Walking to the Beach

Here it is, mid summer, and we still are enjoying our daily walks over to the beach. Most of us who live on Anna Maria Island are able to walk to the beach. It is wonderful not to have to drive. The island is so narrow at the south end that the beach is never more than three or four blocks away. Farther north, the island widens and the walk increases by a few more blocks. But the only areas from which a walk to the beach would take more than just a few minutes are Key Royale and the neighborhoods near Galati Marine at the southeast end of the City of Anna Maria.

Our house is exactly a half mile from the beach. We usually make that walk and then continue along the beach, toward the setting sun before we turn and head home. The beach part of the walk is spectacular every evening. Tonight the beach was particularly wide, and the sand looked smooth and white. The temperature was extremely pleasant—amazing for mid August! The water reflected the pink/orange glow from the low sun. There was almost nobody on the beach. This is the kind of “paradise” experience for which people travel long distances. How lucky we are to be able to walk to it.

Anna Maria catAlthough the highlight of every walk is the part on the beach, we also enjoy walking several blocks through our neighborhood to get there. Over the years, we have gotten to know quite a few people who live in the houses we pass. They see us pass by every evening and eventually feel they know us well. In fact, many have invited us in to see their remodeling projects or the gardens in their back yards. Often we are given homegrown produce from these generous neighbors. Now they are our friends.

Another group of neighborhood residents we’ve gotten to know well is the pets of the people who live along our route to the beach. We don’t always know which animal is linked to which people, especially in the case of cats. But we recognize their familiar faces. On recent walks, a striking-looking black and white cat lurks in high grasses at the same spot every evening when we walk by. It never approaches us, but we always enjoy seeing it. Several years ago, a cat owned by friends got to know us well and even started to anticipate our appearance at a certain time every evening. Sometimes there would be nobody else on the street when we’d notice this little cat in the middle of the pavement, halfway down the block, trotting toward us to greet us and purr.

Then there is all the wildlife. From the lizards and small crabs that scurry across the sidewalk to the birds that fly overhead, we always have something to look at. Among the more familiar birds are doves on the overhead wires, woodpeckers, and groups of ibis pecking the ground. We also see great blue herons, green backed herons and night herons on the small docks and boats we pass. It’s not unusual to see an osprey atop a mast or Norfolk pine. Sometimes we are lucky enough to see a hawk flying low, or perched on a fence or roof. Perhaps the most unusual avian encounter we’ve had was with two small screech owls. One almost seemed to be following us, landing on a sign just above our heads, then flying to land on a pole near our driveway.

The very most unusual wildlife encounter we’ve ever had on our evening walks was the time a small turtle fell from the sky and landed right in front of us on the road. A bird of prey must have dropped it. It was beautiful and appeared to be intact. We carried it with us to a neighbor who takes care of wildlife and he put it temporarily with his other turtles. Unfortunately, it did not make it through the night.

Some people would find life on Anna Maria Island beaches unexciting. But for those who enjoy quiet and simple pleasures, it’s a wonderful place.

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