American Locations 37 – St. Augustine

The trip is from New River, West Virginia, to Stinking Creek, Tennessee, by way of Long Key, Florida.

 

St. Augustine, Florida

 

Driving out of Anastasia State Park into St. Augustine we stopped to view the lighthouse.

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Then we parked the motor home to tour the old Spanish fort.

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We walked from the fort through the city gate.

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Into the oldest settlement in the United States. It was founded by the Spanish in 1565, long before the Pilgrims arrived in Massachusetts.

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It has the oldest schoolhouse in the country. I don’t know if the chain was to hold the old building together or to keep the students from escaping.

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There were also several churches.

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Just outside the old town was Flagler College.

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With this spiked chain that caught my eye.

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There was also a small park with a Ponce de Leon statue.

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That afternoon we left St. Augustine and continued south along the coast on Rte. A1A.

 

Next Location – Tomoka State Park, Florida

American Locations 36 – Anastasia

The trip is from New River, West Virginia, to Stinking Creek, Tennessee, by way of Long Key, Florida.

 

Anastasia State Park, Florida

 

Leaving Stephen C. Foster State Park, we backtracked out of Okefenokee Swamp on Rte. 177 to Fargo, where we turned onto Rte.94. We headed east around the southern edge of the swamp into Florida, where the road became Rte. 94. At St. George we turned south on Rte. 23, which upon crossing back into Florida became Rte. 121. At McClenny we got on I-10 and headed east. Wanting to avoid Jacksonville, I never like driving through large cities if I can avoid it, we turned south on I-295, then continued south on I-95. We exited south onto Hwy. 1. I much prefer taking scenic routes than traveling on interstates. South of St. Augustine we turned off onto Rte. A1A so we could drive along the coast. This led us to Anastasia State Park.

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There was a nature trail we hiked. It felt good to stretch our legs after driving for hours.

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It was a short walk from the campground to the beach. This is an interesting tree in the beach parking lot, with St. Augustine lighthouse in the background.

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There was also this cool anchor.

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And a tree that had definitely weathered a hurricane or two.

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An extensive boardwalk kept people off the dunes as they walked to the beach.

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And what a beach. A wide sandy expanse.

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One day we were on the beach 3 guys were wading out into what was a heavy surf with instruments. I learned later they were surveyors recording how much the recent hurricanes had eroded the beach. This is a screen capture from a video I took.

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We also hiked a trail around the sound, which is called Salt Run. You can see the backs of  the beach dunes in the distance in the top left of the photo.

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We also hiked to see the Old Spanish Quarries, originally known as the King’s Coquina Quarries. Coquina, a kind of limestone composed of mollusk shells and sand, was used in the building of many early colonial structures.

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We spent 2 days here. On the way out we toured St. Augustine.

 

Next Location – St. Augustine, Florida

 

American Locations 35 – Okefenokee 3

The trip is from New River, West Virginia, to Stinking Creek, Tennessee, by way of Long Key, Florida.

 

Okefenokee Swamp, Georgia

 

The next day we rented a kayak to venture out into the swamp on our own. There was a group of college students camping there who kayaked out at the break of day and didn’t return until late in the afternoon. They did this day after day while we were there, and returned every day uneaten by alligators. So it had to be safe. The ranger told us as long as we didn’t bash an alligator over the head with an oar they would leave us alone. So off we went.

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We could set our own pace and go our own route. The current on the Suwannee River was slight and no problem to paddle. We stayed in the main channel, which was clearly marked. Still, being this close to the water in a small kayak was unnerving at first. And we did see alligators.

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This was black water, which meant once an alligator went under we could not see him and had no idea where he was. But they didn’t bother us and, believe me, we didn’t bother them. This next photo gives you an idea of how black the water was. There are near-perfect reflections.

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This photo caught the end of the kayak, to give an impression that we were right on top of the water, which meant we were right on top of the alligators.

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And there were plenty of alligators. These weren’t the same we saw from the pontoon boat since we went a different direction on the river so to see a different part of the swamp.

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Once we saw an alligator start swimming from one side of the river to the other directly in front of us. Needless to say I stopped paddling, and we waited for him to reach the other side. We went several miles, until we came to a place where the river narrowed. It was just too tight for my comfort, we would have been too close to the banks (and any alligators that might have been on them). So we went up one side channel, but it soon came to a dead end.

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So I paddled back to the river, then back to the canal that led to the campground dock. As with other places, the entrance to it was well-marked. An exhilarating day.

Another day I hiked through a drier section of the swamp.

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One night a ranger set up a telescope. The park was remote enough to be part of the Dark Skies project, and on a clear night we got a good show. After four days we were ready to press on.

 

Next Location – Anastasia State Park, Florida

 

 

 

American Locations 34 – Okefenokee 2

The trip is from New River, West Virginia, to Stinking Creek, Tennessee, by way of Long Key, Florida.

 

Okefenokee Swamp, Georgia

 

Finished with the northern entrance, we set off for the southern entrance, where there is a state park, Stephen C. Foster, that we could camp in. Trouble was there were no roads crossing the swamp, we had to drive around it. So we drove north up Rte. 177 to Hwy. 23, where we turned south. We rounded the eastern edge of the swamp. At St. George we turned west on Rte. 94 and passed briefly into Florida rounding the southern edge. We took Rte. 2 northwest out of Florida back into Georgia to Fargo. We turned north on Rte. 177 and drove through the southern entrance back into the swamp. I know this road has the same number as the road leading into the northern entrance. But it does not cross the swamp, no road does. We took a road off 177 that headed north along a branch of the Suwannee River.

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We saw a lot of wild turkeys.

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This road ends at Pine Island. We backtracked to 177 and continued to Stephen C. Foster State Park. We got a well-cleared site where no alligators could sneak up on us.

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We so enjoyed this park we spent four nights here. This was our longest stay anywhere on this trip. There was a canal from the visitor center to the Suwannee River, which flows through the swamp.

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Notice the sign. Small dogs are a tasty treat for alligators, so you weren’t allowed to take them out on the water.

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There was an alligator who hung out along the canal.

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There was a boardwalk trail to hike through the swamp.

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One day we took a pontoon boat ride through the swamp piloted by a park ranger. He took us along the Suwannee River for miles.

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There were plenty of alligators to see.

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He took us up a narrow tributary. As you see in the middle left of this photo, there are signs directing you through the swamp. 

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Where we got stuck. The motor died. I suggested he get out and push us, like Humphrey Bogart did in The African Queen, but he didn’t like that idea. So he steered the boat while I paddled.

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While my wife enjoyed the ride.

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We got out of the narrow channel back into the main river, where a motor boat met us. This guy got our motor started. The park ranger kept apologizing, but we were both good with the delay, it gave us more time out on the river.

 

Next Location – Okefenokee Swamp 3