Padre Island National Seashore.
Surely, the name itself invokes images of a beautiful, relaxing beach filled with young and beautiful people frolicking in the sand. Or perhaps just a quiet relaxing beach at least.
That’s what you might think if you didn’t know any better…
In the middle of May of 2016, we had begun our annual month-long journey of storm chasing in south Texas, much like the previous year. Similar to 2015, the weather was quiet and rather cool to start the trip.
On the second day of this trip, we decided on a whim to head down to Padre Island in pursuit of another passport stamp, another beach, and of course to learn more about our wonderful country.
I never would have imagined how this day was going to reveal itself, which ironically is nothing unusual for us.
Driving into north Corpus Christi on Interstate 37 from San Antonio, we passed through a heavily industrialized area that extended for miles.
What I saw was a cynically beautiful display of oil wells, along with steaming and flaming pipes spread through the open field.
Now what Sarah saw was a stinky and disgusting conglomerate of pollution and ugly shitty nastiness.
I will admit, even with my rust belt origins, I found the area to be quite grim with the endless vista of polluting rusty pipes. However given that I was driving a car with an internal combustion engine, I had no right to complain.
A black cloud moves over Padre Island
It was a very dull gray overcast day, with temperatures only in the upper 60s, a far cry from a normal late May afternoon in south Texas. A cold front had brought itself all the way to the Mexican border, and there was actually a small chance of marginal severe weather right along the coast, exactly where we were headed.
This was not the primary reason that we came down here, but it was certainly a supporting detail.
While making a quick pass through downtown Corpus Christi, we noticed a two-story Whataburger in the center of town. We were obligated to visit this establishment later on that day. Other things in the area of note were a few statues along Shoreline Boulevard, including the Selena Memorial.
After heading south out of town, we crossed over a couple of large bridges.
Long road trips involving high bridges over vast bodies of water are exactly what make America so great.
Arriving at the Seashore
The road to the National Park entrance was quite long and desolate, which of course is wonderful. There were rolling sand dune hills for miles in all directions, with no signs of human influence around.
After almost 20 minutes of driving in the middle of the sand dune wilderness, we reached the end of the park road, which led directly into the massive parking lot of the visitor center.
This was honestly by-far the largest parking lot for any National Park property I have ever seen, with the exception of Mount Rushmore’s parking garages.
There was enough room for probably 2,000 cars…..and we were one of four other cars in the parking lot.
Hooray! We get this entire beautiful beach to ourselves!
The visitor center was fairly large, and it was here that we learned that we could drive out onto the beach, and for nearly 65 miles!
I believe there were signs regarding trash on the beach, but we hadn’t paid any attention to them at the time. We were ready to start driving through the sand.
It had been over a year since I had moved to Florida, and I still hadn’t taken the Honda for a beach drive. Nevertheless, a Texas beach would do just fine.
To say we weren’t prepared to see the shit we were about to observe was an understatement.
Beach from Hell
As we began cruising down the sand, it became increasingly obvious that only were we NOT in paradise, but we were descending into a shallow layer of hell, or at the very least a sprinkling of misery from the devil himself.
For as far as the eye could see, the beach was absolutely trashed. However it wasn’t littered in beer cans left by thousands of spring breakers.
Debris and waste of any and all varieties conceivable covered the beach as far as the eye could see. There were plastic containers, ropes, sharp objects, rusty nails, shoes, clothes, pieces of ships, rugs, furniture parts, and only Jehovah himself knows what the fu– else.
After about a mile of slowly driving down the depressing beach, I finally stopped to get out. I figured I would still try to enjoy the area despite the poor weather and even poorer sand.
There always seems to be an assortment of plastic bags hanging out in the car for unknown reasons, but of course this was the one time that we had absolutely none.
Do What You Can
Without much further ado, I said fuck it and just started throwing loose trash into the back of the car. There wasn’t much we could take, and it certainly wasn’t going to have any effect on the greater picture, but I wasn’t about to stand there wiggling my thumbs in my butt.
In the end, we ended up with probably two trash bags worth of loose large shit in the back of the car. It was a bit annoying given that it was shoved around and in between literally every item I owned.
It appears that we did not take very many photos of the beach that day. This is not too surprising, given that the entire sphere of vision was nothing but gray lines. Gray beach, gray sky, gray feelings.
Even though you can barely see any trash in these photos, I swear on my life that it was there.
Most of the trash was at least partially obscured or buried by the sand, discolored, or otherwise hidden from the wider point of view.
Down the Beach and Back
We had driven probably about 12 miles south down the sand since leaving the Visitor Center. If we just drove another 48 miles, we would be able to wave to Mexico.
However, with a speed limit of 15 mph, the potential for becoming stuck with no one around to assist, AND the fact we would have to drive 60 miles just to get back to the road…..no fucking way.
Return to the Visitor Center
Upon returning to the visitor center, we noticed signs foretelling of the abysmally trashed beach. Evidentially most of this trash washes up from other areas, particularly ships.
Some of the photos on permanent plaques showed scenes that were several magnitudes worse than what we witnessed. You couldn’t even see the sand or identify it as a beach in the photos displayed. This led us to understand that we saw Padre Island in one of its better conditions.
Free Trash Bags!
Would you believe that they give away trash bags at the welcome center to anyone that wants to pick up trash? Now why in the hell weren’t we told this when we first arrived!?
I was fairly depressed but more annoyed at finding this out after the fact. We had already spent over 2 hours on the beach and it was well into the afternoon already, and we needed to get back to San Antonio tonight.
So I vowed to return someday and spend an entire day cleaning up the beach. Sadly, It’s been a year now and that has yet to happen, HOWEVER we did fill up several plastic bags at //Cape Canaveral National Seashore// just the other day.
The nastiness of the beach was one of the more subtle yet solemn experiences I have had to date. There was no hiding the overwhelmingly negative effect that our wealthy society has had on our natural planet as God and nature gave it to us.
However, it was great to see photos of the previous cleanups that have taken place at Padre Island. If we all just cleaned up a bag of trash once a week around our neighborhood or local park, what an incredible difference it would make in the world!
Which of course leaves us with the big question….where the hell do we put all of this trash??
Do you clean up trash when you visit parks or beaches? Do you have any personal resolutions on improving the world around you, no matter how small?