On January 11, we headed north and west out of rural Florida towards the Panhandle and the Gulf. Our day’s drive was sunny and uneventful ending with rewarding glimpses of fishing boats, sailboats and pelicans.
St. Andrews State Park stretches across a peninsula flanked by Grand Lagoon on one side and the Gulf of Mexico on the other. We arrived during a cold snap and the high winds and near freezing temperatures had campers wearing down coats, toques and gloves. The sites are well treed and carpeted in sand and pine needles. We were glad to have our large mat to keep from tracking too much dirt inside. With four feet and four paws, the motor home floor can get dirty fairly quickly. We faced the Lagoon and could see huge mansions and their personal yachts parked outside , a few sailboats were anchored just offshore, kayakers and various Marine boats from the Navy training Base passed regularly. Pelicans, Herons, Terns, Gulls, Ducks and Osprey went about their hunting and gliding, unaware of the campers below. The Tyndall Air Force Base is close so we often heard and watched the jets scream by. The park is also home to many deer that walk about the campsites and sand dunes, tame and unafraid of humans.
Within the park is Gator Lake, a refuge for water birds and alligators. A hiking trail follows the water to a few small ponds alive with brilliant green algae and small fish. It was too cold for the alligators to be out but we did enjoy watching the many Great Blue Herons on their small Rookery island.
The drawing on the sign is the only alligator we saw!
The small gray blobs are the herons on rookery island. We could see about twenty.
There are occassions, when I wish I had a long lens.
The park roads are great for biking and we road daily to the beach to walk its long shoreline. Various ships passed through the channel to and from the dockyards and the Gulf. There was always someone fishing along the rocky ledge and often scuba divers setting out to study the sea bottom. The high winds created a great surf and the yellow caution or red danger flags were always flying. Protected sand dunes frame the beach with piercing white sand and striking grasses. There is a natural sand wall along a good stretch of the beach loaded with shells and many folks dig for hours in search of a treasure. People also carve relief sculptures like dolphin and turtles into the densely packed sand.
The grass fronds paint delicate patterns in the sand as the wind whisks them back and forth.
We found a dog beach where Dixie enjoys the surf.
One gray morning, we were wakened by the haunting command of a fog horn. The homes across the lagoon were shrouded from view. Puddles from the night’s big rains revealed the only clear images in the fog. Eventually the sun ate up the fog and the beach and waves beckoned us again. We went out for our first seafood feast at Uncle Ernies (for those who do not know me well, Ernie was my Dad and seafood was his favourite) and sat looking out at the harbour. Our timing was perfect to catch the sunset and watch the deep blue of the sky and waters turn navy and twinkle with the lights of boats snug at the docks.
View from Uncle Ernie’s (Google shot)
Watching the progression of waves is hypnotic and relaxing. Waves are the quintessential balance of rhythm and power. One particularly blustery day, we walked out on a pier where the gigantic waves pounded the abutments and shook the entire structure. We looked down as the deep green waves rolled in, folded over and crashed against the pier, over and over and over again. Pure, Wave Therapy!
Words float atop each wave and smash poetry upon the beach….