Friday, December 16, 2011
Padre Island :: Sunset
Another one of my favorite places in Texas – Padre Island National Seashore. Photo taken December 13, 2011 - a delightful 75 degrees! Oh, yeah....
But things are not always what they seem. Apparently the “Red Tide” had invaded the Gulf waters. According to the Texas Parks & Wildlife website it “is a naturally-occurring, higher-than-normal concentration of the microscopic algae Karenia brevis. This organism produces a toxin that affects the central nervous system of fish so that they are paralyzed and cannot breathe. As a result, red tide blooms often result in dead fish washing up on Gulf beaches. When red tide algae reproduce in dense concentrations or "blooms," they are visible as discolored patches of ocean water, often reddish in color.”
I didn't see the Red Tide, but I did see the results.... Along the upper edge where the tide reaches its highest level, the beach was lined with dead fish. Trust me. It was not a pretty site. And the smell? Well, lets just say that it left something to be desired. It really wasn't too bad once you got past the line of dead fish – which included several varieties of Jelly Fish.
According to a pamphlet handed out at the entrance station, Red tide can cause problems with breathing, coughing, sneezing, and teary eyes – especially with windy weather conditions and rough surf – the exact conditions when I arrived and spent a couple hours walking along the beach!
That night I developed a cough and was sneezing quite a bit. I hadn't yet read the pamphlet so just thought it was the cool, damp night air. But it continued to get worse the next day and when I read the material provided at the entrance station I realized what it was. When I left for several hours and went into Corpus Christi, the symptoms abated somewhat. I had already paid for the second night so decided to stay.
The campground (using the term loosely – it was basically a paved parking lot) was just a few feet from the beach somewhat protected by a ridge of dunes. The smell of decaying fish was negligible once you were off of the beach. I enjoyed the sound of the surf hitting the shore and was lulled to sleep with it each night. There is something that can't be explained about that sound. It's primeval. Coupled with watching the waves coming onto the beach, moving in and out... well, it is mesmerizing.
I had planned on staying here at least five days, but with the symptoms I was experiencing, I reluctantly decided to cut my visit short. I'm happy to report that within a few hours (8-10) of leaving Padre Island, the coughing and sneezing stopped ;-)