Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Spiders and Sand at the State Park

I continued northwest along the Gulf Coast and stopped at Port Saint Joe and headed to St. Joseph Peninsula State Park.  It's at the jagged point that sticks out south from the panhandle, between Pensacola and Tallahassee.  The last 7 miles of the peninsula has no car access but there is a trail for hiking, beach access and backcountry campsites.  I was in.  Campsite 4 didn't have any campers yet, so that's where I headed.  The map indicated 1.75 miles, but it seemed to be more like 2.25 miles.  I was a little more careful packing since I'd be far from the car.  I had a fire ring, but no water source.  So that was the only drawback - either carry in water for two days and nights or plan to hike out to get more water.  Since I was planning to explore the next day anyway, I only took water for the night and morning.  As it was, I felt like I was carrying too much and end up soaked by the time I arrived at camp.  Hiking in sand makes it a little harder I think.  But I got there, settled, had dinner and pretty much went to bed.  The brush and sand dunes were pretty intense, so I was not about to try a short cut to the beach.  Which was good because I later discovered it was pretty far away (and against the rules).

This is the first night I decided to go without the rainfly.
There were stars everywhere and the moon lit up the white
sand so that I didn't need a flashlight in the middle of the night.
The campsite

There is one thing I've found I really do not like about hiking and camping.  Spiders. I hate spiders.  And when you hike trails that haven't seen a person recently (or even that morning) there are spider webs across the trails.  From trees to bushes, between bushes, eye level, knee level, chest level.  They are everywhere! And it gives me the willies every time I run into one.  This was especially true at St. Joe.  I took to walking with a stick and waving it in front of me as I walked, like a crazy lady.  So happy there was hardly anyone around :).  At least with the sun out, I could sometimes catch the glint of a reflection off the web and move around it.  Also, the spiders were much bigger here in Florida (oh yay!) so sometimes I could see the spider and see where it moved to follow the web.  And you'd take them down one day and the next morning they are back across the trail.  I really dislike the spiders.  I hope they aren't poisonous.

An up close look at what I saw all over - the body was probably as
big as my thumb.

Here's a huge web between some trees - it's where the light looks hazy.

In the morning, I walked back to the car which was also parked near one of the beach access points.  I headed out that way to enjoy the sun and water.  There was a boardwalk part of the way, and then a sign warning of the stressful walk up the dune and essentially a warning that you should consider your health condition before continuing.  It was a tall dune and still a bit of a walk to the beach, but it seemed a little exaggerated to me. I got to the beach and was the third person there :), the third wheel to a couple.  I played in the water, walked a little, laid out and read my book.  I tried to get pictures of crabs up close, but they were more patient than I was. 
The boardwalk

A crooked shot of the beach. I was trying to catch a crab and I
think I did, but they blend in so well with the sand.

There were more birds to watch, but these have white and I
wondered if they were eagles?!

More crab picture attempts

After some time in the sun, I headed to the nearby picnic area for lunch, to charge my phone and get some more drinking water. I ended up relaxing there for the afternoon before my afternoon hike back to the campsite at around 4:30/5.  It took an hour or more to make the trek battling the spider webs and sand :).  At the picnic area however, there's an inlet to go into St. Joseph Bay rather than the Gulf.  There were lots of people with snorkel gear and I finally figured out they were mostly looking for scallops and marine life.  There were some individuals/families, but also a biology class from the nearby community college.  I had my snorkel gear along, but was nervous because I didn't really know what I was doing, it said you were suppose to have some sort of flag with you (although I saw none), there were fisherman out there, at the time I didn't know what was worth looking for, there were signs to watch out for alligators (which shouldn't approach you but what do I know) and someone saw a snake in the water.  It all made me nervous, so I watched from afar.  I did find all these little crabs on the shore that as you got closer they moved towards water and it looked like the whole ground was moving.  A little creepy (especially when I thought they were roaches or crickets or something).  Somehow I felt a little better knowing they were mini crabs.  

*Ok, I planned to include the video.  However, the resolution was horrible and it looked like I was just watching the shore line, and even on my computer they didn't look quite as thick as I remembered. But that's what it felt like :).

On my walk back, I diverted at one of the earlier campsites (#3 I think) which also has beach access.  Again, there was a big dune to hike up and over, but this time I had the beach to myself.  I was hoping for great sunset shots, but again, no clouds.  I got some nice pictures though. 

It doesn't look very special, but this was the path to the beach
and there were big dunes.

A dune

A pretty black clam shell I found.  You can not take anything
from this beach though, so it stayed behind.

A better picture of a crab. Those are all his "footprints".

This is a view back across the bay to Port St Joe.  The peninsula
was wider than I expected. I camped out in those trees somewhere.

It was really beautiful and private.  They had lots of cabins for camping too, which is probably the option most people go. The beach, sand, water was all wonderful.  I was really enjoying my time in the Gulf. If you're looking for a secluded island vacation on the cheap, I would think this is a prime option.

**Fitbit totals for the Friday, Saturday and Sunday at the state park were 39,277 steps, 16.5 miles and 10 floors.

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