There are no markers for the road to Crooked Island. It doesn’t appear on TripAdvisor’s list of places to go. But if you know what you’re doing, you can find that turn off the Forgotten Coast highway, onto an unpaved road so sandy and bright it might as well lead to Oz. The way to the beach should always be like this: hidden, remote. The birders know about it. They protect the Royal terns who nest there. The turtlers know about it, too. They prowl it every dawn during the season when the ancient loggerheads battle immense odds to come back to the beach where they were born, renewing the promise. The turtlers are a fierce breed, like knights of old, protective. They mark the nests with fortifications of wood and wire, visit and revisit, checking for predation and inundation, marking the days until the tiny sea turtles emerge.
Have you seen the sea turtles hatchlings crawl to the sea? One would fit in the palm of your hand if you were allowed to touch it, which you are not. They follow the reflection of the moon on the water, and at Crooked Island, they do it unimpeded by light from bars and cars, condos and beach houses, undeterred by beach chairs and umbrellas left by tourists who never learned that the only thing required to enjoy the beach is your senses. The sea turtles are as yet unvanquished by tourists, and red tides, and septic waste. They fin and fight themselves up from the loose sand that incubated them, over the packed sand, and towards the light. They enter the surf, where they are pushed back, back, by the action of the waves. Time and again they wash back up onto the beach as you sit nearby, holding your breath and cheering inwardly like it was the Olympics. They never give up. They enter the water; you pump your fist. She did it, you think. The cycle continues on Crooked Island. The sea turtles will be back, and so will you. For as long as it lasts.