Bridge Therapy: Hikin’ the South Bridge

There’s a high bridge that links Fort Pierce to South Hutchinson Island.

I’m mildly afraid of heights and when you combine that with being over water, my heart starts beating fast.  Add a nice stiff breeze and I start sweating.  Put me in a car and I start breathing fast, particularly if I’m driving.  I don’t have total control when I’m in a car.

There are lots of bridges in Florida.  

A few weeks ago, I drove over the small bridge near Sebastian Inlet State Park on AIA and had a  near panic attack.  The bridge pictured above near Jekyll Island in Georgia really gets me going.  It’s the first bridge that made me anxious.

I know it’s irrational.

Since I had that experience at Sebastian Inlet, I’ve been thinking about how to get over my bridge fear.  I sure don’t want it getting any worse.

That’s how we found ourselves on the South Bridge last weekend.  

My thinking:  If I have a pleasant experience on a high bridge, I’ll begin to have less anxiety.

So let’s go for a walk.

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The annual Oyster Festival was in full swing when we arrived in Fort Pierce.  You can get oysters any way you like at one of the many food stands–fried, raw, boiled….  I’m not a big oyster fan.  When I’ve eaten them raw in the past, I’ve loaded them up with hot sauce and lemon juice, tipped their shells up into my mouth and let the salty things slither down my throat before my mouth gets a feel of the icky things.  I like the taste of the salty lemon and hot sauce much more than the slimy texture of raw mussel.

We skipped the festival this year.

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Lots of boats are out–It’s a hazy day, but the fishing must be good.

The reason I bring up the Oyster Festival is because it made parking difficult.  A lot of people must like oysters because I think we found the last parking spot in Fort Pierce.  We clipped the pups onto their leashes and started our walk.

Soon we were up on the bridge watching the fishermen (and women) on the pier below us.

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An old Boston ferry named the Viking Starliner, down here for repair and sale, broke loose up the river several weeks ago and rammed into the pier, tossing the walk into the Indian River.  The city is holding it until the owner pays to repair the pier.  Oops.

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The bridge moves higher and so do we.  Cars zoom past and Chula begins to get anxious, pulling on her leash and asking us to turn around.  As we get higher, my heart starts beating fast and I think I’d like to turn around too.

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We take a deep breath and press on.

It’s a gloomy day, but the views over the Fort Pierce Inlet and across the Indian River to North Hutchinson Island are incredible from the bridge.  You can see the line of condos that front the Atlantic.

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A 3-level tug boat passes far under us.

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It’s a long way down…but we are getting close to the end of the bridge.  Soon we’ll be back over land.

I look down. 

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Wow.  That dock’s pretty small.

A few more steps and we make it across the bridge!

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Museum Point Park welcomes you to South Hutchinson Island.  There’s a great boat launch, beach, picnic area, the historical museum and Aquarium in the park, which runs along the Fort Pierce Inlet between the Atlantic and Indian River.

Chula greets the land … She and I are happy to be on solid ground.

I wonder if she’s ever been on a bridge before.  In an uncharacteristic move, Sugar, my anxious pup, doesn’t give it a second thought.

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We wander through the park, watching families picnic and swim.  This group was headed over to the island across the inlet for a picnic.

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My dad loves this beach… or maybe the bikini-clad girls here. 😉   The water is shallow and great for kids.

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We wander to the picnic area and find this banyan tree.

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We pick up a few seeds to start our own tree.

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 A friendly squirrel poses for Rob.

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We find a bench and relax a while, watching the pleasure boats cruise up and down the inlet.

Soon it’s time to head back over the bridge.

This time, it’s not as difficult for Chula and I.  

We walk slowly, looking over the side as we go.  I still feel somewhat anxious, but less than before.  My heart beats fast and my breath catches as we walk, but the feelings are muted compared to the first crossing.  Chula stays close to the concrete barrier and walks forward more confidently, hesitating only when cars pass.

Are we less anxious because we know what to expect, because we made it successfully once before, or because we associate it with a fun walk?  Or is it because we know that we have to cross to get back to the car?

I don’t know.

Given that I am feeling a bit better, I think we should probably do more bridge walking.

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