It’s was now mid April. With a goal in mind to reach our “summer” site in Dale by early May, we turned northward, hugging the Florida Gulf Coast, along with our feathered spring co-travelers, returning neotropical migrants.
|our site at Fort De Soto SP; view from atop the fort; Blue Gorsbeak|
Fort De Soto was named for Spanish explorer Hernando De Soto, who in circa 1539, began a conquest of what would become the southeastern United States. Clearly, Hernado failed to impress the indigenous tribes. When he died in 1542, his body was interred in the Mississippi River to prevent it from being taken by Native Americans. Presumably, the locals were not wanting his body to enshrine it out of deep respect and reverence.
To reach Fort De Soto, located on Mullet Key, took us a bit out of the way as we traversed I-275 around Tampa then double-backed south across a long causeway below St. Petersburg. The fort itself was never the site of any major battle and its weapons were never fired in conflict. However, the top of the battery was a keen place to spot birds. And it was our quest for birds that had brought us to the park.
|Wilson's Plover; Whimbrel; resting Marbled Godwit|
After one full day exploring the park we were rewarded with FOY Gray Kingbird, Blue Grosbeak, Orchard Oriole, and Baltimore Oriole. We packed up the early the next morning and moved upward toward the eastern end of the Florida Panhandle.
|site at Sunset Isle; world's smallest police station (so they say)|
Carrabelle, population approximately 1300, claims to have the world’s smallest police station (essentially a phone booth). The RV park managers were friendly and helpful and our site was spacious. For the most part, it was quiet. The only exception to “quiet” came from a nearby bar that on a few nights had live music. Outside. Late. And loud.
But we didn’t choose the park for it’s proximity to Carravelle. More importantly it put us fairly close to several highly touted birding spots. Bonus was that we were just twenty miles east of Apalachicola. Our plan was to cool our heels for a bit, take day trips to the birding hot spots, and find some good food. In other words, life as usual.
The former’s habitat in large part consisted of longleaf pine, ideal for Red-cockaded Woodpeckers. While we did see a lot of evidence of the woodpecker (nest cavities) we didn’t stumble onto any of the cavity’s inhabitants. It would have been nice to have some kayaks, though - the park sits at the confluence of the Dead and Ochlockonee Rivers which empty into Ochlockonee Bay which eventually spills into the Gulf of Mexico.
|deck off of St. Mark's NWR visitor center|
On Friday, the weather again wasn’t overly kind so we opted to drive to Apalachicola, a town with a strong Maritime culture. During our last visit in 2002 when we had fled a cold Wisconsin winter for a week, we had found eclectic shops, galleries, and a good selection of restaurants brimming with local seafood fares. We had hoped to revisit a number of these plus see what else was new.
|dock at Apalachicola|
|farmers market, Up The Creek Raw Bar|
|NERR: Unit 4|
|St, George Island SP dunes|
|trees with white bands indicated woodpecker activity; roadside flowers|
|original 2 Als - restaurant is now next door|
|NERR visitor center|
|Indian Pass Raw Bar|
On Wednesday the 23rd of April we packed up the RV and bid farewell to the Florida Panhandle as we headed into Georgia. While Florida overall isn’t one of our favorite states to visit, we do very much enjoy and appreciate the Panhandle for its miles of unadulterated white sand beaches and local cuisine. Not that Central and South Florida don't have their own attractions - it's just that the Panhandle seems to have a slower paced, more leisurely way of life that has appealed to us whenever we've visited.