A shell-scattered beachfront in Chambers County.

A shell-scattered beachfront in Chambers County.

It was going to be a busy day. I had a To Do list a mile long and not near enough time to get it all done. And on that list of things to do was a field trip for a story I was supposed to write, which meant a drive to the beach. I’ll just make the drive so I get the directions right, snap a few pictures and be back to my errands.

At least that was the plan. There’s just something about that moment when the sand seeps between your toes.

You actually have to leave Chambers County to get to get to the county’s one mile of beach, which is part of McFaddin National Wildlife Refuge. Take TX 124 south into Galveston County. You’ll pass through High Island, a kissin’ cousin to Chambers County and a good place to pit stop, get gas, and maybe pick up some produce at the fruit stand. There are also some overnight accommodations if you need them.

Brown pelicans fly along the shoreline.

Brown pelicans fly along the shoreline.

I’ve been to the beach along the Texas Gulf of Mexico more than a few times in my life, but I have to confess that I had never turned left at TX 87 on the other side of High Island. Today was the first time and I wasn’t even sure the road would hold up, since it washed away after Hurricane Ike in 2008. Turns out it was no problem. The hard-packed sand made for an easy drive.

I passed a couple of fisherman, who waved as I drifted by. Then there was a pop-up camper looking out into the waves. And then there was the sign, McFaddin National Wildlife Refuge, where Chamber County starts again.

It was just a few miles away from the beach I knew as a kid, but it was different. I pulled over and got out to snap those quick pictures. I stepped out into the sand, and then it hit me. Shells. This beach is covered in shells, something you don’t find too much on the more crowded beach down Bolivar Peninsula. I saw a beauty I thought I needed photographing. I kicked off my flip flops and eased closer to the surf. As I leaned over to compose my shot, the next wave came in a little closer than I expected and washed my feet in the cold chill of late April salt water. And just like that, I was under the spell of the gulf shore.

No way! A sand dollar!

No way! A sand dollar!

I walked down the beach and let the roar of the crashing waves wash away my To Do List. I scanned my steps for shells, – conchs, lightning whelks (official state shell of Texas by the way), periwinkles and even half a sand dollar. Trains of brown pelicans rolled overhead. It was perfect. What was it I had to do again? Oh well, it couldn’t be that important.

McFaddin goes on into Jefferson County if you keep driving down the beach. It makes a great stop if you are on a birding loop from the Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge to Bolivar Flats and on to Galveston.

An hour and half later I got back in the car to head home. I was relaxed. All that stuff I had to do didn’t seem so overwhelming after all. It would get done…eventually.

A Little Heads-up: More than shorebirds are known to frequent this beach. As the graffiti at the refuge sign suggests, in the warm months of the year there is a pretty good chance you might run into a nudist or two. Keep this in mind if you are bringing your children or your own eyes are a bit sensitive. But despite the spray paint declaration, clothes and kids are still welcome on this public property.

Fair warning.

Fair warning.

For more Chambers County adventures opportunities, click here.