Apalachicola oyster boats
The Apalachicola Sponge Museum
Inside the Sponge Museum - lots of cool antiques
Storefronts in Apalachicola
St. George Island offers a quiet bay and beaches.
This guy sunned himself for hours while campers stopped for photos
St. George Island State Park on a blustery day
Pine Log State Park
Lake Powell park shrouded in mist
A bald eagle watched us kayaking below
Cycling near Rosemary Beach
Middle Eastern style swimming pool
in a new development
Gulf Islands National Seashore - what a spot!
The Emerald Coast
Crashing surf - Gulf Islands National Seashore
Hurricanes Ivan and Dennis hit this coast back to back.
The surf and winds were so powerful the entire road was
hurtled hundreds of yards away, in rumpled pieces.
Sugar sand beaches line the Emerald Coast
The sand is so white and so thick it looks like snow.
Love on the beach
Sunset from our doorway
A great shoreside spot to spend a few days.
Apalachicola, St. George Island, Gulf Islands Nat'l Seashore, FL
February, 2009 - We continued our tour of the state parks in Florida's
Forgotten Coast, leaving St. Joseph State Park and stopping in the
cute seaside town of Apalachicola on our way to St. George Island State
Park. We had visited Apalachicola last year and been enchanted by its
unique shops and history, and we found it equally charming on our
The town was once a bustling cotton shipping port, and it now harbors a
sizeable fleet of oyster boats. There was an active sponge harvesting
industry too, and the Sponge Museum offered not only a glimpse of that
unusual industry but a terrific collection of curious antiques as well.
We picked up another jar of the semi-sweet locally harvested Tupelo
honey and spent a happy morning wandering through the many
shops in town.
Over on St. George Island we checked into the state park that fills the tip
of a long, narrow sand peninsula. Like St. Joseph, this park borders
both a shallow saltwater bay and the Gulf coast. The bay is sleepy, lined
with skinny trees with exposed roots. We learned that a tidal surge had
covered the entire end of the island in recent years, leaving the bayside
trees immersed in salt water longer than they liked, and sadly killing many of them.
This gives the bayside a slightly haunted look.
Lots of swamp creatures
patrol the area, and we
noticed unusual birds standing
in the trees and a sneaky
alligator biding his time at the
The coastal beaches were
wind-blown and blustery when
we were there. At night the
roar of the waves on the
beach filled the trailer, even
though the campground is a
healthy distance from the
The beaches extend for many miles, and we did lots of invigorating
walks along the water's edge. The seashells were abundant, as they
had been at St. Joseph State Park, and the campground had a
lovely display giving the names of all the different creatures' shells
that could be found along the beach.
Leaving the Forgotten Coast, we ventured slightly west and stayed in
two more parks. Pine Log State Park boasts vast stands of pines, a
terrific mountain biking trail (this from an avowed roadie who does not
particularly enjoy mountain biking) and a lovely row of campsites
overlooking a pond.
Lake Powell park sits on the edge of a lake that was the perfect
place for kayak exploration. The morning awoke under a shroud of
thick mist that gave the park's trees a mystical look.
Later in the day, once the sun was
victorious over the fog, we took the
kayak into the far corners of the lake
where we spotted a Bald Eagle. He
watched our bright yellow craft for a
long suspicious while and finally flew
off with a majestic sweep of his
This portion of the Emerald Coast has
a few upscale communities, and we
rode our bikes through the South
Walton Beach and Rosemary Beach
areas one morning. Like everywhere
else in this country, many developers'
dreams have evaporated in all stages
of construction since the housing market crash (not to
mention this area's sudden face-off with nature in a
series of hurricanes). We rode through a community of
graceful homes that stopped sprouting when only about
20% were built. Boardwalks meandered through the
community and over waterways, offering pretty views of
what could have been.
A fellow cyclist stopped and took our photo in front of
the grand entrance to the strip of road that defines a
particularly ritzy part of the coast.
She recommended that we check out the Middle
Eastern style swimming pool that was the central
attraction of one new development. I wouldn't have
thought that this distinctly Arabic looking community
would have been a big seller among Americans in this
era, but sure enough, we saw several sales people with
clipboards in hand and prospective customers in tow.
Further west along the Emerald Coast we
discovered the Gulf Islands National
Seashore. This jewel of a drive presents
the stunning coast at its best, especially
on bright sunny days. The sand is
blindingly white, and the water is truly
green in places. We walked the beach
and our shorts soon gave way to bathing
suits and frolicks in the waves.
The signs warned of rip-tides, but just like the warnings of bison gorings
at Yellowstone, you don't really take those things seriously at first glance.
I was mighty curious about the dark green band of water that is behind
Mark in this photo. It beckoned me in the way that ocean water always
has since I was a a small child. I just had to find out how deep it was
there. So I bounded out into the waves, going from waist deep to over
my head in one step. Hmmm... it was deep! I turned around to swim in
and soon found that my most powerful strokes were not moving me
forward. Mark stood on the edge of the water, just 100 feet from me, but
despite my best effort, I couldn't make any progress towards him.
Suddenly the sign about rip-tides came back to me. Is this a rip-tide?
Yikes! What had the sign said about them? I had no idea. Mark was
yelling something at me from the beach, but I couldn't hear. I just dug in and swam towards him for all I was worth, valiantly
ignoring the rising feeling of panic in my heart. In a few minutes (that felt like forever), I finally found my footing on the sand, dug
my toes in, and hiked my way back to him, uphill in aggressive water. I stood next to him on the beach, trying not to let my
pounding heart and panting breath be noticeable, and feigned nonchalance about the whole thing. "Great workout!" I said
cheerfully. Mark quietly shook his head at me, hands on his hips. "Didn't you read the sign? Swim sideways, parallel to the beach,
when you are in a rip-tide." ... Oh, that's the trick!
The power of the ocean is deceptive along this idyllic stretch of coast,
with its shimmering, rich shades of turquoise. The waves show dark
green just before they break, and the sandpipers dart in and out of the
water effortlessly, living their entire lives on the edge. However, we
learned from a local ocean kayaker that in 2004 Hurricane Ivan
completely destroyed the road along this strip of land, effortlessly
tossing it in tiny pieces all over the inland side of the peninsula.
Eager to stay on top of repairs, the state replaced the road
immediately. Five days after reopening the road, Hurricane Dennis
roared through. The sea chewed up the new road and spewed it all
over the bayside dunes a second time. I was stunned to walk the
dunes and find evidence of this man's story all over the place, as far
as 300 yards from the road.
This savage aspect of nature seems
implausible as you sift the fine sugar
white sand through your hands. In
places along the Gulf Islands National
Seashore it looked more like snow
than like sand.
It had the same texture as the sand
we found in the Coral Pink Sand
Dunes park in Utah, but here it was
pure white rather than a rusty burnt
orange. Riding our bikes alongside
the sand "snowdrifts," we thought of
all our friends and family who have had such a
snowy winter in Michigan.
The spectacular scenery on these glorious sunny days brought out the most
romantic notions in everyone along the beach. It is a place for lovers, and this
young couple found each other quite irresistable.
We stayed along the beach for many days, watching the coast change from minute
to minute as a series of storms blew through. It was the perfect place to slow down
again and get back in touch with ourselves and with nature before heading on to
Alabama and a gradual trek west with a fun return visit to the Natchez Trace.