After dinner our first night on Anna Maria Island, our waiter tipped us, carefully writing out directions to Emerson Point Preserve on the back of a receipt.
He had overheard my daughter and me reliving our manatee encounters of earlier that same day and shared that he had just discovered a Manatee County park he thought we might enjoy. Emerson Point’s 365 acres are located on Snead Island, just west of Palmetto. It is truly tucked away and not a place one would typically stumble onto without intent.
A series of boardwalks and trails connect at a central observation tower that overlooks the watery conjunction of Tampa Bay, the Manatee River and Terra Ciera Bay as well as the landmark Sunshine Skyway Bridge.
We walked the paths slowly, both of us in “photographer mode”. Entranced by the foliage present in a plant hardiness zone three steps removed from our own, we almost missed the tree crabs. Well, actually, I did miss them. But, Hannah spotted one slinking out of sight around a tree trunk which only made us more determined to find and photograph it.
We worked terribly hard to identify it as spider or crab, and then struggled through the brush to get a clear shot as it disdainfully shielded itself from what it had clearly dismissed as tourist paparrazi. Moments later, we discovered that our reluctant prey was not so unique as we first thought. Hannah gave up hope of naming some exotic new species as we began to spot dozens of the creatures clambering up trees all around us.
We wandered through the better part of an afternoon at Emerson Point Preserve, finally leaving just in time for our only scheduled event of the day: the sunset on Anna Maria Island…