I was still stewing over thinking that Charlotte Harbor was the Gulf of Mexico when the trawler docked at Useppa.
The sunlight reflected off impressive white structures lining the island. An American flag flew prominently atop what Captain Glenn said was once a Calusa Indian midden ~the tribe whose arrow maimed, later killing, Ponce de Leon.
There was certainly an air about the place, that for eternity, it had been a center of power and influence.
As I walked with Captain Glen and Ed beyond the docks, the front office gave hints to the days of Baron Colliers’ famed Izaak Walton Club, clearing, dredging, filling and building, to make available Florida’s most famous of Tarpon filled waters.
Looking around, I saw messages and awards written on Tarpon scales, enshrined in glass casings of an era long gone by. It made my heart ache for a time of healthier Florida waters, times when nutrient pollution, toxic-algae, and over-drainage were not killing our state. I decided be thankful for this looking-glass of history and enjoy a walk.
The island remained absolutely beautiful…and such strange and wonderful treasures! As we walked up the mound, I gasped at the wonder all around me.
I saw night-blooming cactus vines like hundreds of green ropes covering the huge ancient oaks trees; Spanish-moss swaying in a light breeze: an empty beach catching the colors of coming sunset; orchids and bromeliads blooming everywhere high and low; a gigantic banyan tree, a gift from Thomas Edison, standing like an aging hurricane-weathered sentinel – old limbs broken and reformed, arching over houses and sidewalks alike!
There were animals too. We met a friendly, stowaway orange cat that had arrived on a supply vessel and now was the mayor of the town. And also an old gopher turtle happily clipping grass with an awesome multi-entrance and exit gopher tunnel.
At the end of the sidewalk tour, the famed Collier Inn stood atop the ancient Indian mound looking out over the waters. It was beautiful yes, but I knew, in spite of the awe around me, with no tarpon jumping, those were very different waters, indeed.
Calusa Indians, Fl: http://www.pbchistoryonline.org/middle-school-lessons/001-Calusa/001-Calusa1.htm
Historic Society, Useppa: http://www.useppahs.org/pages/useppa_history.html
Izaak Walton Club, Collier: https://www.useppa.com/legacy/izaak-walton/
Note Useppa Award from Captains For Clean Waters: https://captainsforcleanwater.org
West Florida Sailing and Cruising School: http://www.flsailandcruiseschool.com