|On to Pensacola
||[Mar. 17th, 2010|11:18 pm]
From White Springs we had our first long drive of the trip, 277 miles along the panhandle of Florida to Blackwater River State Park, in Holt, FL, not far from Pensacola. The cats were a little miffed at us. Mercedes started fussing about two hours in, so they got an early break and were ok after that. The campground is one of the nicest state parks we’ve seen, well laid out with a central bathhouse and full hookups for about $22 a night. We were really surprised they weren’t busier, but it might have had something to do with the road into the campground.
The river was coming up to flood stage when we arrived, and we drove through shallow water on the road into the campground. It wasn’t too deep to safely ford, but it’s a good thing we got in when we did. The next day the road was closed and it stayed closed for the rest of our stay as the rain-swollen river flooded and stayed high. The Blackwater River is famous for beautiful white sand beaches along its banks, but we didn’t get to enjoy them. We’d walk down to the trail to the river daily and check the boardwalk out to the (submerged) white sand beaches. The boardwalk was completely immersed right after we got there, then passable for ten feet the next day, then twenty, then whoops up came the river again.
Fortunately there were several country roads leading out of the park, and we explored most of them. On Sunday we drove to a neighboring town to go to church, crossing another flooded section of road, then took the freeway into Pensacola for touring. We visited the Naval Aviation Museum on the naval air base in Pensacola, which was very interesting, and got to see exhibits of naval aviation from its beginnings through the space age. We had lunch in the café, on the terrace which overlooks the museum proper. Inside, the café is a replica of the Cubi Point Officers Club in the Philippines. It’s wall to wall squadron plaques, many intricately carved and painted, commemorating many tours of duty in the Pacific.
In the late afternoon there was just enough daylight left to drive out on the barrier island and visit Fort Pickens, at the very tip of Santa Rosa Island. The old fort is open to walk through; thick brick walls shelter gun emplacements and a grassy courtyard. The sun set as we were wandering the Fort, and we could hear distant Taps (Day is Done) played at the base just across the bay. There’s a National Park campground just east of the fort with water and electric hookups; it would be a great place to stay to see some more of Pensacola.
Other than that brief sightseeing jaunt this was a rest and refit week; we took the laundry out to a local Laundromat and got it all done and put up, stocked up on groceries, and did some cleaning. We had a campfire one night and used the plentiful local pinecones to get it going. They are full of resin, flaring up hot and fast and then quickly dying to ash. We’d put a cluster into the fire and I was watching them burn; they opened more fully as they caught light, and after the flame died down looked like a bouquet of glowing chrysanthemums, with red petals dusted with the white ash.