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Today’s photos were largely taken in the Gulf Islands National Seashore,  just a few miles west of Pensacola Beach.  At the tip of the island is Fort Pickens, a military fort that saw over a century of service that began in 1834 and lasted until 1947.

We drove to the park at dusk, thinking it would probably be closed, but it turned out the park was open until 10 PM.  You are instructed to drive, in certain stretches, at no more than 20 MPH for the protection of nesting shorebirds.  We were the only car on the road, headed into the darkness with the white sands drifting across the road and our headlights like search beams at the frontier of a strange and sandy planet.

Fort Pickens turned out to be a destination for fisherman and for people who enjoyed watching the sunset while sipping chilled white wine (not permitted, but evidently an unenforced rule).  We went back another night and were surprised to hear a canned reveille being played over an unseen sound system that emanated from one of the fort’s historic residences that we had thought deserted.

The park ends at Pensacola Pass and the vista out into the Gulf was, at twilight, an endless swath of pinks, blues, yellows, and oranges.  Across the Pass, the dark outline of the Pensacola Lighthouse rose into the vivid palette of the evening sky.

Offshore and out of sight, a 20-mile-long oil slick advanced and retreated while Escambia County officials worried that word of oil in nearby Perdido Key had not been shared by spill response command in Mobile.  There was no talk of the spill at Fort Pickens, where a group of hobby fishermen (and women) landed a hammerhead shark and other park visitors who had coolers in their car rushed to the scene in the hopes of carrying off some of the meat.  Out in the Gulf, at the mouth of the Pass, boom was being laid and boom would later fail.