Thursday, August 18, 2011

A Dark and Stormy Night

It all started with a phone call from my friend Wendy. We are kindred souls when it comes to wildlife. We share bird sighting stories and love/hate relationship with small dogs. Her more the love part, me more the hate. Anyway, she called one day while we were in Florida (she lives there) and told me about the coolest experience and she knew I'd want to do it too. Her husband knew a guy, who knew a guy....who took them to Casperson Beach to watch the sea turtles lay their eggs. She told me how the County had volunteers out there with red flashlights (to not confuse the turtles) and they would let you touch the turtles if they rested on the sand during their return to the Gulf. She told me how their shells glowed with phosphorescence and how your hand would too after you touched one. And she got to see FIVE turtles that night! FIVE! Wow, that was about the coolest thing I'd ever heard! Resisting the urge to strangle her through the phone for not calling me to join her, I thanked her for the info.

I knew I'd have a willing partner in Andy and I was right. The other two looked at me like I'd invited them to walk on broken glass. Robbie, a former Police Officer who covered the area where Casperson Beach is located, didn't like the idea of us going out there so late at night. But we couldn't be discouraged and left the condo about 10pm.

We were surprised to find only one other car parked in the sand lot at the end of the island. Where were these County people with all those red flashlights? We pressed on. We met a shady character on the boardwalk and the idea that Robbie might be right did enter my mind. We pressed on. We got to the beach and ditched our flip flops by the steps. We realized there were large rocks on the shoreline for at least a half a mile. No turtle can come over those. We pressed on. We got to the end of the rocks. Still, not a soul on the beach but us. And heat lightning was the only source of light we could see. It was PITCH BLACK out there! Civilization seemed very far away. And the reality was that we were pretty remote. We pressed on. I called Wendy and reported our location and situation. She was baffled at the lack of red flashlights too. She assured me we'd see a turtle soon though. So, again, we pressed on.

And then there was a raindrop. And the 'heat' lightning was directly overhead. Oh yeah, the skies opened UP. Buckets. That is what rained down on us. Buckets of rain. Accompanied by strong, gusty winds and lightning. Yes, lightning was cracking all around us, electrifying the air. We were in the middle of nowhere in a Florida thunderstorm. We were at least a mile from our car. (If it seems you've heard me talk about being in the middle of nowhere before, you are correct. I get caught there more often than the average human.)

Mom guilt set in big time as I grabbed Andy's hand. Who takes their 7 year old out in this? We started to run. Andy started to scream, "I can't see! I can't see!" He was referring to the fact that his glasses had rain all over them. It wouldn't have helped that I could have honestly screamed the same thing because the rain was I didn't panic him anymore than I already had. The white foam on the edge of the water was the only thing I could see as we raced down the beach. Then the rocks came into view. Then the boardwalk appeared and next we saw our flip flops! Oh, they were a sight for sore eyes! We jumped in the car no more wet than if we'd swam back. I still don't know how we weren't struck by lightning.

I was sure Robbie was worried sick about us. This terrible storm and we still weren't back? He must be panicked, I thought. So we drove back towards civilization and I tried to use my phone, which was also dripping. And then an amazing thing happened. A half mile from the parking lot the rain stopped. You could see a line on the road. By the time we got to Sharkey's Pier you would have never known that it had rained. Amazing!

We got back to the condo and went directly to the pool. We were covered with sand, head to toe. We washed off under the pool shower and Andy swam for a bit. Then we went back to the condo to admit, we were sure, temporary defeat in seeing a sea turtle lay eggs on the beach. We got, again, the walk on glass kinda stares from the more civilized Goodsons as they ate ice cream and watched Storage Wars on TV. They found it hard to believe we'd just survived a lightning storm a few miles down the island. I am sure they don't really think it was as bad as it was.

Unfortunately, we were never able to catch sight of a sea turtle. We made several other trips down to the beach, late at night, but to no avail. The most disheartening morning was when we found a brand new nest in a spot we passed on our way back at 1am. So between 1am and 9am we missed it.

I guess the best part is, there is always next year.