Since the second day of our trip also had a chilly forecast, we decided we do a bit of hiking. We didn’t think too much of it since places below sea level tend not to have too many treacherous hills. For the most part, we were right.
Pine Beach Park
The entrance to Pine Beach Park is clearly marked from state route 180. You’ve got to try to miss it. Since the SUV nearly got stuck in the sand earlier that day (a little unnecessary but fun off road action) I was glad that the parking lot was covered in gravel. We checked out a few of the informative displays before starting the trail.
The first leg of the trail is well shaded. The archway of prickly beach vegetation and Spanish moss provides much needed relief from the sun but it also blocks off any scenic views. We strolled along at a casual pace, taking photographs of flowers, moss, and silly poses of each other. It was a peaceful place to take a walk.
We came to a lookout point, basically an elevated gazebo, that provides guests with views of Gator Lake and a bit of Little Lagoon. The shelter has more informative plaques about the wildlife that resides in the area. I was less interested, though, because I was snapping photos with a DSLR. (I’m currently obsessed with them!)
While we were near Gator Lake we didn’t see any gators. There were at least three herons, though, and I swear they are the most intelligent, regal, and intimidating birds arouns. Really scary when you get too close to them. I’ve held plenty of snakes and clawed mammals in my lifetime but I’m not touching a heron.
Past the lookout point is where things got interesting. Hikers will pass the ruins of a few structures (unidentifiable, just a few brick walls and a foundation) and then enter the sand dunes. Hiking in sand is one of the best workouts ever! Since the weather was cool I was able to take of my shoes and enjoy the sand beneath my feet. (Don’t try that in the summer. I image half a mile of hot sand is quite unpleasant.) I got a nice tingle in my thighs and butt but it wasn’t enough to make me feel the horrors of exercises. Nice! It would’ve been perfect had we gotten a slight breeze but the dunes block those, of course.
My favorite moment in the whole hike was when we reached the crest of the last dune. The beautiful Gulf opened out before us like a shimmering gemstone with ribbons of turquoise, teal, and blue. The wind picked up immediately and cooled us off. We made our way towards the water and sat along the edge.
Then reality kicked in. We noticed the oil rigs in the distance, beastly structures that rose out of the horizon like sinister Transformers. Then we noticed the clean-up crew. They were making their way down the beach with nets, stopping and scooping. I was in denial at first. Could they still be cleaning up oil? But it is true. About half a dozen workers passed us with dark matter in the bottom of their nets.
I had mixed feelings about it all. We learned that the workers were paid by BP. At least BP was still paying the crews to clean since there were still globs of oil that needed to be removed. (Most globs were the size of ping pong balls or smaller.) At least a few men and women had jobs that may not have been employed otherwise. Both good points. But it hurt me in an inexpressible way to see such a beautiful beach aesthetically and physically marred by our quest for fossil fuels.
Within an instant I thought back to PureIcedTea.com and how much needs to be done to protect the natural beauty of the South. There is a lot of work to do. “And we drove to this beautiful place in a freakin’ SUV!” I thought. My siblings know how I feel about that sort of thing but they also convinced me that there wasn’t a more cost effective, time-wise and gas-friendly way of getting to our destination. Ugh, the dilemmas that travelers face.
Mikato Japanese Steakhouse
After spending a couple of hours near the beach, chatting with the few locals and visitors, we headed back into town for a late lunch or early dinner (I think it was about 4:30pm). We settled on sushi at MikatoJapanese Steakhouse, a dimly lit restaurants nestled in the distant corner of a shopping plaza. It seemed inappropriately dark, as if strippers would crawl from the other side of the bar at any moment. There was nothing at all shady about our waitress, an accommodating and humorous 40-something.
Of course, you want to know about the sushi. Filling. Creative. Moderately priced. I couldn’t get a feel for the quality of fish used; it certainly wasn’t poorquality but I wouldn’t put it towards the top of my list. I’m sorry, but we were so delirious from our morning in the sun that I completely forgot that I’m a blogger. I didn’t take notes from our dining experience and I’m pulling everything from our collective memories. The only thing that we recall is that the Volcano Roll changed my sister’s life for the better and their BBQ eel made a believer out of my boyfriend. Sort of. The common theme seems to be that this restaurant does sauces and seasonings well even if the fish itself isn’t the main attraction.
Overall rating: 5/10 for friendly staff and good sauces. It’s a forgettable restaurant, unfortunately.
There was nothing of interest to us in the mall. Its exterior corridors made a great place to walk off the food. We hoped back in the car and headed home, picking up a frozen pizza in case of late night hunger. I think we spent the night sipping homemade sangria, watching Fact of Faked on Sci-Fi (sorry, SyFy, which is stupider) and being glad that we were on vacation and didn’t have to do anything that we didn’t want to do.
Image Credit: Malaysia Most Wanted