We started up on the east side of Fountainbleau Beach, directly across the outlet of Graveline Bayou where we stopped last. A brisk breeze was coming off the sound and pushing small wavelets of brown water up the steep, narrow beach. Gail, Charlie, Marcia, and I headed west toward our destination for the day at the Gulf Islands National Seashore in Ocean Springs; on our quest to hike the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
We walked along the shore using the road and sections of white sandy beach, near pastel-colored vacation homes and magnificent live oaks. Coastal salt marsh forced our path inland along the abandoned fairways of the defunct St. Andrews Golf Course and into the Fountainbleau residential subdivisions.
At one point we found ourselves at the back of one subdivision wanting to get to an adjacent development without having to walk all the way out and around on the road. There must be a trail, I thought to myself. If I were a kid on a bike how would I get across? Sure enough, we found a path through a vacant lot and continued west into Gulf Park Estates on foot.
The highlight of the day was stopping at DaBayou Bar and Grill overlooking the marina on Simmons Bayou. The owner waved us into the empty restaurant when we paused outside his open door. He said they should be open already but none of his help had shown up for work yet, and he would try his best to take care of us. He knew where the tuna dip and cold beer were kept in the cooler and these satisfied us just fine on his back deck.
The break gave the four of us an opportunity to reflect on our hike so far, from the Alabama state line, and plan our future hikes as we headed toward Louisiana. We had already seen parts of the Coast for the first time, even though we have all lived here for decades. Walking down country roads, through residential neighborhoods, down wind-swept beaches, and across vast stretches of salt marsh, gave us a perspective that is lost in our usually fast-paced life. This walk was becoming much more about discovering the people and natural beauty of our home along the Mississippi Gulf Coast rather than the goal to walk from border to border.
Three more miles brought us to our car at the National Seashore, our longest hike yet. The beer helped.
Total distance: 11.5 miles.