So when we last left off on our fall Florida adventure we were camped out in High Springs, Florida blogging and beer sampling at the High Springs Brewery. You know one of our travel goals is to magically find the nearest brewery to sample new brews and catch up using their wifi. And somehow we manage to find those local gems, enabling us to help the local economy just a bit and upload our stories and pictures.
We did manage to get a weekend stay at a campground just a block off the beach in Panama City Beach, so we packed up once again and hit the road to go back about 250 miles west to restart this Florida vacation. I have some pictures to share of the springs here at Gilchrist Blue Springs State Park, which actually started as a privately operated swimming hole until it was recently acquired by the state. So not everything in the campground was up to the usual standards (such as no breakers on the electric hookups).
Maybe the most white-knuckled part was the road in and out of the park. When we first drove in I was surprised that we were driving down a sand road, not a dirt road, but a two-rut sandy track. I carefully kept moving down the half-mile long drive following along behind Jackie and was sure glad we weren’t towing the car on the tow-dolly behind us. But it got better – naturally we had an overnight thunderstorm the first night with rivers of water running through camp. When we decided to try a trip to town for wifi (and cell service) we felt ready to tackle the sandy road after watching a FEDEX semi driving in. Heck, if he could do it … but dang, it was a wild ride out and through the big puddles. Our RAV-4 did its best impression of a 4WD Jeep as we splashed up and down and swam and skidded along the track. It was just as bad coming back in and I just kept wondering how in the heck we were going to get our rig outta there. Again, I shudder to think what we would have done if we were towing the car.
Maybe I am a bit jumpy about getting bogged down after the stuck-in-the-mud episode at John’s place this spring, but I surely did NOT want to add “sinking in quicksand” to this adventure. So the next morning I took several deep breaths, instructed Jackie to lead on (but to keep moving no matter what) and I would follow behind. I’m telling you, people pay to do these mud runs, probably not in 33 foot motorhomes, but they pay for an experience I would just as soon never repeat. As I navigated around most of the deepest puddles and tried to find solid, dry tracks to follow, side-slipping and bouncing along I finally spied the last big mudhole. This one would not stop me, so I hit the gas and figured there was no stopping me at this point! Made it through, but I think we owe the park a couple of bags of sand (they can come wash it off!)
Enough of the dramatics – we actually had a nice 5-hour drive across the Apalaciacola River basin and surrounding swamps and pine forests. One handy tool we have used this trip is a pair of 2-way radios we brought along. It made it easy to share navigation info and gas status between the two vehicles instead of relying on the cell phone.
We are now back in PCB in a decent campground that is very close to the action. First thing after getting set in camp (again!) was to get to the beach. Yes, the sand was just as white, but the water was definitely murkier brown, not the see-your-toes clear gulf we love. Well, what can you expect, the flood waters are still receding. We swam a bit, sat in the beach chairs a bit, then went back to shower, change and go out for dinner (before we got chased away again). We took our Fat Tuesday mugs with us for frozen daiquiri refills at Pineapple Willys and finally felt like we were starting the beach vacation. Along with a LOT of other people. And kids. Guess the fall breaks are starting already?? Ah well, we had our face masks and got a nice table way out on the pier at a big table all to ourselves. Fried oyster po-boy and mahi-mahi strips made it a perfect beach dinner. And those brain freeze daiquiris!
Back home it seems they got a good round of rain from Sally, too. Terri was nice enough to check on the house and yard – our rain gauge said 4” of rain but otherwise all was ok. Friends are good!
To round out our stay at PCB we really wanted to swim more, but we got a cold front that blew in, overnight showers hit, temperatures went to the 60’s, breeze kicked up from the northeast and the sun hasn’t been seen in days. We hear that Tropical Storm Beta is sending some clouds our way, too. So we spent a day cleaning up the motorhome and restocking some food and drink. Of course had to drive to Pier Park and wander the shops, with masks, and basically not spend money but comment on all the other folks wandering around.
Also opted to unhook the bikes and ride along the beach road, looking for potential rental units for the future. By Monday, our last day here in PCB, it was still overcast, but at least the water was getting back to clear. Since our pass for St. Andrews was still valid we drove to the park to see what it was like.
The campground was still closed off and there was a lot of water in places you normally don’t see it, Making our way to the beach revealed a big transformation. The same spot next to the jetty where just a week ago we were sitting on beach chairs was now a new channel from the lagoon to the gulf. A big new area of sand filled half of the children’s lagoon and there was lots of dune erosion. Sad to see such damage. Good thing they had moved out the heavy equipment we saw last week, but I am sure more will be back to rebuild these dunes and fix the breach.
And with a bow to tradition, we went to Sharky’s for lunch, complete with grouper sandwiches and “Shark Attack” drinks on the beach. Still one of our all-time favorites.
Tomorrow we pack up and head to Henderson Beach State Park in Destin. A phone call confirmed that they are open, minus some of their beach. Looks like we are in for more overcast and rainy weather, but we are ever optimistic that this warm and sunny Florida vacation will yet happen. A good omen was a bald eagle we saw circling overhead.
Stay tuned and thanks for following along. I feel so good that there are friends and family out there who actually enjoy reading these musings. Happy Birthday wishes to Linda, btw.
Been thinking about you all month with the ‘weather’ down there. Happy to hear you ducked and dodged and made the best of it all and got some beach/swimming time. Here in RI the drought has a strangle hold on our fields and gardens…every storm just veers offshore without sharing any moisture with us!
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