Thursday, April 9, 2009

St. George Island State Park, FL

Hi all - Dianne here.  For those of you looking for Kaia's guest blog, scroll down to the one below today's entry.

The girls flew back to Indiana last Saturday.   We miss them already, but had a great time at Disney.

  On Sunday, the whippet/cat/Boomer caravan traveled to the Florida Panhandle, near Apalachicola, to spend five nights at St. George Island State Park.  Since early January, we have traveled all over Florida:  down the East Coast (Titusville, Ft. Lauderdale, Miami), to three areas of the Everglades (Shark Valley, Flamingo, Collier-Seminole), the Keys, the Southwest Coast (Ft. Myers, Sanibel Island), the middle (Caloosahatchee River, Orlando, Bushnell) and now the Panhandle.  We've saved the prettiest area of Florida for the last!!   Without a doubt, St. George Island State Park is the prettiest place we've stayed in Florida all winter.   It reminds me a bit of Edisto Island, SC where we started our journey last December.  St. George Island is a barrier island in the Gulf of Mexico, which has snow-white sand, grassy dunes, tall slash pine trees, tall

 black-needle-grass marshes - it is truly lovely.  


wide, white beaches here are practically deserted; no small feat during spring break weeks in April.  The beaches are so deserted that great blue herons frequent the beach. 

 They walk along, undisturbed, and don't even move as we approach them.

The beach has nine prime walking miles of undeveloped beauty - nothing but white sand, grassy dunes, aqua water, and blue sky.  It must be the fact that this is an out-of-the-way destination that keeps it so quiet and undisturbed.  In order to get here, we crossed a four-mile bridge from Eastpoint, Florida to enter St. George Island.   The western portion of the island is developed, with condos and motels, and a few businesses.  We turned east, and soon left all development and four miles later entered the state park.   After we finally entered the state park, it was four MORE miles of nothing but a roadway through sand dunes to get to the campground.

The sites in the

 campground are large, and it's very quiet here.  It is more of a family destination than a snowbird park, so there is a mix of tents, pop-ups, trailers, and motorhomes.  

 Lots of people with kayaks. 

 If we had been able to get reservations for more than five nights (four full days), we would definitely break out the S.S. Minnow while here.  There are two really nice hiking trails which allow dogs.  (Dogs are not allowed on the beach here at the state park, but ARE allowed on the public St. George Island beaches).   Yesterday we took the "boys" on the longer trail and clocked over six miles on my pedometer before we were done.  It was a good workout, too, because portions of the trail necessitated walking in soft sand.   (I'm still trying to work off all that ice cream from Sanibel Island.)

This is our fourth year in a row to be on the Florida Panhandle this week in April.  This year, it's just a coincidence.  In years past, we were forced to use this week because of Roger's school's spring break.  (The Panhandle is a more manageable drive from Indiana for a one-week stay than the peninsular portion of Florida.)  We've spent the prior three years near Destin: two years at Camping on the Gulf RV resort, and last year at Topsail Hill State Park.   Topsail Hill is another lovely Florida state park.  I must say, though, that for unspoiled beauty and quiet, I like St. George Island even better. 


Allergy report:  Roger's oak tree allergy has gotten MUCH better since we arrived here.  There are a very few of the live oaks around here; most of the trees are tall slash pines. 

 From here, tomorrow, we have a long travel day to a Corps of Engineers campground on Lake Lanier, north of Atlanta.  We have our fingers crossed about the oak pollen there.  I'll let Roger take over and add his thoughts on St. George now.

Roger here..

  I suspected that this would be a great place after we arrived at the state park and began driving to the campground.  All that could be seen through the windshield was a narrow road winding through the snow-white dunes. 

 Occasionally there were patches where the sand had drifted onto the roadway.  The green waters of the Gulf of Mexico were always to the right.

Having watched development take over the State of Florida over my lifetime, it is hard to believe that this unspoiled area exists.  People obviously know this is here because the campground is full - not busy, but when walking

 along the beach, the isolation is dramatic.  Two days ago in the late afternoon while Dianne made chili (and rested) and the whippets just rested, I decided to strike out on my own just to see how quiet this place can be.  I walked down to the beach and headed east, away from the park entrance (four miles away), to explore as much of the other five miles of beach as I could before evening. 

 Within five minutes not a soul could be seen - nothing but an endless stretch of white sand and emerald ocean that narrowed to a point at the horizon.  There were lots of sounds (wind, crashing surf, chirping gulls), but none of the human variety.  I walked for about 45 minutes at which time I knew that I needed to head back if I was to arrive before darkness (and Dianne's chili dinner :).  Rather than taking the beach back, I cut across the dunes, avoiding the fragile vegetation, until I came to an abandoned, sand covered, roadway.  The view between the dunes from the roadway was cool.  On the north side was the brown choppy water of the intracoastal waterway and the mainland (four miles away).  On the south side was the green water of the Gulf of Mexico.  The walk back was more arduous than the walk along the beach for a couple reasons.  First, I was walking on soft sand most of the way instead of the hard-packed sand of the beach. 

 Second, the wind, which was significant and chilly at that time of day, was in my face.  Fortunately, I wore a hoody so I was able to tie the hood around my head - Lawrence of Arabia struggling through the barren sand dunes (sans camel).  Dianne's chili tasted especially good after all that exercise.

Last night we had a campfire for the first time in weeks.  The drought that has plagued most of Florida and prevented us from enjoying a campfire is not an issue on the panhandle.  I have to admit that I had significant issues in South Carolina and Georgia in building a blazing campfire.  My fires always seemed to smolder (no flames) after the kindling and fire starters burned out.  My typical campfire activity consisted of - add more kindling, add more paper, restart, sit down, add more kindling, add more paper, restart, sit down, ad nauseam - ending with the pouring of water on the smoldering logs so we could go to bed.     So....  this time Dianne tried her hand.  She began by scavenging an abandoned (hollow) log that was left at the campsite next to us.  Her intent was to use it as a chimney that would create the blazing fire.  It took a while for the log to catch, but when it did, the results were good.

  I guess she will have to build all the campfires from now on :)

We are planning to head to the beach today to sit and watch the water - no more of this walking stuff, at least for today. 

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