Just off the coast of Ft. Myers, Florida lie a string of islands with exotic Spanish names, hailing from a past drenched in imperialism, piracy, and probably some heavy-handed exaggeration. I recently found myself on one of these islands while staying with Chris’s family. Although Cayo Costa isn’t named after Spanish princesses or infamous pirates, it does boast 7 miles of beaches and a state park, making it an attractive choice for an island day trip. It felt a little less attractive once we arrived at the dock for our scheduled departure.
Perhaps it was the weather that dampened my enthusiasm: a high of 69 F and wind speeds reaching 20 mph doesn’t exactly scream “tropical island.” Or perhaps it was being packed into a ferry with a large crowd of senior citizens that kept saying helpful things like “Oh, this isn’t even winter weather!” Or perhaps it was the nagging voice reminding me that my windbreaker was sitting at home in the closet, useless, while I died of exposure (the voice belonged to my mother-in-law).
Regardless, after a 50-minute boat ride through choppy water, we arrived. We made our way down to the beach on the western side of the island to eat our packed lunch. Unsurprisingly, it was just a beach. The water was no bluer and the sand no finer than any you can find along the mainland’s coast. In fact, when compared to the white sugary expanses of Ft. Myers’ Beach that we lounged on two days before, the gray shell composite was a little underwhelming.
Following lunch, we fell asleep among some cacti and scrubby sea grapes that provided little shelter from the wind. The sun felt nice, but there wasn’t much redeeming about the bare, windswept beach.
So, Chris and I rented a pair of ancient beach cruisers from the camp store and headed up to the north side of the island in an attempt to warm up. The ride was only 1.5 miles. By the end I was comfortable enough to strip down to my rash guard and shorts. When we arrived at Old Quarantine Dock, which is sheltered somewhat from the wind, two massive driftwood trees greeted us. Gray skeleton sentinels, looking out into the Gulf.
Accidentally Bare Toes
In my excitement, I forgot about the incoming tide and rushed down onto the sand. My sneakers were immediately soaked through. I have a long history of falling into various bodies of water, so I’m actually surprised my shoes were the only casualty. Leaving them to dry on one of the driftwood trees, I convinced Chris to get barefoot, too, and roll up his pants. We walked for a ways down the beach. Our path wound between bleached branches and sharp mounds of shells and other detritus that would one day be sand. Before too long, we had rounded the northern tip of the island and the wind began to buffet us again. So we turned back.
Chris found a bench to sit on while I waited on the beach for my shoes and socks to dry. A fallen palm tree, sheltered from the wind but still in full sun, made a perfect lounge chair. Leaning back, I basked in the warmth and silence, drinking in the quiet beauty. To my left, several tall palm trees leaned out over the water. To my right, the rounded leaves of a sea grape tree fluttered in the breeze and just beyond a cluster of mangroves sent their tendrils out in search of moisture.
A Quiet Moment
There wasn’t a single other human in sight. Just me, a friendly honey bee, and one tiny, stranded sea urchin. Luckily for him, the tide was incoming and would soon sweep him back out to sea. For me, however, that meant I had to abandon my fallen palm tree and solitude. The crazy wind, nauseating boat ride, and wet shoes were worth those few minutes of sunshine and quiet. Really, that’s all I ever ask for when I travel. Just to spend a few moments in a quiet place, so that I can write that beauty on my heart.