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    A submarine and its contingent of guarding vessels heading out the channel draws Fort Clinch campers running down the beach to see it. Photo by Pat Foster-Turley/For the News-Leader

The diverse sights on our area’s beaches

It’s always amazing to me how many different beach scenes we have here on Amelia Island and nearby. I can walk the beaches scores of times and always find something new to entertain myself. The weather has been great for walking these past couple of weeks, so I’ve been out and about. Before it gets hot and buggy, now is the time!

My first walk after returning from Liberia was my old favorite standby, from the Peters Point beach access heading south. It was a Monday, so the beach is usually deserted, but lots of people have been in town lately and there were still some out enjoying the beach on a weekday. A large party had apparently left lots of trash around that weekend, but by Monday some good Samaritans had helped with the cleanup so there was not a trace of rubbish to be found. Great!

Another day I got more ambitious and took a walk with a friend along the Big Talbot Island bike trail. We left one car at the parking area at the south end of Big Talbot Island and drove back in another car to the boat ramp across the Nassau Sound Bridge from Amelia Island. The wind was blowing from the north, but no problem for us, as we were headed south.

The first stop along the way was the boardwalk bordering Spoonbill Pond. There were no spoonbills there – they visit mostly in the summer – and no white pelicans either. But there was still plenty to admire. We watched an osprey diving for fish, egrets along the banks, and a group of mergansers. We admired the view and moved on.

Our next stop was the large picnic and parking area of Big Talbot Island. Once there, we found no easy beach access. In the years since I last visited that area, more of the coast has eroded. The path to the beach goes on and on and on. We still had our other car to find a few miles south so we didn’t explore fully. Maybe next time.

What we explored next was great. If you have never been to Blackrock Beach, you are missing something. A short hiking trail leads here from the first small parking area for the bike trail. Once you get to the beach, you are in for a surprise. Decades of coastal erosion has downed large trees and their “skeletons” lie bleached in the sun, perfect for photo shoots and scrambling over. Just south of this “boneyard” are the black rocks this area is named for. It looks like a scene from a lava-strewn beach in Hawaii, but they are not rocks at all, just compressed mud.

Here and there small tide pools are scattered, with a few fish and crabs taking refuge. Some of the fallen logs are crusted with oysters and other marine life. We were there around low tide, but apparently the water rises over the dead trees often enough to keep them alive. (Note to self: Do not go there at high tide).

On another day, I was with Bucko on the river-side of Fort Clinch State Park, where we watched a family build sand castles along the shoreline. Then we noticed it: An orange vessel was coming into the channel from the direction of Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay. We knew what that meant. This vessel is the advance guard for an outgoing submarine. Sure enough, we soon saw a submarine come into view, saddled by two other vessels that guard its passage.

This was too good a beach scene not to share with everyone. Luckily, I’m not shy! I yelled to the family on the beach, “Here comes a submarine!” Once they got what the crazy lady was yelling, the kids ran up to where I was standing and I pointed it out to them while their grandmother ran into the campground to alert the others.

Soon, all the residents of the river campground were running in our direction and then further down the beach to get a closer look at the submarine and its guardians powering on by.

It was just another day at the beach for us. After years of living here we’ve see the “submarine show” a number of times before, but for the jogging campers it may have been a first.

You just never know what you will find when you walk our beaches, that’s for sure!


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