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A Day at Wiggins Pass State Park, Naples, FL

This past weekend I went to visit family in the town I spent my high school years, Naples, FL. I took Monday off work to give myself some extra time and decided a beach day was well overdue. When I visit family, we are too busy to spend time at the beach. I always feel a little disappointed since it was one of my favorite things to come out of the abrupt move we made from Michigan when my mom remarried at the end of my middle school years.

At fourteen, it’s hard to understand and really appreciate how much of a paradise you landed in when you miss everything you’ve ever known. Including the future plans you made with those people you grew up with. But I pressed on joining the new school, and determining within a day or two who the cool kids were I wanted to try to make friends with.

Ultimately, whoever I was friends with in this stunning beach town, we would end up one way or another near the gorgeous clear aquamarine sea-green water and soft white sand beaches that are famous on travel sites the world over.

We met at the downtown boardwalk for sunset. We met at the beach at 11am on the weekends, where the older crowd had already politely dug a hole in the sand and buried a cold keg of beer. A keg of beer! What, this was normal? Yes, I found out. Pretty much every weekend.

I can’t remember the last time I drank from a keg. But the spirit of a boombox on the beach, paddle ball and volleyball games, swimming, boating and endless walks, first kisses and gossip sessions in the sun solidified as the perfect beach day archetype for me for a long time.

Now in 2022, fully aware of the need to protect my skin from the sun, certainly light on the day drinking, and more interested in meditation at the beach than a tipsy barefoot dance party while the sun sinks down, I tucked those fond memories away and planned another kind of day for myself.

My brother had mentioned Wiggin’s Pass a couple of times over the weekend and though I vaguely remembered it, I had mostly skipped it over as a high school kid. But now it deserved renewed attention and with little preparation, I headed to the popular state park planning to spend a few hours before hitting the road.

I went to parking lot #4 since the sign indicated a concession stand, umbrellas, paddle boards and other goodies. I had brought only a towel and some basic sunscreen, water, and an errant bag of goldfish crackers bought from the gas station on my drive from Orlando. I wanted to treat myself if the inspiration arose. The options looked fantastic and maybe another time I will indulge, but it turned out that my towel and simple accessories served me just fine for a few hours’ visit. This is in part due to a highlight of the park, which includes picnic tables and grills under the full shade of vibrant green trees. You can peak at the ocean through the paths leading to these areas, getting some respite and enjoying the view even on a 94 degree day!

I split my time between relaxing on my towel on the picnic table bench in the shade, and going for a very long walk along the shoreline and among some intricate tree roots climbing their way to the ocean. I managed a swim also, which included sighting a dolphin bobbing up and down at a peaceful pace parallel to the shore.

I stumbled upon a cove populated with lone fisherman and beautiful views. I worried I was intruding somehow, but they dutifully ignored me as they cast their lines seemingly to nowhere and with no particular urgency.

After taking in the view from a perfectly placed bench in the shade, I slowly strolled back the way I came, taking a few shots and hoping to catch an Ansel Adams style photo of the incredible trees I hopscotched through as the tide came in.

I showered and changed at the well maintained bathroom house bright with sky-lights and hit the road back to Orlando. I can’t wait for my next visit “home”. Like the rhythms of the ocean tides, we are ever changing and ever renewing, hoping to find our home in the presence of each day.

Photos by April Koester


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