Carrabelle Revisited
By D. D. Jewell
     As many of you know, the club's last visit in 1996 to the Carrabelle Scallop Dump was a great adventure for my husband Rob and me. That trip yielded us many great finds including Scaphella junonia (Junonia), Triplofusus giganteus (Florida Horse Conch), Fasciolaria tulipa (True Tulip), Cinctura hunteria (Eastern Banded Tulip), Chicoreus florifer dilectus (Lace Murex), Chicoreus pomum (Apple Murex) and a complete Lyropecten nodosus (Lion's Paw).

Chicoreus pomum (Apple Murex)     Ever since then, Rob has pleaded with me to return for a three-day weekend, but I always persuaded him to travel down to Venice or Sanibel instead of out in the middle of the woods with the dog fennels, occasional Coral Snake or any of the other critters that call that area home.

     Bill Lyerly, our notorious club joker, didn't help any either when several times he duped Rob into thinking he and other members had made it back to Carrabelle without him. So, finally after putting him off a number of times, I agreed to take the Labor Day Weekend and return to his beloved Carrabelle with the stipulation that I could have one day of shopping in Panama City.

     Our normal haunt, the Georgian Motel, was fully occupied on the Labor Day Weekend, which forced us to stay at the Rancho Inn in Apalachicola. With thoughts of shovels and full 5-gallon buckets dancing in our heads, we eagerly awaited our trip. Then he came! Hurricane Earl breathed down directly on the Panhandle three days before our departure date. Weather newscasts showed St. George Island being manhandled. We would only imagine what was happening to poor Carrabelle, but then we thought if Earl managed to leave town by the time we arrived, the beaches could possibly be filled with a lot of shells washed in from the storm.

     Friday came, and Earl had left the Panhandle. I called our hotel to make sure they had weathered the story and a friendly voice told me, "Sure we're all right - come on down," and so Friday after work Rob, our infant son Robbie and I set out for a three day tour. We expected to make it to the Rancho Inn by 11:30 PM and found ourselves grinning from ear to ear when we hit the Georgian Motel around 10:20 PM. We knew we were only minutes away from our destination but then the sign from hell hit us - a huge orange sign with big black letters that read: Detour Road Closed, Take CR 67 to SR 65.

     Rob and I hesitated for a moment and almost ignored the detour. But being law-abiding citizens, we took the detour and at first were excited because we saw that we were on the road leading to the scallop dump. This gave us an excellent chance to scout out the dirt road we needed to take to the right, especially since I had left the written directions to the scallop dump back home. Now let me tell you, every dirt road to the right looked the same to me in the dark at 10:30 PM, but we made a mental note of one we were pretty sure was the correct one.

     Ten minutes into our detour I was a little panicky. Rob pulled off to the side of the road and found the detour on the map and tried to reassure me that our turn to the left was just ahead around the bend.

     Fifty minutes into our detour and passing the sign of "Tote's Hell Swamp" Rob was a little panicky. I was convinced we were in the "Twilight Zone." The 20-plus yellow road signs we passed were a bend to the right followed by a bend to the left. An hour and half later we finally made it to our left turn and a roadblock of two police officers. I quickly dubbed the roadblock "Checkpoint Charlie." Eager to get to our hotel, we decided to wait until morning to investigate the reason for the roadblock.

     Early the next morning before we headed back to "Checkpoint Charlie," we explored the beautiful beaches of St. George Island. We found several docks bruised, battered and shredded to bits as well as piles of beach sand pushed to the side of the paved roads - all evidence of Hurricane Earl's wrath. Sealife of all sorts including starfish, sea slugs and sea cucumbers littered the tide line on the beach.

     We did not find any live specimens, but filled out buckets with several dead species including Raeta plicatella (Channeled Duck Clam), Crytopleura costata (Angel Wing), Neverita sp. (Moon Snail) and a few nutmegs. Being satisfied we had collected all that we could, we set out for "Checkpoint Charlie."

     As we approached the roadblock, Rob and I had rehearsed our plea to travel through the roadblock. "We were from the Jacksonville Shell Club and were on an official club expedition to the Carrabelle Scallop Dump." To our amazement no plea was necessary -- we simply needed to patiently wait for a few more cars to come into line before the police escort would take us through. It was explained that Hurricane Earl had taken out numerous chunks of the road on the ocean side causing only one lane to be passable. As we got underway it was extremely obvious why the road had been closed down. Huge holes of pavement had been torn away. I would estimate a whole month's work lay ahead in order to repair the damage. A twenty-minute drive was all it took to take us back to Carrabelle which made the hour and a half detour into the "Twilight Zone" from the night before that much more nauseating.

     In searching for the deserted dirt road leading to the scallop dump, we found many roads flooded and impassable. The area seemed to have been cleared away in several spots and we feared that perhaps our dump might have been leveled. We finally found one road above water that had been cleared with a newly-built house set back a ways. There to the left side of the clearing were two pyramidal piles of scallops. The mounds seemed to have been exposed to the sun for quite some time, and, as we began to dig through the pile, the shells crumbled away mixed with a lot of loose dirt.

     We did not find the diversity of shells experienced on our '96 trip, but picked out several specimens of tulips, Apple Murex, sundials and jewel boxes. We decided not to look any further for the '96 dump due to the amount of water present on the back roads but headed back to the main road and enjoyed a delicious breakfast at Harry's Restaurant in Carrabelle.

     All things considered, we did have a lovely weekend get-away spiced with a little adventure and managed to come away with new shells added to our collection.

     Oh Yea - we also enjoyed a day in Panama City.