Thursday, January 31, 2013

Florida Panhandle

Leaving Charleston, the plan was to travel directly west across Georgia.  The weather, however, turned cold and the warmer places to the south looked more inviting.  The Florida panhandle leads to Texas eventually and the temperatures looked more inviting.

On the drive toward Florida, Marlin saw a sign for a rest area/nature trail.  He loves to stop at these unexpected spots, so we did.  The trail was sponsored by a timber company and the signage included information about the agricultural history of the land.  At one time it was a rice plantation, and a mining area for phosphorous. There were still signs of the trenches from the mining, but all the rice area had grown into forest.  Great stop and a good mile walk.

Tree burls, lots of them

 Lots of pictures of burls for James' benefit.  Hope he is drooling over how many there were here.

 More burls
 Cypress swamp

 We named this the "rotary"

Just south of Tallahassee, Florida, on that little heal spur, the Ochlockonee River runs into the Gulf of Mexico.   Two State Parks in that area, Oclockonee River St Pk, and Wakulla Springs State Recreation Area kept us busy for three days.  Wakulla Springs doesn't have camping but since it is a spring fed stream running to the Gulf with water temperature always in the 70's, it supports a pod of manatees in the winter.

The manatees show up at the many many warm springs that sprout throughout Florida because they can not tolerate water that is below 60 degrees.  The spring water is always in the 70's and these gentle elephant like mammals know enough to stay there till the temperatures warm up.

 Momma and baby

This park has a raised platform that extends out over the spring.  It makes for great manatee viewing, since they swim up to and under the platform.  Other parks have viewing from ground level, and although the water is crystal clear, reflections on the surface interfere with the view.

The park was home to an old Spanish style Inn that is still popular today.  The grounds include extensive picnic area a an inviting six mile (one way) nature trail  Signs advise to only go as far as you want to return back.

St Andrews State Park further along the Florida panhandle has some of the famous white sand beaches.  Again, great for walking and shelling.  Great two days here.

The fishing pier was entertaining one of the evenings we spent there.  A great blue heron just hung out for over an hour looking for someone's bait to steal.  He was a real ham, loved having his picture taken.  A couple fishing there caught several sting rays that night.  They gently unhooked them and sent them on their way.

 The park had  reconstructed a turpentine mill that once operated on the property.  Very interesting how complicated a process it is to extract turpentine from the pine sap.  The pictures of the saw mill are for Jed.  A bit larger than your new one!  Can't imagine why I did not take photos of the mill itself.  I need Julie to keep me on photo task.

A trip across the panhandle always includes a visit with the Covert clan in Lillian, Alabama.  Lillian is just across the bridge from Pensacola, FL. and four families of Marlin's cousins live there.  This family visit always included a day on the beach where Elmer is the maintenance man for 8 luxury beach houses.  Always good to see the Coverts.  This time we were encouraged to stay three days for a batch of Shirley's excellent chicken and noodles.  ( I know, no picture!)

 This is Alabama in January!

 Elmer and Judy Covert in front of the beach houses Elmer maintains.  Miles of the stunning white sand beach.

Jim Covert came to the beach with us that day. The next day the journey west resumed.

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