For the Dream of a Sunset
The Truth About the Texas Coast
The Texas coast, unfortunately, was not blessed with bright, white sand. When you visit the beaches here, you're unlikely to find clear blue water. It's just the way it is.
Some Geology Facts
The muddy water and brown sand of the Texas Gulf Coast is not a result of pollution, simply the fact that the sand here arrived by way of the Mississippi River, which over a long period of time has carried to the Gulf the mud and dark colored minerals from inland areas north of Texas. Along the shallow sea shelf that extends for many miles into the Gulf, wind and currents stir up sediments, which results in permanently muddy looking water. I don’t feel it matters very much though. As long as it’s clean, any beach is beautiful in its own way.
Sizzling in the Sun is not for Me
I’ve spent some time on the beach at Galveston Island State Park during the summer. I don't like it. Relaxing on the beach is impossible in the stifling heat, and the wind brings aggravation rather than relief. You might say, “Well, just get in the water”, and I’m telling you that a water temperature of 86F (30C) is not going to help me feel refreshed. Maybe you will. Apparently a lot of people consider it pleasant because the beach certainly does fill up with beach goers.
The Appeal of an Empty Beach
When I do decide to pay the state park a summertime visit, I make a very conscious decision to arrive late in the day. We pull into the parking lot at 5pm. I love the views of the the sand and sea, something I probably share with an overwhelming majority of humanity. I’m just here for a few pictures before we head to the bay area side of the park.
Wetlands are Wonderful but Fragile
Galveston Island is a barrier island. It protects the mainland from the destructive power of the storms that occasionally pummel the coastline. It also provides coastal, prairie and wetland habitats to a large number of animals, among them migrating birds. It’s a fragile environment, easily damaged. The Galveston Island State Park safekeeps this unique landscape, which I am very thankful for.
Please Give me a Sunset
My purpose for coming here today is to see the sunset. By analyzing a satellite map, I’ve decided that if we walk up the stairs of one of the observation towers, we should have an amazing view out over the water as the sun sets.
What's More Fun Than a Boardwalk?
Since we have plenty of light remaining to first explore some of the trails, we set off across the water on wooden boardwalks that seem to float on the surface. It’s a popular place to go fishing and as we cross the boardwalk, we’re fortunate enough to walk by just as a father pulls out a small stingray. I had no idea they lived in these waters.
Look for a Flash of Pink
We’re told by a couple of people returning to the parking lot that there are flamingos just a bit further along. More than likely, what they observed were roseate spoonbills—close cousins of flamingos. Unfortunately, we don’t see them.
There be Alligators
The list of animals that live in this park includes alligators. As we walk down a narrow trail bordered by tall grasses, I wonder a little about where these alligators like to hang out… I think back to the other state parks we’ve visited, that also have resident alligators, and remind myself that I’ve so far not come across any stories of a human falling prey to an alligator. I soon relax and simply enjoy the quiet and the scenery.
Islands of Grass
At the furthermost observation tower, we walk up the stairs to take in the impressive view across many small islands of grass, the bay itself, and in the distance, the faint outline of the mainland. When I notice that there’s a Great Blue Heron standing in the grass, not so very far away, I capture a few pictures, then slowly make my way down the stairs to see if I can get a closer picture from the path. He lets out a loud, protesting screech, that seems to echo across the wetlands, and flies away. Disappointing, but really not so unexpected.
Still Thinking of Alligators
It’s difficult to tear yourself away from an environment like this, but with the sky beginning to darken, my thoughts return to the alligators. The observation tower by the parking lot seems a much better place to be, so we decide to return and focus on the imminent sunset.
Why Won't the Clouds go Away?
The day has been mostly overcast. I have hoped all along that by the end of the day, the clouds in the west will have cleared, allowing us an unobstructed view of the setting sun. Now, I’m not sure it’s going to happen. We can make out an orange color behind the clouds, but can’t quite determine if the light is coming from above or below. Our impression is that the sun is almost down already. Thinking we’ve lost our chance, we begin to prepare for departure.
As I look wistfully at the sky, I have the sense that the colors are intensifying. Suddenly the bottom of the sun appears against a clear sky and as it continues to sink, we stand in awe at the sight. Soon, we're treated to a sunset beyond anything we could have dreamed of.
For those who live along the coast, this must be a nearly daily occurrence, but for us, so used to being surrounded by the towering forest of East Texas, it is a spectacular experience. Prior to arriving at the wetland, our day has been characterized by a series of small disappointments, followed by an annoying mishap with the car. As we stand there, watching nature do what comes naturally, none of that matters. This day will be remembered for the gifting of an unforgettable sunset.