HORN ISLAND, MS (WLOX) - If you're looking for a way to get away from the stress and strain of everyday life, if only for a day, a visit to one of Mississippi's barrier islands just might be the answer.
Approaching Horn Island in the early morning hours, not a cloud in sight, your sense of anticipation of what's to come builds quickly.
On shore, you're treated to remarkable beauty. Sand dunes reach toward the sky. Wildflowers are in bloom, and birds are searching for a tasty meal. On the Gulf side, breakers make their noisy presence known. The sun shimmers off a tidal pool and further east, pine trees dominate the skyline. Dune grasses bob gently in the sea breeze, as a shrimp boat passes slowly by.
That's the big draw on Horn Island. Kelli Henthorn is an island visitor.
"Oh, it's just beautiful. Just being able to relax and enjoy the sunshine and fish, it's just one of the highlights of our week. We come out here just to camp and get away from everybody," Henthorn said.
Camping is a popular pastime on the island, even for out of town visitors, like David Luna.
"It's just a great place to be. We really have enjoyed just being out here, camping out here for the past couple of days. It's been so enjoyable and the fishing is good. Plenty of sunshine. Plenty of sand," Luna said.
The island offers a way to re-connect with loved ones.
"It's a good place to relax and just get away from life and just come out here and spend family time and fish," Tanner Rutherford said.
That's a word you hear a lot: fishing. And the catch is plentiful out here for Louis Ponson.
"We've caught a few this morning. Over 20 inch speckled trout and redfish and we put them in the boat and we're going to try and go this way and see if we can catch anything," Ponson explained.
There are many reasons why people come out and visit Horn Island. Do a little fishing, throw a cast net, sunbathe, swim and search for seashells.
But perhaps the most important reason is what you see all around you, the absolute solitude, according to Zack Henthorn.
"I like the privacy. There's not so many people riding around and you kind of get time for yourself. It's pretty nice."
What's not so nice is having to leave. But as the day winds down, you head back to the mainland, at least until the next time.
Mississippi is home to four barrier islands: Horn, Ship, Petit Bois, and Cat Islands. All are under the control of the National Park Service, with the exception of a small privately owned portion of Cat. Ship Island has a ferry service, but the others have to be reached by private boat.