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Published: April 19th 2017
Sunrise at Canaveral
Canaveral National Seashore, New Smyrna/Titusville, Florida
We are creatures of strong habits. Well, especially me. I very much enjoy the comfort that a routine gives me, programming behaviors so I don't have to think about them and can contemplate something else. One of those routines is my morning ritual - almost always up at six, dogs, coffee, journaling, meditating. Sometimes with Joan, sometimes without (she isn't quite as enslaved by routine as I am.)
So it takes a lot to get me to do something different. But we certainly did that Monday morning, and the payback was spectacular. We had always planned to go to Canaveral National Seashore anyway because, well, it's on my bucket list. But we had read that sunrise on the beach could be pretty spectacular, depending on weather, of course. So we made plans to do something different and get there at sunrise.
That, in itself was a real challenge. Campgrounds have quiet hours, usually something like 10:00 pm to 6:00 am - getting on the road without making noise isn't always easy. And we had to have something to eat - you know, breakfast of some kind. So we cobbled together a small
vat of yogurt and berries and gathered up the bread and peanut butter. And we knew we would need bug spray and probably sunblock. And bathing suits? Well, we decided we weren't going to do that (and with the riptides going strong, that was probably a good decision.)
The alarm went off at 4:30 and we got dressed, gathered up our things, and headed out. Without internet service, I wasn't sure what time sunrise was, nor exactly how to get there. But we rolled out of the campground and I programmed Gladys (my name for the car's GPS system, because she displays all these pips along the road) for the southern entrance to the seashore. OMG, it is almost 80 miles down to Titusville and the seashore entrance. So we hopped on I95 and drove at just a little over the speed limit (70 mph) all the way down, in the dark. Got off the interstate and had to have coffee, so stopped at a gas station. Got back on the road to the beach and joined so many cars. With great despair, I surmised that all these people had the same idea we did and our little moment
Top of the Sun Just Above the Water
of privacy on the beach wouldn't happen.
Then the entrance road to the park appeared and, lo and behold, we were the only one's turning off. (They were all headed to work at the Space Center!) We entered the park and hurried on to the first parking lot. Out of the car we bounded with just our cameras and coffee mugs. Up the boardwalk and over the dunes.
There way out at the edge of the ocean the sky was just turning orange red. The clouds above it were lit up with a golden shimmer. Within maybe 30 seconds we began to see the crescent top of the red sun, emerging out of the water to begin its daily journey. The ocean waves continued their relentless pounding of the sandy beach while the suns rays skipped across the surface in the distance. It was simply stunning and one of the most beautiful sights I've ever seen. And there was no-one else on the beach save a lonely fisherman trudging up the waterline. We had our own private sunrise on the beach.
The beach is Playalinda, the southernmost beach of the three that make up Canaveral National Seashore,
Just Bubbling Up
a 24 mile long stretch of barrier islands, their beaches, and the marshland behind them, protected from development. I wish I could say it was immaculate, but it wasn't on this morning, the day after Easter and during a weekend where entry into all parks was free. There was plenty of garbage, mostly overfilling the bins, but some still on the beach. They had a record number of visitors the day before, and the beach showed some of the wear and tear. As a maintenance man we talked to later said, 'we do the best we can, but we need the public's help!'
We ate our peanut butter sandwiches and fruit yogurt while watching the sun continue to rise above the horizon. Eventually it disappeared into a bank of clouds, only to emerge, a little more subdued, a few minutes later. A photographer had joined us by now, he having missed the really good sunrise moments. But he didn't stick around long, and Joan and I took advantage of having miles of beach all to ourselves - roamed up and down the sands eyeing seashells and following sandpipers running away from the water.
After a couple of hours
AlmostOut of the Water
enjoying the morning beach, and getting eaten alive by sand fleas, we got back in the car and and proceeded up the beach to the end of the road. Playalinda beach is one of three that make up the National Seashore. It stretches north from the Kennedy Space Center, with its cranes and gantry buildings, visible from the beach, up the barrier island several miles. At the end of the road, one (hardier souls than us) can, with a backcountry permit, hike or bicycle up to the middle section of the park, Klondike Beach. They have primitive camping there and I imagine that if you wanted the ultimate private beach experience, that might just be it! (Why is it that when you are younger you have more energy, but less time to do things like that?)
After getting out once to survey the beach, we decided it wasn't much different - pounding surf on the sand, fragile dunes, and marshes on the inland side. So we headed back out of the park, and drove the 30 miles up Route 1 and out to the barrier island and down to New Smyrna and the northern entrance to the park. The
On a Roll Now
visitor center is there as well as more of the 'cultural' aspects of the park. The beach is called Apollo, and apparently it is a bit less visited because it is more difficult to get to from Orlando. The vegetation seems a bit more tame, but of the same type as further south. They rent canoes here, to explore the marsh, and we considered doing another canoe trip, but decided maybe that should wait for a day when we have a bit more energy. (This getting up at 4:30 stuff is a little tough on the body!)
We ended our visit to Canaveral by hiking around the bottom of a huge Indian midden, about 40 feet high. It was created, over centuries, by the dumping of an estimated 1.5 million bushels of discarded oyster shells. The Timucuan Indians were on these islands long before we decided to build a space port there. (17.1.41)
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