Friday, February 13, 2015

Subarctic Florida–a Short Tour

We have been dawdling here in Montgomery for weeks, DE-winterizing, RE-loading according to our hyper organized checklist and generally waiting for a celestial sign to move us South.  That came with a predicted spate of 20 degree weather and news that our friend Maggie would join us at Fort Pickens CG on the beautiful Gulf Islands National Seashore near Pensacola.


The local utilities had NOT read the celestial signs and decided to do a little work precariously close to the ‘stream. That’s OK, it was overcast. cold and windy out there.  These guys are pros and quickly moved on.
We drove South into some sunshine but the North wind was whipping when we arrived to a warm welcome from the  park personnel. The wind was flattening the seas and blowing tops off the waves that emerged. 


For the very first time, we were able to book the choicest site in the Park –- A24, nestled deep under the spreading Live Oaks, the lowest limbs only an Airstream high.  Deep shade. As our favorite grandson would ask, Is that a GOOD Idea?


The trip down had not been without incident and rewards.  We parked behind the busy strip mall and feasted on the daily lunch special at Petracella’s. Always a treat. Then off to Joe Patti’s famous Seafood store where our Patty acquired a quantity of  fresh boiled shrimp. (She got them peeled and deveined ‘cause she’s a Yankee and don’t know no better.)  Al lingered in the parking lot intending to frame a shot of the giant shrimp sculpture poised over the Trailer.  That’s when he discovered the sliding bathroom door hanging by a thread Why NOW after three weeks in a medium sized city, with tools and stores and time on our hands..??? %#@X&#


We do have this file photo of Mr. Frank at the filet knife.

Maggie and Lily gave us time to get settled and then the visiting and eating commenced and went on hilariously until the full moon peeked out. 

The morning was cloudy but the wind was down and we walked the beach up to the Fort and back.  Without sun, the winter beach is forbidding …

 DSCF3799…UNLESS you bring your own sunshine, which I did. Pat’s enthusiasm for all things beachy ..look a Pelican… is contagious ... Opps, that Jellyfish had a hard night…but even she needed a little warm soup, fortified with strong anti-inflammatories.


Even Sea Stars are cold.

There are, however, SOME dedicated naturalists who have the gumption to get up for the sunrise and the talent to capture it for the rest of us.  Thanks to our new friend Rhonda for sharing these images and a nice chat under the only palm tree on the "point".

Sunrise at Fort Pickens, Gulf Islands National Seashore, courtesy Rhonda Steele

Sea Turtles nest along here in the summer and the park is VERY serious about protecting them.


Recovery period, some disquieting medical news from home and a breakfast invitation from Maggie. 

Next morning was cloudy, drizzly and cold but breakfast in Maggie’s Airstream Interstate Motorhome was warm, welcoming and delicious. We traded tales until nearly two, then ventured forth to Peg Leg Pete’s for lunch and still more stories.


Sun is out ...time to move along

…is another favorite spot and a place we always enjoy.
We have four days here but it is beginning to look like we should return home after this.
Every few years the undergrowth in the Shady Pines  Loop gets a “controlled burn” which gives it the look of a Napalm drop zone.  It recovers quickly, and, with the help of really hard-working Volunteers, looks great by summer. 


 Fluffy Flamingo surveying the burn…

We renewed our friendship with Jack and Mary (12 year veteran camp hosts from Michigan), met Bob and Becky from the June Bug Journeys blog , found our friends Kent and Kathy nearby and trolled past several other Airstreams in the park. The stories were wonderful. Wayne told about building their log cabin from cedar trees growing on their land , Jack and Mary about raising seven, and Charlie came by briefly and told us he honeymooned in a bitterly cold duck blind. That’s his story and I doubt it could be topped.
Of course, the beach bunny had me out on LONG walks on the beach searching for the elusive porpoise pod.  We did find a cluster? congress? gaggle? of Brown Pelicans numbering nearly 100.  That was quite a show and quite a pleasure being old enough to see them come back so vigorously from the brink.


“Bay Day” at the St Joseph Bay State Buffer Preserve had exhibits, nature walks, good company and some seriously good shrimp boil with all the fixins. We joined an afternoon walk along water’s edge.  Picture two naturalists with a pile of nets, seines, and screens, an eclectic group of motivated learners including a couple energetic young boys who grabbed the waders and netted an impressive variety of specimens. We were joined by Jack Rudloe from the Gulf Specimen Marine Lab in Panacea who pitched in and answered all of our lingering questions.  If you want a hands on experience with marine creatures, we recommend a visit to his Lab; bring the kids.

Much as we were enjoying the company, the beach and the near freezing nights, we felt we needed to return home and look after our friend who had developed a fondness for falling down in the kitchen. The rains and clouds returned and we tracked North through the featureless Dead Lakes listening to folks mocking Brian Williams and the Alabama Supreme Court…
”It’s all good”