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The tides were going to be wrong, but the weather perfect -- and the weekend was free, so we decided to go for it. Sue and Jeff in their boat, Crystal and I in ours -- we headed to the Big Bend Coast where the waters of the Econfina and Aucilla Rivers spill into the Gulf of Mexico.
We launched at the ramp of Econfina State Park and picked our way through low tide hazards to the cool clear Gulf water. The Big Bend Coast is home to the world's finest seagrass beds -- nursery grounds for a myriad of sea creatures.
These are the grass beds of our summer scalloping forays. Snorkeling here, you never know when you'll meet a stingray, eel, crab, or even small shark. The rocky reefs that are so treacherous to our propellers, become a paradise of sponges, aquatic plants, and fishes upon donning a mask and diving in.
We explored west as far as Cobb Rocks until the tide was nearly high, then entered the mazes of saltmarsh, creeks, and estuaries that make up this coast. GPS is useful - well, more like essential - unless you are a local fisherman.
In the Pinhook River, we came upon two such fellows who offered tips about finding our way and avoiding hazards. We made it upstream as far as the St. Marks trail bridge. By luck, our fisherfriends were just wrapping up a successful afternoon and led us through a zig-zag of channels - a shortcut into the Aucilla River where we planned to spend the night.
Palm islands dotted the marsh, fish jumped almost continuously, rails called from the grass edge, as the sun fell into its golden hour. I found a clump of trees for a future sunset photo, but the no-see-ums drove us to more open water for dinner and camping.
The sky put on a show for us - sunset... dark pink clouds of dusk... stars, more stars, then millions of stars and the Milky Way stretching from horizon to horizon. We lay on our backs after dinner, boats rafted together, watching the show in the sky, as gently lapping waves and jumping fish provided the sound track. A cool light breeze kept us nearly bug-free.
Soon everyone was yawning and ready to turn in to our cozy deck tents, BUT WAIT... a glowing cloud on the northeast horizon drew our attention, and held us rapt as a 91%-full moon climbed into the sky. Too much movement of the boat for night photography (which requires long exposures) meant I could simply lay back and take in the show with Crystal and our pals.