Screaming in the Dark

Ah, summertime in Florida. Hot, humid days with strong thunderstorms reign supreme for us starting roughly in May. With all the changes in our weather patterns I wouldn’t be surprised if the official start date of Hurricane season (June 1st) gets altered in the near future. Hurricane season also brings us Saharan dust that despite having hazy days we do get some spectacular sunrises and sunsets. With this in mind I decided I would journey out to the coast to Merritt Island to catch the sunrise and travel through Blackpoint Wilderness Drive. 

Saturday began at 3:45AM and while I’m a morning person this was decidedly waaaaaaaay too early for me. Yet, I know that if I want to capture sunrise sacrifices must be made. By 4:10AM I had grabbed my gear and started traveling east to Titusville. Now, I had mapped out the drive and my phone had told me it would take about 2 hrs and 15 min to reach Blackpoint. Sunrise was at 6:25AM and I wanted to get there early to setup and capture every color. I was puzzled that it was estimating that length of time, but I decided to trust my phone’s wisdom.

I was making great time and found myself in Titusville, sailing over the bridge onto Merritt Island right about 5:30AM. Wryly I think about that extra sleep I could have gotten if I had ignored my phone. It is so dark out on Merritt Island which is home to Canaveral National Seashore and light pollution is minimal. Dang it, its so dark I’ve missed the turn to take me to Blackpoint. I turn around and make it onto the road. The darkness just seems more intense on this road and I stifle a scream as a HUGE bird swoops in front of my car.  It was big, brown and quite possibly an owl; but since I only saw it’s backside I have no way of knowing. Finally I see the entry for Blackpoint Wilderness Drive. As I pull in I notice the gate is unlocked, which surprises me since they open at 6am, but hey I’ll wait at the visitor center till its a bit lighter.

Green Heron

I turn in to the gravel drive keeping an eye out for a parking area. I drive a bit further and I realize, there is no visitor center, no parking, I am on the actual drive! It is so dark and the road is a bit twisty. I didn’t want to risk backing up on a one way road and land in a canal. There was only one way to get through this, FORWARD! Now, this drive is approximately 7 miles and the posted speed limit is 10 mph. I confess that I was totally creeped out by all the bugs hitting my vehicle as I idled and the oppressive darkness, so I flipped on the high beams and didn’t obey the speed limit. I was cautious as I navigated the gravel road’s twists and turns, deathly afraid of possibly hitting a gator. Out of nowhere my cell phone gave a chime and said arrived at your destination. WHAT?! I look up and there is a parking area with restrooms (I didn’t realize how badly I needed to pee, hooray!) Ah, technology. My phone calculated the journey based on a rest stop on the drive. I’m plotting my next trip on a map.

It is desolate and creepy in this lot, but I really need to pee. I always travel with a flashlight (thanks Mom) and decided to nose my car near the porta potties as they were closer than the actual restroom. I turn off the car and leave the headlights on, flashlight in hand I step out of the car and close the door. The humidity is oppressive, the dark closing around me, the noise of the wildlife is deafening. I longly look towards the dedicated restroom (which is further away), but my fear gets the best of me and I start toward the porta potty; and walk straight into a spiderweb, a sticky one. So here I am at 5 something in the morning, the sun hasn’t risen, I’m covered in sticky web and then I hear it. A. LOUD. BELLOW. And just like that all thoughts of needing to pee were gone. I scrambled back in my car, furiously trying to wipe the sticky web off my face and arms, cranked her up and drove off. Pretty sure there was a gator nearby (how close, I’ll never know and I don’t really want to think about it).

Luckily the rest of the drive was short and I drove back over the bridge into Titusville and stopped at the Cumberland gas station that was so bright I am positive they had their own sun. After using their restroom (which was super clean, btw) I bought a breakfast sandwich and sat in the car crazy laughing over the wild ride I just had. 

I did drive through Black Point again once the sun rose (ok, it was more like light as it was too cloudy to see the sun). It was not terrifying and I was able to take my time with my shots. Most of all I came away with a great story. Sometimes the journey eclipses the destination.

Tricolored Heron

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