Gulf Shores 20230108
While we were having breakfast we started researching options for our stay here. There are attractions worth checking out, and we will undoubtedly try a few. But we felt the need for outdoor activity, so we went to Gulf State Park and did some hiking on the trails there. I think we did about 3 miles, which was quite enough for us, so then we came back to the RV to rest. As I get older my body can do less, and takes longer to recover. I lay down for a 2 hour nap which I needed. By the end of the day I started to feel like I might be coming down with a cold, so early to bed was the solution.
Gulf Shores 20230109
I slept in late and took it easy all day. I still have a headache and back pain, though neither is extreme, thankfully.
Gulf Shores 20230110
I had a bad night, with the headache and back ache bothering me all night, my legs were cramping, and I managed to sweat until the sheets were wet. So it is another day of rest to try and beat this thing, whatever it is.
Gulf Shores 20230111
I did better last night and felt better in the morning. So after breakfast we did some shopping for RV supplies. Our fresh water supply equipment was displaying problems like leaking, so we got a new Fresh Water hose, another one as a backup, a Y-connector for the water supply, and a water pressure regulator. We did that quite expeditiously, then went in toward Mobile to see the USS Alabama, a World War II battleship. Many of the other battleships were eventually sold off for scrap, but in the 1960s some citizens of Alabama raised the money to bring the ship to Mobile Bay, where it now forms the core of a military museum. There is also a WWII submarine, the USS Drum, on display. They have other things as well, such as aircraft and armor, but battleship and submarine are the real attractions here. They have set them each up with self-guided tours that take you over most of each ship, and it does give you a little idea of what it is like to serve on these vessels. When we started planning this trip I was thinking mostly about the NASA facilities we would visit, but it has turned out to to be much more of a military history trip. But when you have attractions like National World War II museum and the USS Alabama, you really have to visit them. We practice a form of serendipitous travel, where we go someplace and then look around to see what they have to offer.
Gulf Shores 20230112
A bit of a rainy day, so we stayed in this time.
Travel day! We got a reasonably early start in Gulf Shores and took I-10 into the Florida Panhandle to get to our next park in Panacea, Florida. I started the day strong, and thought just maybe I had put that illness behind me, but by the time we got to Panacea I felt pretty crappy. So I got another night with a lot of sleep (12 hours). And it was cold all day. Above freezing, but not a lot above it it.
Still cold here, and probably will be for the next few days. That is too bad, because most of the things we want to do here are outdoor activities. I’m hoping it gets better in the next few days. But for today I am staying in.
I slept in and felt a little bad when I got up, so I stayed in for one more day. But we did go out to buy more propane and do the shopping, and I started to feel better. So I decided that I would just go to bed at my normal time (9:30 pm), and get up at my usual time (6:00 am) and get out tomorrow.
Happy MLK Day! I put my plan into action, got up at 6am, showered, and had breakfast. I still felt good. We reserved a boat ride for later in the week, and looked at some local hiking opportunities. We picked a hike in the St. Mark’s National Wildlife Refuge called the Otter Lake Loop Trail. About 4 miles long, and on a nice sunny day with blue skies it was just fine. I used a new app both to pick it out and to follow the trail, a paid app called AllTrails. It isn’t a cheap app, but I think it provides value for money. You can get all of the details in advance, such as length of hike, how difficult it is, how much elevation change you will experience, and read reviews and see photos from previous hikers. Best of all, it tracks your progress along the map of the trail, and sends an alert to your phone if you miss a turn. We got such an alert and had to backtrack about 40 meters when we missed our turn. I think this app is a keeper for me.
Today the weather is perfect for being outdoors, so we headed off to Bald Point State Park to do a little hiking. Many of the trees seemed to have blackened trunks, which I suspect means fire occured at some point. The Longleaf Pine trees domintate the landscape, but they seem to be mostly bare trunk with just a crown of needles at the top. The park has a river that empties into a lake, and we were mostly hiking around all of that water. We thought it might empty into the ocean, but it doesn’t seem to do so. I wanted to see the Gulf of Mexico, and this is our last stop along the Gulf shore, so when finished in the park we drove to a nearby public beach. The trees and driftwood had fantastic shapes, making this far different from the Atlantic coast of New England. One nice thing is that on this beach and on the trails we have been on, dogs on leash are welcome. You are of course expected to pick up after them.
Today we headed to Wakulla Springs State Park. A guy named Ed Ball bought up all this property and put a fence around it, which pissed off a lot of the locals. But then he sold it to the state, which turned it into a public park. It was only about 25 minutes away from our park, and there were several things that caught our eye. One was the boat ride on the Wakulla River, and Cheryl had bought our tickets and made our reservations several days back. The other thing was a hike to a sink hole. We started with the hike, which went through some different woods than what we saw at St. Mark’s and Bald Point. There seemed to be a lot of Southern Magnolia trees, for instance, and fewer of the Long Leaf Pine. And the lichen on the tree trunks was very striking, almost like someone with a paint brush had gone around slapping paint on the trunks.
At the end of the trail, we came to the Cherokee Sink, a sinkhole that is 75 feet deep, and we found some young folks swimming there. We walked around to take some pictures and enjoy the view. There are caves off of the sinkhole, and diving is permitted, though we didn’t see anyone diving. Interestingly, the brochure we got when we entered the park stated that swimming is *not* permitted in the sinkhole, though that did not deter the kids. After we finished here we walked back to the Lodge for our boat ride.
There is a major spring here, which feeds the Wakulla River, which flows into the St. Mark’s River, and then to the Gulf. Part of the river is off-limits as a wildlife refuge, but we went about a mile downriver and then back. We saw many birds, alligators, and so on. We learned that there are bald eagles in the park, but none on the river because the Ospreys drive them away. Eagles are much larger than Ospreys, but apparently the Ospreys are more aggressive. We did see one of the Ospreys perched on top of a tree in the middle of the river. The river was used for films, including the Tarzan films with Johnny Weismuller, and The Creature From the Black Lagoon. We did see one alligator with a bird in its mouth, and a group of young alligators resting not far from Mom.
We went for a walk just a few blocks from the park, first to a boat lunch into the bay, and then to the Gulf Specimen Marine Laboratory and Aquarium. They collect specimens of marine life and ship them to universities, aquariums, and laboratories all over. And they have their own little aquarium, where among other things they nurse injured animals. We saw a couple of sea turtles that are due to be released back into the wild next week, for example. Some of the aquarium tanks let you touch the marine life, which is big with the kids. But you get to be reasonably up close with the animals in any case. This is our last full day in Panacea, and it is interesting how we go into small, out-of-the way place, knowing nothing about it, and find fun things to do. This little aquarium was four blocks from our RV park, and we spent an hour and a half there quite happily. Plus, Cheryl found some earrings that she liked, of sea turtles.