Enjoying and NOT enjoying Gulf Shores, AL

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Brown Pelican

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While writing this post, violent thunderstorms were hammering us again – the worst either of us has ever seen.  We were right in the path as severe storms and even a few tornadoes moved through the area, and at one point there were reports of over 70,000 lightning strikes and 5 inches of rain being dumped per hour.  We had our slides in and did not sleep that night, as the sky looked like a flickering light bulb as lightning struck the ground all around us and the wind blasted for over 5 straight hours.  This was truly an epic weather event that broke all rainfall records for the area, and something we don’t care to experience ever again.  But we weren’t about to head north as originally planned, since tornadoes were occurring and predicted to continue in the Montgomery, AL area.  We thought it would be best to hunker down here, since only moderate storms were predicted, but when the weather spiraled out of control we weren’t so sure.  By the time the “experts” realized how bad it really was, the roads were impassible and we were stuck in the park.  Not a good feeling!

Gulf State Park

The calm before the storm?

Gulf State Park

Yep, looks like it!  The lake came to within about 5 feet of Betsy, and we were watching it all night.  Large areas of the park were flooded out, but fortunately we were on high enough ground.

We feel very lucky to have apparently come out of this with only one wet compartment, and both of us cranky after almost no sleep for 2 nights.  But our new friends Bob and Rox, whom we met through RVillage, were not so lucky.  Their 5th wheel was struck by lightning and suffered some damage.  They are both OK and in the process of having their rig fixed. We wish them and their doggies all the best!

Nature Center, Gulf State Park

The park’s amphitheater before the storm…

Nature Center, Gulf State Park

…and after the storm – we’ll pass on those front-row seats!

In between storms and while the sun shone brightly, we ventured out of Gulf State Park. There’s much to do in the Gulf Shores area, and the city seemed to be “party central” during spring break.  We obviously avoided those crazy kids – we never acted like that when we were their age 😉 – and went where they usually don’t.  Our main focus was on daily biking and walking, to burn off calories from the lumpia and bread we consumed.  And most importantly, we made the most of our last few days to walk on the beach, since there will be no more of those in sight as we head north.

The only “new” outdoor activity we did while here was a visit to Weeks Bay Pitcher Plant Bog.  This is a reserve where fascinating plants like the Gulf Coast Pitcher Plant thrive.  A bog is a unique habitat formed by a combination of water, soil and environmental conditions that are low in the nutrients needed for plant growth.  Because of these poor soil conditions, many of the bog plants have developed interesting and unusual ways of obtaining necessary nutrients.  Carnivorous plants like the Pitcher Plant, Sundew and Bladderworth obtain nutrients by capturing and “absorbing” insects – a fascinating adaptation!

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Heading out to find me a Pitcher Plant

Weeks Bay Pitcher Plant Bog

There are many wooden walkways at Pitcher Plant Bog

Walking along the extensive boardwalk, there were a few Pitcher Plants starting to bloom. The White-topped Pitcher Plant is considered a true beauty of the bog, and is rare in the sense that it occurs naturally only in a very restricted range between Apalachicola, Florida to near the Louisana state line.  Its tubular leaves are death traps for insects.  The other unusual plant here was the Purple Pitcher, locally known as “frog britches.”

The pitcher plant bog is a rare habitat, and many bog plants are habitat-specific.  That’s exactly why the Weeks Bay Reserve exists – to preserve the habitat for future generations.

Pitcher Plants

Pitcher Plants

We also revisited the Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge, Alabama’s last remaining undisturbed coastal barrier habitat.  Like last year, we didn’t see anything spectacular except that it remains a natural oasis of wildlands where wildlife can exist without harm. The name Bon Secour comes from the French meaning “safe harbor”, which is exactly what it is for the plants and animals here.  And, it’s a great place to walk several miles without encountering many other people.  Oh, and it’s free!

Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge

Little Lagoon, Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge

Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge

Pine Beach Trail

The refuge consists of approximately 7,000 acres of coastal lands, ranging from constantly-changing dunes to rolling pine-oak woodlands.  We followed the 4-mile long Pine Beach Trail, which starts in a maritime forest, then we continued on to a pristine beach.

We were bummed that we couldn’t take the 2-mile Centennial Trail, which would have connected us to the Jeff Friend Trail and added some distance to our walk.  It was flooded from an earlier storm, so we turned around and drove to the trailhead at the other end and walked the 1-mile loop from there.  That gave us another nice view of Little Lagoon.

Jeff Friend Trail

Taking a break on the Jeff Friend Trail

Finally, we took our last walk along the ocean, knowing we won’t be seeing any more of these sugary-white sand beaches for many months to come.

Gulf State Park Beach

Under the Gulf State Park Pier

Gulf State Park Pier

Gulf State Park Pier

Gulf State Park Beach

Rough seas on the day before the big storm

Gulf State Park

Goodbye, Gulf Shores!

With that we bid our final farewell to Gulf Shores, Alabama.  It was an interesting stay!

 

Next up:  How do you catch a snake?  A GBH knows how!



48 thoughts on “Enjoying and NOT enjoying Gulf Shores, AL

  1. Those before and after shots are insane. Nature does work in mysterious ways. And whoa to your adventurous spirits, you two still managed to get the best out of nature. Those are some interesting, unique looking flowers!!!

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  2. Your next stop – I love Noccalulu Falls in Gadsden. It is not too far from Top of the River restaurant. It is the place to eat for fish. Really glad you two are safe. An RV is not the place to be in a storm – you are true survivors.

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    • Until we are out of the tornado alley, we will still be constantly on guard.

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  3. Looks like you enjoyed one of our spring thunderstorms. One of the things I don’t miss about the south 🙂 You asked about what to do in Birmingham….Well having lived there for 15 years I can honestly say Not Much. Mostly I worked 70-90 hours a week. You will want to see the Vulcan – largest cast iron statue in the world, the Boy Scouts of America’s copy of the Statue of Liberty. In Five Points South (near the Vulcan) eat at Surin West for Asian food. We loved Oak Mountain State Park near Pelham – it is rustic and there are many hiking trails and two lakes plus a historical demonstration area. Tannehill State Park is another large park with lots to do. There’s also the Civil Rights Institute and the McWane Science Center (lots of kids). The South is into chain restaurants so you won’t find many unique restaurants. Glad you two survived the winds of hell…

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  4. I’d been wondering if you experienced any storms. Five hours of thunderstorms, being from Florida I know how severe that is. The lightning around your rig sounds so scary, very glad that you’re safe and sound. Beautiful flowers, and you are wise to keep a close eye on weather this summer.
    Stay safe,
    Brenda

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  5. Hi mona! Thank u so much for that surprise video bday greetings! Best regards

    Sent from my iPhone

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  6. How frightening for you! We endured a micro burst in our trailer with lightning all around. One feels very vulnerable in an RV! Please don’t head up into tornado alley! Come to AZ the weather is good here! Love your flower pics. ❤

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    • In time we will be back in AZ, For now we will be weather channel junkies. Our storm was for the record book, scary but happy we were unharmed.

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  7. Wow! That is some nasty flooding. So glad you included before and after photos. I am sure you were shaking in your boots as that water rose. So very glad that you came through it without harm:)

    I love the flowers! What neat looking blossoms and beautiful colors!

    Mona, you are too cute in those three photos!

    Your final photo is so adorable. Clever idea:)

    Hope you have seen the last of the nasty weather.

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    • Pam, that was nasty and frightening and we hoped the worst of it is behind us. My idle snapping was put to use, for a before and after 🙂 And thank you, as Steve would say I’m too much of a ham, then roll his eyes. Ha ha .

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  8. WOW, that weather can really be scary. We went through a LOT of in from Jan ’13 to June ’13 starting with Tornadoes in Mobile (50 miles from us) and then floods and high winds in MO in the spring. Not planning to be in the tornado belt that time of year anymore!!! Good to hear you had no damage or injuries.

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    • Really scary and the weather people labelled it as historic. We do not want to be in any historic storm but we continue on heading north. We will not back in this area anyway, Whew!

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  9. We all certainly view storms differently since moving into “mobile” homes, don’t we? We are so happy to hear that you both are safe and no damage was done to Betsy. Hopefully it will be smooth sailing from here!

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    • LuAnn, we will be more vigilant this year as this could be a weird summer following that unusual winter. That storm was by far the worst we had ever been and happy that we came out unscathed.

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      • We were very worried for the two of you and so happy the most serious storms weren’t in your direct path. Oklahoma is where we experienced three earthquakes, tornado warnings, flash floods and hail all within a three day period. If it wasn’t for Terry having kids in that state, I would not care to set foot in it I’m afraid.

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        • Thanks LuAnn, and I would be scared like you if I experienced those bad weather in OK. Will find a way to just touch and go when we will be in that area and not linger.

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  10. That was quite the storm you guys endured. Glad to hear all’s well. Aren’t those Pitcher Plants something? Seeing them at Weeks Bay was our first experience with these plants and we found them fascinating. We didn’t see much at Bon Secour either, but we enjoyed the walk anyway.

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    • Erin, that storm was for the record book and we don’t want to a part of any ever if we could. Yup those pitcher plants were interesting and glad we went there before the storm.

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    • Thanks Sheila, we learned that the southeast in spring is really not a good place to hang out.

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  11. Was watching the news and thinking of you two. So glad you are ok.
    I really like the Sundew plants as I use to grow these in our S&B because they did such a great job of attracting and killing all the really small nats that could get in even through the screens.

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    • Thanks, we were also following the storm on weather channel, scary stuff and we don’t want to be in it. I just wished those carnivorous plants grow in FL or AL, gnats and nooseum would be wiped out for good.

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  12. That water level frightens me a tad… but your flower photos are out of this world… beautiful…

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    • Thank you Bulldog. That night we were watching intently the weather channel and the lake behind us.

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  13. Winds and lightening can be very scary! Get some rest. Love the bog photos, another place to add to my growing list for next year!

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    • Cheryl, usually thunderstorms are usually done in a couple of hours, but that one lasted for five long frightening hours. Now we know the southeast is not a good area for springtime.

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  14. That was such a scary storm! So glad to know that you two are safe. I love your photos of the pitcher plants — they are spectacular! We didn’t see either the purple or the white on our pitcher plant adventure in Apalachicola, so the Week’s Bay Preserve is definitely going on our “must see” list. Wishing you good weather and safe travels as you head north. (By the way, do you take any special precautions during a lightning storm? We unplug our computers.)

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    • Oh yes Laurel, glad that you are already out west. Your parents must have mentioned to you this storm for the Gulf Coast and the Panhandle were slammed big time. The weather heads were labeling it as historic storm for it broke all records. We forgot about unplugging the computers but I had mine off:( We were both watching the weather channel as the storm unfolded and getting updates from our phones.

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  15. I added the Bog to our list when we get down there this fall.

    We are so happy you too are safe. We have been watching the weather on TV and it looks awful! So sorry to hear about your friends. We are keeping everyone in the path of those storms in our prayers.

    The last photo is so cute. Good idea.

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    • Thank you Marsha, your prayers must have been heard, we just had a wet compartment. It was awful and very frightening especially for us who are not used to these kind of storm and record breaking as such. Fortunately we have no plans of coming this way again, that was it.

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  16. Wow, that’s some wild weather! Glad you made it through unharmed. Very pretty place, I’ll have to get to that area sometime. Thanks!

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    • Bob, wild and scary indeed. Don’t come here during springtime, for it is also tornado time.

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  17. Steve, we have had to suffer through some weather, also. Today will be the third day over 90 degrees here!!! We should return to our normal mid-70’s tomorrow. Stay safe!   Mike

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    • Mike we are watching your weather too and we will take that over what we have here.

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  18. I’m just amazed at how crazy and scary that storm was. Sure hope the worst has passed and you enjoy some better weather going north.
    Nina

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    • Nina, that was a storm event we don’t want to ever experience again. Luckily we won’t back in this area.

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  19. Wow! Sleepless nights, indeed! So glad you got through the storm without harm or damage to your rig. Your pictures are amazing. And your walks look beautiful. Safe travels.

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    • Thank you Linda, I had some video clips on the storm and Steve does not want to see nor hear it. It was bad reminder of a scary sleepless night.

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  20. What an incredibly scary experience! It’s hard to fathom what you must have been feeling as the storm raged around you. Can’t even imagine being struck by lightning!

    Those purple pitcher plants are unique and beautiful!

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    • Lisa, now you and Hans have all the reasons of not coming this way, tornadoes and thunderstorms.

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    • Thanks Rick and Joanne. We will try to stay out of these scary storm systems, if we could.

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