.  The Ranger has the kids in the crowd bring these up with both a small hand-held net and a large seine net which scoops up the seaweed, then we shake the seaweed out over a clear tub of sea water and all the creatures fall into the water for us to see.  The kids (and us adults) are enthralled.  The Ranger also digs up a small ghost crab, so named because it is so well camouflaged in the sand that it's almost invisible unless you're really looking and it's moving.  Ghost crabs can get quite large, perhaps several inches across, but he digs up a little fella about one inch across so as not to get pinched too harshly.
I also learn that the plant on the dunes that smells so wonderful is called camphor weed.  It isn't camphor like that used in medicinal rubs, but it does have an odour similar to that of camphor, hence its name.

More about the seaweed - the staff here at the National Seashore do bulldoze it and pile it up in the dunes every once in a while when it gets really deep along the shoreline.  The seaweed dries out and composts itself in the dunes, allowing plants to grow and stabilize the sand in the dunes.  When the seaweed is dry, it's a very dark reddish brown colour and crunchy, and very light leaving it at the mercy of the winds again.

Tomorrow, we begin our last leg east to the Florida Panhandle.  We'll be making four stops there before heading home!  I can't believe this 5 month journey is almost at an end.  When I remind myself of some of the places we have visited, I am amazed myself!  So many fantastic things we have seen and places we have been.  We will have two more weeks on the beach, and I'm already as brown as a bear.  It's hard to stay out of the sun when almost every day is sunny!  Let's home spring will arrive soon after we get home so we don't have to endure a lot cold weather and snow!  I don't know if we could tolerate the white stuff.  And my tan would fall off!  I also think Grady is looking forward to getting home.  He's started climbing the walls - literally.  We find him at the top of the cupboards, meaning he has climbed up the drapes and walked across the top of the kitchen cupboards to sit on top of the kitchen pantry.  And yes, his claw marks are in the drapes, so we've had to be creative at stopping him from getting up there.  So it's time to get him home where he can go outside and run around the backyard.  He's not allowed outside the trailer, nor does he attempt it.

Last word - our thoughts are with the people of Japan and those with family and loved ones there.  It will be a long struggle to clean up and rebuild the country.

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