Even though I grew up in the old days when everyone played outside until Momma hollered, “Supper time,” I'm not much of a camper. But, all of my mother’s grandsons had achieved the rank of Eagle Scout, so I bestowed onto my only son An Agenda. He must become an Eagle Scout.
Spoiler alert. He's not an Eagle. Not his goal.
That said, while we were on my quest for the Eagle, we did some camping. One of my favorite outings was--and I know you find this hard to believe--at the beach.
Dauphin Island, Alabama is a quaint barrier island south of Mobile. The beaches aren’t as pristine as San Destin, nor does it host the huge resorts and shopping malls. (Buy your groceries before you get there.) But hey, it’s still a beach on the Gulf.
The island is small, and most of it is designated as a bird sanctuary—a bird watcher’s delight. We toured the Sea Lab and a cool old fort on the bay, Fort Gaines. The campground was nice, too. One great thing about being a female chaperone with the scouts is that the men/boys do all the cooking, like yummy hobo meals and Dutch oven cobblers.
The only thing that bothered me (other than sleeping in the tent) was this swampy nature trail the boys had to run down to get to the beach. About twice every waking hour, I warned them to watch for snakes. Over and over and over, I reminded, until their response became, “We know. Watch for snakes.”
During all my rambling in creeks and woods of central Mississippi growing up, I never ran across a snake. I’m not sure why I obsessed about my kids stepping on one.
Soooo … we left the island having seen no reptiles. Along the way home, I threw a fit to stop at The Bellingrath Estate to tour the flower gardens. (I mean we were so close to it down there.) I walked as fast as I could because my son’s (and my husband’s) patience for this sort of thing was nil on a good day. My map in hand, I covered ground quickly, hitting the highlights.
Then I heard my son yelling, “Mom, Mom.” I groaned, just knowing he was ready to leave. I answered, in not so nice a voice, “What???”
He huffed, “Uh, you’re standing on a snake.”
Yes. I looked down and under my Saucony tennis shoe was a squirming black snake. Luckily, it hightailed it when I lifted my foot.
Not sure there’s a point to this story other than maybe parents should take their own advice. (Believe me, your kids will make fun of you for years afterward when you don’t.) Oh, and don’t let fear of snakes keep you from having fun.
Do you have any snake stories?
Confession. My blue eyes shaded green for years when I heard other moms talk about their annual girl beach trips, pictures of their toes in the sand on their profile.
(To be honest, I did manage to escape once with my sisters and once with my daughter for girl trips. We had a blast.)
But I love the beach. It’s like God opens a treasure chest and sprinkles prizes around for us to find. Shells, porpoise, heron, sand dollars, starfish, sunsets, the ocean breeze, sea turtles, glowing jellyfish, the stars and the waves as constant as His love, and so much more. Another confession. I like to get a flashlight and chase little crabs at night. (I don't hurt them.) Good times.
Visions danced in my head of a trip where I would read novel after novel and then walk the beach observing God’s natural surprises. No shopping. No putt-putt. No movies. Just beach and books.
None of those moms’ beach trips ever materialized for me. With my daughter in college and my son almost out of the house, too, I figured I’d plan my own trip in a year or two or three. Then last fall, out of the blue, I received an invitation. And the timing couldn’t have been much worse.
Basically, I prayed, then went anyway. Destination Fort Morgan. The first weekend in October. Seemed like an odd time of year, but who cared?
The weather was fantastic, people. Forget spring break, fall is the season. The gulf is still warm. Not crowded, cheaper prices. I’m sure you could land nicely on one of my other favorite coastline resorts, San Destin or Orange Beach, as easily.
But Fort Morgan holds the charm of a bit more isolation. Filling the air with chatter, the trip down passed quickly. But not without picking up pastries at Jody’s Bakery in Hattiesburg. Yum! They have great homemade frozen casseroles, too, which saves time one night for dinner. Stop at the grocery before turning onto Fort Morgan road. Then make another quick pickup at the Fresh Seafood Market for shrimp or fish.
Now don’t leave the condo except to hit the beach.
If you must go out one night, Sassy Bass Amazin’ Grill is further west toward the fort. Yes, there is a cool fort at the end of the road built after the war of 1812. I’d already been there a few times with my kids, so I didn’t feel the need. But if you like history and you've never been, it’s worth a tour. I'd let you leave the condo for the experience. After all, it’s on the beach.
Okay, I’m over coveting for now, but I still love the ocean. The beach reminds me to search for God’s treasures. His gifts are all around me at home, too, I know. If only I take time to look.
Under the Southern Sun
Janet W. Ferguson