I pulled into the Hunting Island campground and made camp so quickly that it’s only the next morning I realized I didn’t put on the hitch lock, tuck away the electronics, or even fill up the water tank.
Why the rush? After two hurricanes along this stretch of coast last fall, I was anxious to see if my favorite tree was still standing. I fairly flew down the beach, straining my eyes against the bright sun, hoping against hope it had withstood the onslaught of both Florence and Michael.
Then, suddenly, there it was.
The beach was thoroughly chewed up by those 2018 storms, so now I can see exactly how the tree survived. Its roots are thick and wide, still half-buried in the sand that remains, with the two longest roots acting as wedges into the sand that keep the tree upright against the relentless wind and tide.
For now, for me, it remains the witness tree. I am so happy it is still here. Someday it will go down, but not yet.
I went back this morning at high tide. Last March, the high tide barely reached the tree; now it goes up the beach another 12-14 feet, one measure of how much ground was lost to last fall’s hurricanes. Coastal islands are fragile things and each storm takes a bit more of the land and returns it to the sea.
The beach here has changed so much in less than a year. Many of the old tree bones are gone and one of the marshes was almost obliterated. In one of the remaining marshes, this remnant of an old tree is now positioned like a sculpture in an art park. I approve of this new addition. On this chilly Friday morning, it seems a sign that nature renews as well as removes.
Finding an old friend is like finding a lost treasure.
Anthony D. Williams