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  • Katherine Dudley Hoehn

Dry Bones

Updated: Feb 8, 2021

Bones on the beach - Big Talbot Island

Boneyard Beach on Big Talbot Island (Jacksonville, Florida) was my last nature adventure destination of 2020 and turned out to be a great choice. Fresh from a family Christmas in the frozen Midwest, my eldest son and I had a few solitary days for bonding and to say good-bye to a year that wasn’t entirely wonderful. Boneyard Beach was symbolically appropriate and a grand way to ring out the year.

Hiking through the woods to the beach, we talked about the many nature opportunities in Northeast Florida and the fun of discovering the Real Florida. While studying the bark on one of the trees next to the trail, we noticed unusual white and black “growths.” I took a photograph and then we looked closer. Proof that first appearances aren’t everything, the growths were pushpins, maybe remains of a posted notice.

We planned our visit for low tide and were not disappointed by the wide beach and amazing scattering of driftwood large and small. Most of the beached trees are victims of island erosion and now serve to protect the shore from wind and waves of Nassau Sound and create a sculpture garden of smooth, dramatic bleached giants.

While walking the wide beach, we summarized the year and discussed the things to come in 2021. Worth investigating were the tidepools in the black “rocks” on the beach, soft and made from soil (spodosolformations), filled with snails and prowled by shorebirds. We marveled at the size of the trees, patterns in the bark, smooth surfaces of the bleached bark-stripped trees, and the barnacles that indicated some trees had been beached for a long time.

Far down the beach, Matt spotted a bald eagle at the top of a tree on the bluff. Looking simultaneously majestic and patriotic, he stayed in place for his lone paparazzi to snap dozens of photos from far below his perch.

It was a perfect outing and the best way to close out 2020, confirming my good fortune to live where natural wonders consistently rise above the forgettable.

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