Wrapping up our winter sojourn in Florida

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Navarre Beach

From the pure solitude and remoteness of Ochlockonee River SP, we drifted back toward civilization.  Our last two weeks in Florida had been a mix of touristy activities, hiking, canoeing and family visits, complemented by a variety of weather ranging from sunny skies to thunderstorms with pouring rain.  That’s Florida for you!

Destin, Florida

Navarre Beach Campground

I hope Steve doesn’t get sunburned!

Along the Florida panhandle is a 24-mile stretch of sugary white sand and emerald waters facing the Gulf of Mexico.  The sand was created of pure Appalachian quartz, giving the water its trademark emerald green color as it reflects sunlight, hence the moniker Emerald Coast.  Had we stopped at this stretch of beach last year, it would have easily made our list of favorites.  But alas, we drove right by it on our way toward Perdido Key.  We’re glad we took the opportunity to check out this beautiful area between Pensacola and Destin this time through.

Navarre Beach

The gorgeous Navarre Beach

It was at the Harbor Village in Destin that Steve saw a water activity that really got his attention.  I knew that look in his eyes when he realized they were renting water jetpacks here – he HAD to try it.  So he signed up for the mid-level “flight” experience, and off we went on their boat to the training area.

There’s only so much you can learn in 30 minutes, but after a couple of “crash and burns” into the water as he figured out how to balance and turn correctly, he was up and flying along.  The photo below shows him “walking on water”, which he got pretty good at.  He also did the “submarine” several times, which is where you dive under water and then the jetpack pops you back up in the air when you surface.  Although the jetpack will levitate folks up to 30 feet in the air, he was limited to only about 5 feet during his first lesson.  You can probably tell he enjoyed it!

JetPack, Destin

JetPack, Destin

Here's how the pros do it!

Steve’s instructor flying high – here’s how the pros do it!

On one of the cooler days when we couldn’t hang out at the beach, we drove along the far-western Florida coast from Destin to Pensacola.  On this drive I enjoyed all of the colorful water towers…

…and these strange little rental homes along the beach:

Our final Florida home base, and the only other state park for which we were able to get a reservation, was Blackwater River State Park (Steve’s review is here).  Like Ochlockonee River SP, we camped under a canopy of longleaf pines in a very spacious site.  But unlike Ochlockonee, our solitude here was unfortunately interrupted by heavy helicopter traffic during the day on several weekdays.  We later learned that the helicopters were from a nearby military base and were doing training exercises in the area.  Bummer!

Site 26, Blackwater River State Park

Site #26 at Blackwater River State Park

The dark tannic water that gives the river its name is a sharp contrast to its sandy bottom, white beaches and large sandbars.  This was very evident as we leisurely paddled and floated along one day in a rented canoe.  The snow white sand bars here are very similar in appearance to the white beaches of the Emerald Coast.  We learned that Blackwater River is the only sand-bottomed river left in the United States, and it averages only 2.5 feet in depth.  Too shallow for boats, but perfect for canoes and kayaks!

We were happy that our longest hike in Florida finally happened here.  Our GPS showed that we covered 12 miles, and there were some elevation changes that gave us more of a challenge.  We encountered three snakes on this trail, but not much other wildlife.

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Finally some hills – we’re going to feel that in the morning!

This guy got our attention!

This guy got our attention!

Winter wrap up –

Well, four months of exploring and wintering in Florida zoomed by quickly.  We discovered that the state has much more to offer than we had imagined.  So many things we discovered – the beaches, fresh-squeezed juice, thousands of birds and other critters, the Everglades and the Keys – did not fail to impress us.  But what was more impressive was experiencing the “Real Florida”, which we were previously oblivious to. Our exposure to wildlife and enjoyment of the havens of beauty at the preserves, refuges, pristine rivers and springs were amazing and unforgettable.  And most importantly to me, the birding experience was superb!

This map shows our coverage of Florida during our 4-month stay here.  We ran up just over 1,500 miles during our 12 stops, and feel like we covered most of the state fairly well.

Meeting new friends and reconnecting with old ones put the icing on the cake, and completed the whole experience for us.

What we won’t miss are the humidity and the “no-see-um” bugs that bit us and made my life miserable for several days – apparently I’m allergic to them.

Blackwater River

Our last pose in Florida at a beach on the Blackwater River

Well, that wraps up our winter in Florida.  We hope you enjoyed riding along, and that our stories gave you a few ideas in case you come this way someday.

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…and hello Alabama!

 

Next up:  A detour back to one of our favorite places so far – Dauphin Island, AL


Our “alone time” at Homosassa Springs, FL

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Pink Flamingo

Real floridaIn our lifestyle, “alone time” is occasionally required (my fellow full-timers know exactly what I’m talking about).  Most people would otherwise end up at each other’s throats after hanging out together 24/7.  Although Steve and I do get along very well, we make sure to enjoy some alone time, even if it just means Steve running off to the store for a bit or me doing laundry by myself.  Sometimes I can hardly wait to do the laundry!

I had some real quality alone time when Steve stayed at home to work on Betsy while I went off to Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park, which was advertised as a showcase of Florida wildlife.  I was not disappointed, and I think Steve wished he had gone along when he saw the pictures of gorgeous wildlife I took there.  But of course he wouldn’t admit it!

There are two ways to visit this park, one by tram and the other on a pontoon boat along Pepper Creek.  I chose a 20-minute ride on the pontoon boat and gave my camera a real workout.

Pepper Creek,Homosassa Springs

During the trip our guide narrated the history of Homosassa Springs, its beginnings and the importance of the spring.  At the same time, he pointed out the many colorful wood ducks swimming alongside us.

Wood Duck

First a brief history of the park.  In the 1920’s, a train stopped at the springs to allow passengers a close look at the crystal clear 55-foot deep springs that form the headwaters of the Homosassa River.  In later years a zoo-like park of exotic animals  was built.  The ownership of the springs area changed many times since 1940 due to economic hard times and recession.  Then on January 1, 1989, the attraction officially became the Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park, owned by the State of Florida and managed by the Department of Environmental Protection.

Homosassa River

All exotic animals and non-native plants were removed in order to restore the park to the “Real Florida” – except for one.  If not for hundreds of school children protesting the removal of Lucifer the Hippo, the last exotic animal would have been gone.  “Luc”, who remains in the wildlife park from the attraction days, has received an honorary citizenship by declaration of late Florida Governor Lawton Chiles.

After the boat ride I immediately went to the centerpiece of the park, a freshwater spring which produces millions of gallons of fresh, crystal-clear water every hour. This spring outflow actually creates the Homosassa River.  The spring and headwaters of the Homosassa River is the only known place in the world where thousands of fresh and saltwater fish congregate.  These fish are free to come and go to the Gulf of Mexico, nine miles downriver.

Homossasa Springs

Fish Bowl floating and underwater observatory directly over the spring

At the Fish Bowl floating and underwater observatory, I saw literally thousands of fish from above the lookout and then below the surface in the clear spring environment. Unfortunately, the park’s resident manatees were not present while I was there.

And that was just the beginning!  I followed the elevated boardwalk while taking the Wildlife Walk.  The 210-acre park is home to native Florida wildlife, and I got to see them all in their natural setting.

Strolling on the boardwalk, I had a front-row view of Florida’s wildlife, including a bear, bobcats, Key deer, alligators, a wide variety of wading birds, birds of prey and some beautiful Flamingos.  Although I always prefer to see these animals in the wild, it looks like this is the best I’ll be able to do for some of them.

Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park

Bird paradise!

Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park

Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park

Flamingo

Some of the birds here were injured and can not be returned to the wild.  I feel very fortunate to have been in Florida’s wilderness (refuges/ preserves/national parks) and exposed to many of these birds – although some at a great distance.  On this day I got quite excited as I had an up-close view of some endangered and threatened species. Since Steve was not there to whisper in my ear about taking so many pictures, I snapped away to my heart’s content.  Click on each image to get a bigger and better look.

After almost overheating my camera, I sat down and listened to the Flamingos honking in unison, while also enjoying the sound of the Whistling Ducks at the nearby Shore Bird Aviary.  I thought all ducks quacked until I met these guys.

I had a wonderful day at this park and went home whistling like a duck!  I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys wildlife and is in this area. It’s worth every penny of the $13 entry fee.

On my drive home I caught a glimpse of this sign – do people really have to be told how to use parking spaces?  Hmmm..I wonder if it’s meant for locals or tourists?

Parking notice

Back at home, Steve was also smiling and looking contented. He had completed a few of his Betsy to-do’s.  He even commented about how relaxing it is to do his work while the “supervisor” is away.

He had installed these nifty door locks for our new residential refrigerator, to keep the doors closed while we travel.  They can be “disabled” once we are parked, and they actually look kind of cool.  They’re designed to keep children out of the refrigerator, but work perfectly for our purpose.  Only about $5 each at Toys-R-Us, not bad!

Refrigerator locks

Cheap but effective refrigerator locks

He also took our noisy fireplace back apart for the second time to clean and lubricate the motor again.  It runs quiet for a while each time he does this, but we’re going to replace the motor next time it gets noisy.  Steve’s become quite an expert with electric fireplaces, so at least we’ve been able to save money on labor – and he loves taking things apart.  I love it when he puts them back together!

Motorhome Fireplace

The guts of an electric fireplace

We enjoy our alone times such as this.  How about you, are you getting enough alone time?

Next up:  Rare Species and New Friends

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A birthday celebration with Gators and Birds – Shark Valley, Everglades

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Our January stay at Bonita Springs went by too quickly.  The next thing we knew the slides were coming in and the jacks were coming up, and off we went.  On the move again, we headed even further south to “The Glades”, the Everglades that is.  Shark Valley lies in the heart of the “True Everglades”, or river of grass, that stretches 100 miles from Lake Okeechobee to the Gulf of Mexico.  We were told that bicycling is a wonderful way to view the Everglades at our own pace.  And there is no better place to bike than at Shark Valley, which is part of Everglades National Park.

Bicycling at Shark Valley

The level, paved 15-mile path makes for easy riding – just watch out for the alligators!

Since wildlife abounds here, I thought it would be a great way to spend my birthday.  So we loaded up the bikes and headed out to Shark Valley bright and early, knowing it would be a hot day.  The 15-mile paved road was completely level and gave us a perfect opportunity to enjoy the wildlife.  I was excited to find out which animals or birds would turn out to greet me and wish me a happy birthday!

Alligator at Shark  Valley

You silly girl, stay away from me!

Great Egret

Take your picture before I fly away – Great Egret

American Alligator

Happy birthday, now get away from me

Ok, you won’t see any sharks here and I was not expecting to.  Shark Valley is in a very wide, very gradual, low-lying valley.  The shark reference comes from the Shark River. The mouth of this river is at the Gulf of Mexico, and the Shark River Slough is the main source of fresh water for this part of the Everglades.  If you were to venture along the river far enough toward the gulf, you would indeed encounter sharks – they just never make it up to the Everglades.  Instead, the alligators bask in the sun along the river, or at the bicycle parking, or near photographers.

Shark Valley, Everglades

Shark Valley Bicycling

Several fat alligators in the background – why are there lots of bikes but no people around?  Hmmm…

An observation tower at the halfway point provided panoramic views and we enjoyed the tranquil vistas of the Everglades, extending outward 20 miles in all directions.

Shark Valley, Everglades

The Everglades all the way to the horizon – it has its own kind of beauty

Along the route we met several trams – another way to enjoy the area.  The tram tour offers a two-hour open air guided commentary, and sightings from experts which gives folks the Everglades experience.

Shark Valley Tram Tour

Tramming it through the Everglades

Several wood storks can be seen along the route. These birds are listed as an endangered species, as its decline is the result of vast environmental threats that exist in the area.  The human disruption of the water cycles affects the crucial feeding and nesting conditions for wildlife.  When human water management upsets the natural wetlands cycles, wood storks fail to nest successfully.  There were 5000 nesting wood storks in the ’60’s, now only 500 remain.

Wood Storks

Wood storks hanging out

Some flowers thrive in these watery environments:

Besides the many alligators lining up along the trail to greet me, other wildlife also came out to say hello.

It took us about three hours to complete the loop as we made many stops to look around, and of course I took dozens of pictures of, you guessed it….birds!  And nature’s best birthday gift was the presence of the various species of Herons.  I could not have asked for more!

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

For those of you planning to come this way, be sure to stop by Shark Valley.  It’s a wonderful place to enjoy the Everglades and view wildlife in their natural habitat – this is not a zoo!

And to cap a wonderful day with nature, my niece Lea E. took us out for a fabulous dinner at Red Fish Grill Seafood Restaurant.  It was located inside Matheson Hammock Park, right on the coast.  With a unique setting amongst the coconut trees, it was a perfect ending to a perfect birthday.

Happy Birthday,MonaLiza

Thank you Lea E, for treating the birthday girl to a wonderful dinner!

The Lowe's RV Adventure

Such a happy birthday it was!

Next up:  More fun in the Everglades!

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Tis the season…

Comments 16 Standard

…Tis the season to be jolly, 
Fa la la la la, la la la la… 

The Lowes RV Adventures pauses this holiday to wish you…

– our family, friends, fellow bloggers and followers who have been “jamming on down the road” with us –

…a season that begins with happiness and ends with some wonderful memories!

The Lowes RV Adventures


Coming up (as soon as I catch my breath):

Kennedy Space Center, San Juan PR, our Southern Caribbean cruise – and more!

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Hanging out in Lake Monroe, FL

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Ibises

We usually don’t make RV park reservations six months in advance, for doing so can mess up our flexibility (we call it “jello planning”) as we travel along.  But we were forewarned that snow birders from the northeast flock to Florida during the winter and parks fill up fast.  Now, six months later, we arrived at Lake Monroe, Florida for a month’s stay at Town And Country RV Resort.

Town and Country RV Resort

Even the golf carts are in the holiday spirit

We learned long ago not to be fooled by the “resort” designation, as it is often misused to make a park or campground sound like what it isn’t.  We chose this park for its proximity to Orlando Int’l Airport, from which we’ll be departing for our vacation.

Town and Country RV Resort

This place is not exactly the stuff you write home about.  In fact, the campground has been sold to a developer and in its place will be homes which will be constructed next year.  No wonder the park is not crowded; on the contrary we’ve seen several of the “perms” packing and moving elsewhere.  We feel bad for them, as many of them live in structures that cannot be moved and will have to start over.  But to our advantage there are fewer campers, no crowds, less noise and spacious surroundings.  We’ve kept ourselves busy – I with my household chores and reading, while Steve does maintenance and minor repairs.

We have a great site, an end spot under a huge oak tree with a canal view 🙂 (site #9).  The local “feathered residents” are so welcoming as they check us out daily – early in the morning, around noon and again in the early evening – showing off their plumage.

As you may know, Florida is teeming with birds and I don’t have to walk far from our site to observe these waterfowl quarry for food in the canal next to our site.

The weather here during the past week has been astounding – 80’s during the day and mid-60’s at night – as we leave our windows open while we sleep.  This, while most of the nation is suffering such a cold snap.  We almost feel guilty!  Our friend Marcy advised us that a “National Hate Florida Day” has been designated because of our fantastic weather break.

Lake Monroe Conservation Area

For our exercise, we drove to the nearby Lake Monroe Wildlife Conservation Area to tackle their yellow, red and blue blaze trails.  We went there twice and never encountered another human during our long walks (although we did chat with several cows).  Is that cool or what!

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Gee, hope I don’t get a sunburn!

Lake Monroe Conservation Area

They must think we’re trespassing – we’ll just keep mooooving!

Sandhill Cranes

Lake Monroe Conservation Area

Ground Spider

~Thousands of these spider webs were all over
the dew-covered fields when we arrived.

The city of Sanford was only 10 miles away, so on another day we loaded up the bikes after deciding to ride along their “Riverwalk” – thinking it would be a nice a long path.  Well, it was actually quite short, but we enjoyed riding its length several times while checking out the abundant waterfowl that seemed quite comfortable in this urban setting.

Riverwalk, Sanford Florida

Wow, it’s really warm out here today!

Riverwalk, Sanford Florida

This woman is in “bird heaven”

Armed with a tip from Steve’s barber, we took another trip to a more promising bike path at Big Tree Park, which follows the Cross Seminole Trail.  Before our ride, we walked down the park’s boardwalk to see “The Senator”, an approximately 3,500 year old Bald Cypress Tree that was lost to an arson fire in January of 2012.  Steve angrily commented that he hoped whoever did that would himself burn when the time came.

About 40′ feet away is the Senator’s sister tree – “Lady Liberty” – another Bald Cypress Tree estimated at approximately 2,000 years old.

The Cross Seminole Trail was not one of our favorites, because a large section of it ran through residential areas and paralleled a heavy traffic road.  But part of it was nice as it passed through 3 miles of Big Tree Park and over U.S. Highway17/92 via a large overpass.  The signage was a bit confusing and we ended up stopping after 10 miles.

I know it seems like we are running around all the time, but yes we do take a break now and then to just sit around or read while waiting for our feathered friends to come and visit us.

Town and Country RV Park

Our afternoons at the site.  Did I mention how warm it is here?

I still have a post to write about our exciting visit to the Kennedy Space Center, but I’m running out of time.  By the time you read this Steve and I will be on our way to San Juan, Puerto Rico to hang out for a few days before hopping on a Royal Caribbean liner for a seven-day cruise in the southern Caribbean.  Steve calls this “a vacation from our vacation”, for he will not have to drive Betsy during this trip.  We’ll be back a few days before Christmas – happy holidays to all of you!

Lastly, just for laughs this holiday season, somebody does not know their spanish…

Funny Sign

Next up:  Touring the Kennedy Space Center, FL

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Finally, sunshine in the sunshine state, Florida

Comments 21 Standard
Fuente de los Canos de San Francisco

An obvious perk of being able to take your home with you is the ability to move away from any place that is icy, snowy or just plain cold.  During the past few months we’ve been hanging around the beaches of the Carolinas and Georgia as we headed south.  And just like the Canadian geese, we’ve migrated toward warmer weather and lots of sunshine.

Canadian Geese

Hey down there – follow us!

And where could that be?

Welcome sign, Florida State

We’ve arrived at our winter destination – the sunshine state of Florida – where we’ll be wandering around for the next four months. This will be the first time we’ll stay in an RV park for a whole month.  Our plan is to slow down and move around this big state, beginning in eastern Florida near Orlando for December.  We’ll spend January with friends in Bonita Springs on the gulf coast.  In February we’ll stop for a week each in the Miami Everglades, Key West and Ft. Lauderdale.  Finally, in March we’ll head back west and cruise up along the panhandle.   At least that’s the plan at the moment, no telling if or how it might change along the way.

We spent Thanksgiving weekend at St. Augustine, which of course can be a crazy time to be anywhere.  With a cold snap lingering and the weather being crappy, we thought folks might just stay home to watch tv or something.  Wrong!  The shopping crowd was out in full force when we arrived at the historic downtown.  The cold and wind didn’t stop these crazy shoppers from enjoying the holiday spirit.  Oh wait, we were there – does that make us crazy too?

Downtown St Augustine

St. George Street , old St. Augustine

We joined the crowd, doing a little shopping and wandering around the old streets.  But only after filling our tummies for the first time with a delicious and authentic Cuban lunch and a glass of sangria.  Yum!

Since we were in an urban setting, I had to settle for people watching instead of bird watching, as we enjoyed our sangria.

St George St. Old St Augustine

Next we took our own walking tour of the “oldest city”.  The city of St. Augustine is the nation’s oldest permanently occupied European settlement, having been founded by the Spanish in 1565.  We didn’t delve too much into the city’s history, instead we chose to simply enjoy the feel of the history by strolling the narrow old-world streets.

Old City Gate, St Augustine

These gates were once the only entrance into St. Augustine.  They were built in 1808 as a line of defense, in conjunction with a wall that surrounded the city.

Alcazar Hotel ça 1888, Lightner Museum

Lightner Museum, formerly the Alcazar Hotel (ca 1888)

Even if history was not our center of interest this time, we couldn’t help but appreciate the rich heritage that makes St. Augustine a unique city.  Strolling along the narrow streets, we noticed that the street patterns and architectural ambiance reflected Spanish origins.

Aviles St, St Augustine

The oldest street in St. Augustine, Aviles Street

Historic Flagler College

Historic Flagler College, formerly the Hotel Ponce De Leon

Fuente de los Canos de San Francisco

A reproduction of Fuente de los Canos de San Francisco, created in City of Aviles, Spain

The following evening we headed back to the city, as St. Augustine was said to glow at night with holiday magic – from the ground to the rooftops.  The town boasted being selected by National Geographic in 2011 & 2012 as one of the ten best holiday lighting displays in the world.  The Nights of Lights features millions of tiny white and colored lights that create a magical atmosphere in the old city.

Night of Lights

Steve shows off his cool Holospex shades

Donning the Holospex glasses provided by Holly Jolly Tours, we saw the city sparkle to life as all of those lights were transformed by the glasses into snowflake shapes.  We have to say this was a pretty cool tour and a good way to get into the holiday spirit, as the trolley cruised around town blaring classic Christmas tunes for everyone on the streets to hear.

Night of Lights, St Augustine, FL

Regular lights sparkle and glitter like snowflakes when viewed through the Holospex glasses

We joined in the revelry, yelling Christmas greetings to passersby and singing Christmas carols as we toured around town – and we were sober!  We were glad the forecasted rain did not materialize to dampen our holiday spirit.  Hopping off the trolley tour, we were greeted by folks who served us hot apple cider and cookies – yum, again.  We continued walking on our own, admiring the millions of lights that transformed downtown St. Augustine into a holiday wonderland.

Night of Lights, Plaza de la Constitucion

Night at the Plaza de la Constitucion

We enjoyed a fun holiday stop at St. Augustine.  Now, back to our hideaway to live a quieter life with wildlife as our main entertainment.

Next up:  Lake Monroe, FL and a vacation from our vacation!

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Even more things to do at Perdido Key, FL

Comments 20 Standard

We were surprised to learn how many things there are to do here at this barrier island, Perdido Key, FL.  More than 60% of it’s 16 miles is set aside as protected land and off limits to development, making it one of the last remaining unblemished stretches of wilderness in the Florida panhandle.  This means opportunities for outdoor fun are plentiful.  Aside from boasting some of the purest, whitest sand anywhere in Florida, they also lay claim to some of the best trails and parks around.  Naturally, we were excited to do some exploring.  The Key is truly off the beaten path, for there were no crowds at any of the places we checked out – even though spring break was still in full force!

Perdido Key

Perdido Key, with the marker indicating location of Perdido Cove RV Resort

Although the first few days were very chilly and breezy, I braved the weather to visit the Big Lagoon State Park, a five minute drive from where we stayed.  It’s located along the Intercoastal Waterway and offers narrow beaches, shallow bays, open woodlands and lots of recreation activities.  There are only two trails to follow, one being the 3.5 mile long Sand Pine Trail which is mostly sand-based with some grasses.  The other is the Estuary Trail, 2 miles long and also sand based with boardwalk portions.  This park is also a gateway site to the Great Florida Birding Trail 🙂  If you like birds, click here to see my Florida bird shot collection.

Big Lagoon State Park

Boardwalk to the pavilion on the Estuary Trail

I climbed the 3-story observation tower located along the east beach and was wowed by views of the park, Gulf Islands National Seashore and Perdido Key.

Big Lagoon State Park

Panoramic view of Perdido Key from the observation tower

Gulf Islands National Seashore

Gulf Islands National Seashore

After several days we finally awoke to warm and sunny skies, yeah!  So, off for another nature trek, this time to Tarkiln Bayou Preserve State Park , also a five minute drive from our park.  This preserve offers three hiking trails with wildlife viewing.  Wish we had seen some!  But the trails were beautiful and we didn’t see another human until almost the end of our walks.

The Tarklin Bayou Trail is 1.3 miles (round trip) on an elevated boardwalk that meanders through prairie, cypress and titi forests and ends at an observation area that provides a scenic view of the bayou.  It’s a nice place to stop for a private lunch!

The 7 mile Perdido Trail winds through pine and mixed hardwood.  It crosses seepage streams and some muddy areas, but we managed to cross them without getting muddied up.  On this trail beautiful butterflies were encircling us and I managed to get one good shot.

Lastly, the Wet Prairie Trail is 2.5 miles long and as the name suggests it winds through a wet prairie ecosystem.  It was the most difficult to walk, with a fairly long section of bumpy, moist soil that could use some improvement.

Perdido Key is also one of the six Principal Islands that make up the Gulf Islands National Seashore.  It makes this place very attractive as an active destination.  Our last few days here were spent, where else, on the beach!  Rosamond Johnson Beach is part of the Gulf Islands National Seashore and is considered among the whitest, most beautiful sand beaches in America.  Whether that’s true or not, we thoroughly enjoyed our days at the beach.  The $8 admission fee at Gulf Islands National Seashore was good for 7 days, and we made use of it.  If you go here, be sure to buy the pass as soon as you arrive so you can, too.

Bottle Nose Dolphins

~Bottle Nose Dolphins cruising along the water

Boiled Peanuts

Cajun spiced boiled peanuts

wpid11641-2013-03-29-FL-1370587.jpgFlorida and fresh fish are synonymous, of course.  The sight of a huge array of seafood at Joe Patti’s Seafood Market – not your average seafood market – prompted us to buy a lot more than we should have.   Thanks Erin, we were so delighted with your suggestion to go there.  To end that trip, we stopped at one of the roadside vendors to buy boiled peanuts.  We got both the regular and cajun spiced, and couldn’t wait to get home to gobble them up with a nice cold beer.  Yum!

I also spent a day with my cousin Annie and her husband JD, who graciously gave me a tour around ValParaiso, Eglin AFB, and Destin, including a delicious lunch at a Filipino Restaurant. I had a great time, thanks so much.

Cousin Annie and I

Good times with my cousin, Annie (left)

We were forewarned about some of the pricey RV parks in Florida, so the cost to stay at Perdido Cove RV Resort and Marina was not a surprise.  We liked the park because of its proximity to the things we wanted to do, and we also enjoyed the diverse sights and sounds that we experienced.  Small and large boats/yachts, barges and canoes, dolphins cruised by, and the Pelicans gave it just the right feel.  But it was also under an approach to the naval base, with LOUD jets coming in often.   Click here to read Steve’s park review, if you’re interested.

Perdido Cove RV Resort

Perdido Cove RV Resort

What a busy week we had, it was our last time at the beach for several months.

Finally, a sunset taken from Big Lagoon.

Big Lagoon

Next up:  Our first US Army COE campsite – loving it!

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