For the Love of Cape San Blas

This has been a summer of slow blogging for me.  It has actually been a summer of slow in many ways… long days, unwatched clocks, few plans, extended visits.  A slower pace crept into our home at some point in June and it has lingered.  I have been writing, but not as much on this blog.  It’s been a slower, more exploratory form of writing, mostly working out a few ideas for a couple of children’s books.  I’ve got lots of work still ahead of me on that front, and I’m not quite ready to dive back into a faster pace quite yet.

But I’m really happy to dust off the blog today to let you in on one of the best-kept secrets in Florida.  After all, we discovered this place through the online sharing of a friend, so it’s time to pay it forward. 

We just returned from a week in Cape San Blas, Florida with two other families who also happen to be awesome humans and friends.  The trip was a reunion trip of sorts, three years after our first vacation to the peninsula sometimes referred to as “The Forgotten Coast” of Florida.   There’s no forgetting Cape San Blas once you’ve been there though.  It’s just not possible.  I’m in love with the ocean and its beaches in pretty much any and all forms/locations, but this place ranks high on my list.  It is unspoiled and uncrowded, full of sea life that you can actually see on its clearest days (or if you are lucky, its clearest nights will bring out the sea turtles) and removed enough to disrupt cell phone service, which is just the way I like it.

Our backyard for the week.

We arrived the night before our rental was available, stayed in a hotel and got up the next morning to go kayaking in St. Joseph Bay.  We rented kayaks and a stand-up paddle board from Happy Ours Kayak.  They have a great fleet of boats as well as a few chickens and a donkey on their property, giving you a taste of the laid back culture of the entire peninsula (not that there are chickens and donkeys wandering the peninsula, it’s just not exactly fancy).  St. Joseph Bay is a great place for a beginner on a kayak or in our case, a family with lots of kids because the water is only a few feet deep as far out as most beginners will paddle.  We joined our friends who have a five year old and two-year old twins and even the youngest among us enjoyed the “big boats” and spotting the horseshoe crabs and stingrays in the very shallow waters under our oars.

Afterward we made a quick stop at Scallop Cove on Cape San Blas to rent a kayak for the week on the beach.  These guys are great, and will deliver and pick up the kayak from your beach house for you. Scallop Cove is also a mainstay on Cape San Blas, as one of only two convenient stores and souvenir shops in one.  The other, The Trading Post, also offers carry-out pizza and is next door to Weber’s Little Donut Shop, an absolute must if you visit (just make sure you are in line by 7:15 am if you don’t want to come home empty-handed).

Our rented kayak provided hours of entertainment and only a few spills.

 Our beach neighbors (also from Missouri!) rented a SUP for the week and we took a turn on it.  Jason is making it look easy.  Chelle and I made it look … entertaining. 

These donuts were so delectable we had to grab a few for the road trip home.

We stayed in a rental home called Four Sunsets at the very end of the inhabited part of the peninsula, right before the state park.  I cannot more highly recommend this home.  It was completely stocked with anything you could possibly need on vacation and offered plenty of space for all three families.  Having read this article before leaving town, I took immediate note of the ocean view from the kitchen sink and it was legit.  (P.S., that article from The Onion, though hilarious, was just not the reality of this vacation at all.  Sure, a beach vacation still requires cooking, cleaning and laundry, but many hands make light work.  Plus, if I’m cooking, cleaning and doing laundry while I have sand in my toes and salt water in my hair, SIGN ME UP.  Forever and ever, amen).

Four Sunsets, Cape San Blas

We spent the vast majority of our time on the beach or in the ocean. Days were filled with shell collecting, castle building, boogie boarding, reading and long walks on the beach looking for the newest sea turtle nests.  On calmer days, the kayak provided an opportunity for venturing out a bit farther from shore and on rougher days, it provided immense entertainment to those back on shore watching us try to overcome the crashing waves.

Liam as an octopus, one of many sand creations.

 Sophie the mermaid.

 Just a whole lot of this scene. 

I found out on our last day that the owner of the beach house is a writer, and that book in my hand is his children’s book, The Last Ackaway.  I’m not done reading it yet, but I’ll be reviewing this fun, magical read  in Story Hour soon!

I wrote a piece a few weeks ago for Mamalode about my boys growing up, and got to see the metaphor play out before my eyes this week in my eldest, Ronan.  One moment he’d be in the water, playing a game he invented on the trip three years ago called Surfy Surf, caught up in the childlike wonder of the ocean, and the next he’d be on the shoreline, plotting world domination in a game of Risk with the husbands.  It really is coming in waves, and I’m so grateful for that.

My youngest, Liam, jumped right into the shuffle of the two boys a year older and younger than him, and they spent the week absorbed in games of their own creation on the shore, and a board-game tournament they devised for indoor times.  The volume and quality of board games brought on this vacation is worth noting and the boys took full advantage of them, even though the rest of us participants had a hard time understanding the constantly evolving rules about scoring and elimination in the tournament.

And I should clarify that when I said castle building, I meant serious castle building.  One afternoon Jason and Ronan ventured back to the mainland and returned with a shovel, a tamper, wood and bungee cords, and the crew spent the rest of the afternoon constructing.

The beach offers just as much beauty at night as during the day.  The stars are abundant, as there is little commercial light on Cape San Blas, and beachfront homes are encouraged to keep porch lights turned off as a part of the sea turtle conservation effort.  We walked the beach most nights with our red LED turtle-safe flashlights in hopes of spotting a nesting mama, and though we did not spot one on this trip (we did see one three years ago), we found plenty of fresh nests each night that the turtle patrol would come and tag.  Ghost crabs own the sand at night, and are fun to watch scampering in and out of their holes (until they attack your flip flops).  Bonfires are permitted on Cape San Blas as long as you clean up after yourself, and the beach is scattered with happy campers around twilight roasting marshmallows.  Not wanting to leave the outdoors, we took a turn sleeping on an air mattress on the screened in porch under the stars one night.  

Jason and I in the creepy glow of our turtle flashlights.

Not a bad way to wake up. 

It is never easy for me to pry myself away from the ocean, and this trip was no exception.  But I came home renewed in many ways, and am profoundly grateful for our time there.  It’s like the ocean water seeped just a little bit into my pores (okay, it’s more like a lot of sand found its way into my minivan), and I wonder how long it will linger.  I hope it sticks around for awhile. 

Until next time, Cape San Blas.

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