St George Island and Manatee Springs SP
As I mentioned in the last blog entry, it has been a challenge lately to keep up with the blog. Both Verizon and Sprint seem to have little cellular service anywhere in the panhandle. When "roaming", we can't get online.
Monday we left Port St Joe and dropped by nearby St George Island, which is a white sand strip of barrier island not far east. St George is a rare thing in Florida these days: a beautiful barrier island that is not sinking under the weight of thousands of condominiums. It seems to have somehow been bypassed by the rabid development that has ruined so many other barrier islands in Florida.
There's still plenty of housing on St George, but large sections of the island have been left relatively undisturbed, and toward the eastern end there is a large state park which we visited. The park is mostly closed due to damage from Hurricane Dennis, so presently you can't camp there. But when the park re-opens (scheduled for October unless another hurricane comes by), it will be well worth a visit. Eight miles of wide open, white sand, protected beach! Herons and pelicans and snowy egrets and much more. The sound of numerous birds singing in the pines, and the views in every direction. We loved it.
We put the Airstream in the overflow lot and walked a short distance to the beach. Kids were playing in the water, surf fishermen were catching red snapper, and the air was filled with salt spray and the roar of waves. We wanted to stay longer but without a campground, we had to make the stay only a couple of hours. After lunch in the Airstream, it was time to continue east.
(This marked the first occasion we had to use the outside shower that came with our trailer. It's handy for washing off sandy feet. )
Around this time it became clear that Eleanor had a case of whatever was affecting Emma the previous few days. Her headache intensified, giving me even more impetus to find us a place to settle down so she could catch up on sleep. Unfortunately, things didn't work out well. Park after park was full, and we eventually ended up once again crashing at a Wal-Mart in Chiefland, FL.
Poor Eleanor. Although our parking spot was quiet, she had a miserable night with a long episode of nausea. In the morning she was still so sick that she couldn't face riding in the car for hours, so we towed six miles over to Manatee Springs State Park and paid $4 for a day pass. There, she was able to nap in the trailer while Emma and I explored the massive spring that bubbles from the ground here.
Manatee Springs, like Blue Spring in central Florida, is a first-magnitude freshwater spring. That means over a million gallons of clear 72-degree water per day rises to the surface, forming a tributary to the Suwanee River. The manatees swim here in the winter to stay warm, but there were none in evidence when Emma and I donned our snorkel gear and paddled around in the water for 30 minutes. Still, we saw some mullet, a couple of turtles, and a school of colorful little fish about 1/2" long.
With snorkeling, lunch, a couple of episodes of "Between The Lions" (a PBS reading program), and another walk along the river, Emma and I managed to stay out of Eleanor's way long enough for her to get about a couple hours of sleep, which made all the difference. She awoke feeling somewhat better, so we dumped the tanks at the park's dump station and made the final two hour drive to Tampa.
With the overloaded parks and Eleanor being sick, it has been a real pain getting here. If I hadn't had to get online for work, we would still be back in the panhandle somewhere, waiting out the illness. That's one of the unfortunate aspects of having to work while full-timing -- sometimes we have to move even when we really don't want to. But still the compensations are there. We managed to snatch a few good moments out of a few days that were otherwise full of disappointments, and sometimes that's the best you can do.
Tonight Emma and I left Eleanor alone in the trailer to relax, and we joined our local friends Barry and Brett for dinner out. When we got back, we put Eleanor to bed early. I hope she will wake up tomorrow with this bug behind her.
We'll stay in Tampa a couple of nights, catching up on work and health, and then on Thursday we have reservations to camp at Ft Wilderness (Disney). There will be a caravan of three Airstreams heading there ... unless you would like to join us!