Angle to Key West: Wild Land (12/22)

Sunset over Gulf Islands National Seashore

Eastern tip of Horn Island, Gulf Islands National Seashore – December 22, 2012

West Ship looked like a penny on the horizon. East Ship like a company of trees stripped naked by a hurricane. Horn like nothing but faith in a map and compass. But they all came, one after another, with white beaches,  dunes, and crystal water.

Giant fish raced away under the bow kicking up trails of sand like smoke from a dragster’s tires. Rays glided past like winged shadows. Pelicans flew inches above the water in long lines that looked pulled from a postcard.

A dozen dolphins came at sunset, their fins slicing through the pink water, their breath a hollow pop of air. Each time they disappeared, I stared and waited, hoping to see them again like I stare and wait at the night sky for shooting stars. They are the same–beautiful, uncertain, wild.

This can’t exist, I thought, not along a coast snatched up and cut into square lots for houses built on stilts, not in a world where a hundred feet of shoreline is worth a million dollars, but it does.

The wind died with the sun and left the water still and silver-black in the moonlight. The bay looked like a glass filled to the brim. Stars glowed across the surface and silence made each stroke of the paddle loud.

Lights from Gulfport and Pascagoula lined the far shore like the edge of civilization’s march to sea. They felt pushed away, far, far away from the Gulf Islands where shifting sands are left free to move and break apart in storms, to drift over lifetimes longer than our own.

I glided past silver dunes and crescents of powdery sand. I listened for the hollow breath of dolphins in the darkness. I watched Orion walk across the ceiling of the world.

It is so wild out here, untouched and beautiful. You don’t have to imagine the way it once was, you only have to look.


Mississippi’s Gulf Islands are some of the last undeveloped barrier islands in the Gulf of Mexico. I’ve paddled 3,000 miles through this country to get to them and I can tell you that they are crown jewels, they are the Gulf’s Isle Royale and Apostles, they are so beautiful.

Waters just off their shore are about to be opened up to oil and gas drilling unless all of us who care stand up and say no.

The Gulf Restoration Network is working as hard as it can to keep these islands pristine. Visit their webpage and learn how you can help. Even something as simple as a phone call, email, or $5 donation could be the difference between staring at an endless horizon or a gas rig. These are your islands, save them.

12 thoughts on “Angle to Key West: Wild Land (12/22)

  1. Beautiful, Daniel. And so, will there be nothing left? No place left where our greedy hands haven’t despoiled the water, land, air, beauty? Thanks for the reminder, Daniel, that there are folks out there wrestling with this in the trenches. They need our help.

  2. I loved “Orion walking across the ceiling of the world!” What a lovely change of perspective and the call to help keep it wild, clean and beautiful!

  3. Love all the photos you choose to post but especially love the self portraits in your environment. More of you please Out of Order.
    Oh, no need to explain not responding to comments, when you are not moving your need some time to yourself:-) Loved the last interview where we got to hear your voice. You are the man. You daily carry the message that I can’t give myself excuses and miss life, the life I’m supposed to live, not the one I chose to live. xxoo Gottago

    1. You are too kind! I will try to post a few more pictures of me! I got a good one yesterday you will like! As for living life, you seem to do just fine! Still hiking? 😉

  4. Beautifully said Daniel. In the vast majority, if not all, of us there is a higher consciousness that sees all of this. While at times events disappoint us in how we treat this incredible gift we call earth, I have no doubt that the native American vision of the Seventh Generation will someday resonate with all of humanity as clear as a bright winter sunrise. All of us need to do something, anything, but do something in your daily lives to make this vision happen sooner rather than later.

  5. Thank you for mentioning the MS Barrier islands. GRN & the Sierra Club are in the fight to protect these islands, but it takes the uproar of the people to make a difference. Vote out the PSC rep for that district.

  6. Daniel, 44 years ago, when Ship Island was one and not two, I camped there and walked its shores and wooded areas. It is good to hear that, while now two islands, all of it remains wild and pristine. Thanks for the status update.

    1. So cool! I heard storms blew apart Ship Island. Makes you really see how dynamic and changing these islands are as they slowly move around out there. Hope they are just as beautiful 44 years from now!

  7. Beautiful descriptions. Makes me wish I were brave enough to join you. Please know you are never alone. You have many followers!

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