Wednesday, November 26, 2014

11/26 T.H. Stone Memorial State Park, St Joseph Peninsula, FL

I arrived here two days ago in a driving rainstorm and got soaked hooking up. I spent two days of rain inside watching TV and catching up on work, which is not too bad, though a bit boring.  Very weak cell phone service and internet access through Verizon, so it has been hard to get ahold of me and to make calls out.   

This campground is just on the other side of the beach dunes, so I have been able to hear the surf day and night, which is always very nice.


However, the sun finally came out today, so it was beach walk time!  I walked at least a half mile down the beach today.  These are the dunes that separate the campground from the beach.  You are forbidden to walk on dunes because they provide protection in hurricanes.

So, they provide boardwalks so you can get to the beach without disturbing any vegetation on the dunes.  

And a sign warning about rip tides.  No worries today because it is only about 65 degrees out and MUCH too windy to even consider swimming! 

I just love these empty beaches!  Just a few walkers way in the distance.  Should I go this way? 

Or the other way?  I ended up going the other way.
It had been so windy and rainy that the shells and rocks were all perched on little mounds of sand.   

I could not resist this picture of the sun shining on the shallow area.  

The tide was going out and there were a few large jellies.  This one is at least 10" wide.  Need to look it up. 
Discovered that the above is a Cannonball Jelly.  They grow up to 14" in diameter and are highly toxic if you step on one, which is why I always wear beach shoes.
It has been increasing in numbers in the last few years, causing problems with fishermen because it fills their nets instead of fish.  Apparently, however, the Japanese love to eat these guys, so a few American companies have been drying, preserving, and then shipping them to Japan!  Here is an article from The Atlantic about this industry: 

Friday, November 21, 2014

11/21 St. Andrews State Park, Panama City, FL

This is a great state park on the barrier island. While the campgrounds overlook the "Grand Lagoon" on Panama City, the Gulf of Mexico with its sugar white sands is only about 1/4 mile away.  Nice campsite and huge.  I headed in rather than backing in so I could have a good view.  Since the hookups were on the opposite side, I needed my 30 Amp extension cord as well as both water hoses.

Since it was such a nice day, I got my bike out and went for a ride to the beach.  (High was 68 today!)  There was a very pretty swampy area on the way.    

Now, why does the turtle cross the road?  Apparently this one decided to stop in the middle, so cars were going around him/her.  He was really a box turtle, but so covered with algae that his shell was almost entirely a green-black color. Several of us tried to get him to move, but he wouldn't so I picked him up and moved him to the shoulder in the direction he was headed.

Ah, finally, the beach!!  Not a huge beach, but the water was shallow and crystal clear.  Perfect for swimming had the weather been hot, or for a pelican to go fishing. 

Some big condos or hotels in the distance, but the state park beach was beautiful and not too crowded. 

One of the ladies who were helping me try to get the turtle moving was walking up to the closed beach store and asked me if I knew about the fire.  I did not, but she did go back to her car to make the call on her cell phone.  Check out the smoke.

It was not as big a burned area as it has looked like based on the smoke, but I took this photo when I rode back past it.  Looks like someone tossed a cigarette butt since it was right by the road.

 I headed back to the west end of the beach where the fishing pier was. 
Hard to believe how clear and sparkling the water is.

One interesting thing I saw on the pier was sea turtle rescue equipment.  There are instructions here on what to do if you accidently get a turtle on your hook. You are supposed to bring him to the surface, slip the net underneath it, and without pulling on the line or hook, "walk" the net with the turtle in it to the beach, and cover the animal with a wet towel until help arrives.  Are not supposed to try to remove the hook, although you can cut the line about 2 feet from the place where it is attached.

 Some of the dunes behind the shore. 

Very nice campground and pretty beach that I will come back to.  Met several people in the campground today that I had a long chat with.  Two ladies work each summer in Glacier National Park and were on their way to Florida for the winter to look for work until next summer.  Met two other couples also "migrating" to Florida for the winter--one set from Montana and the other from Saskatchewan.  Should get pretty busy pretty soon as all of the snowbirds arrive. I enjoy meeting interesting people on the move as I am.
This day's bike ride and short beach walk reminded me that I need to get some good beach shoes before I ruin another pair or good ones.  I forgot and wore my expensive sandals today.  Can't do that again, so I may go out shopping to one of the many beach stores tomorrow. There is also a Croc shop not too far away.   

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

11/19 Fort Pickens Visit

OK, I have been hunkered down for the past two days because of the cold and windy conditions.  Temps during the day have been barely 45 degrees, dropping down to 28-30 at night.  Plus, there has been a 20 MPH wind coming out of the north, which makes it feel even colder.  So, I've been keeping both furnaces working and aiming my little electric heater on my feet.  Luckily, it is plenty warm at night because I can turn up the furnace in my bedroom, and I have a down coverlet which really keeps it cozy.

So today, the forecast was for 54 degrees and the sun was out, so after watching my favorite British Antiques Roadshow until noon, I drove out to the fort to do some sightseeing.  Also checked out the other, larger campground.  I think I like this one better because sites are more private and closer to the beach. 

So here is the real Fort Pickens, just a couple of miles from my campground:

This chunk of the Gulf Islands National Seashore is a long, thin 35 mile long barrier island called Santa Rosa.  The west end of the island, where the campgrounds are is the entrance to Pensacola Bay.  Even in the early 1800s, they recognized that this area needed to be protected from the Spanish, the French, the British, and whoever else might come calling, hence this fort.

This shows what the fort looked like when it was first constructed. Because of its important, it was a very large fort.

 And it was built by slaves who had building skills.  Their owner collected their wages and made a tidy additional profit by supplying all the materials for construction.

A few of the bay and Pensacola harbor from the top of the fort.

Could not resist taking this photo.  Ship looks like it is held together by the rust. 

Pretty place for a fort, in any case.

Found this Industrious little creature snuffling along looking for bugs.  Still too cold for many insects, so I hope it managed to get a meal.  Have no idea if it was a boy or girl.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

11/16 Drive to Fort Pickens, Gulf Islands National Seashore

There are two chunks of this 160 miles long seashore, but this campground is on the eastern, Florida part.  Nice drive from Hattisburg, MS, which I spent last night along a lake.  Love the lack of traffic on this Mississippi highway.

Had to drive through Mobile, Alabama, on the way to the barrier islands on the Gulf.  This is bridge to first island.

This is Gulf Shores, but I am still not on the second barrier island. Got to go over the bridge in the distance.  And yes, I did merge.

Check out the palm trees!  Must be there.  Nice thing was the temperatures were 73 today so I could wear shorts!

Once you enter the national seashore, it is still 5 miles to the campground along a very narrow island. 

Nice view, huh?

I'll post some photos of my campsite and go on a beach walk tomorrow.  I am parked just a couple of hundred feet from the beach, but it was hazy this evening and getting dark fast, so I just spent my time getting settled in.