Saturday, December 25, 2010

Back to St. George Island!

I don't always post trips to this campground since I go so often, but a few things were different about this trip.

It's winter here in north Florida, which means taking a big chance on the weather. I camped at St. George two weeks ago and there were only 4 other occupied campsites--strange to see it so empty! On this trip, the campground was more than half full. Surprising given the holiday (I was there from the 20th-23rd). There were a few families with kids but more without. I lucked out with the weather this time and one of my three days was wonderfully warm, in the 70's.

One of the new things on this trip was that I had found out on my last visit to this park that you can pay a fee and get the lock combination to the gate that blocks the road to the end of the island. I didn't bother with that on the last trip because it was cold and overcast every day and not great photography or walking-around weather. This time I decided to take a look.

It's a little over four miles from the gate to the end of the island. I was the only one on the road, and when I got to the end and the parking lot, I was the only one at the end of the island.



They only allow 20 people to drive down there at any one time, since that's all the parking lot will accommodate. Anyone can bike down there any time, just bypassing the gate.

There is a path that leads from the parking lot to the beach.



It was very quiet and desolate at the end, with a different feel than being the only person on the beach near the park. There were a lot of birds at the end, mostly white gulls. This very large darker gull flew by as I stood there.



I walked the beach to the end, which I had hoped would come to something resembling a picturesque point, but no such luck. It was more rounded, with a jagged shoreline. This is the view toward the end.



While I was there, three pelicans flew by and then headed away from me, watching the water for fish. I think that might be Dog Island in the background.



I stood there for a while just enjoying the total solitude. I'm sure at more popular camping times it gets busier at the end. This lone sandpiper was making its way down the shoreline.



And then I left. On the road back to the gate, I passed this great blue heron standing in the sand.



It decided to stretch, showing off one wing.



When I got back, I got my chair and Kindle from the campsite and took them to the beach near the campground to read a little and enjoy the nice weather. There was a guy fairly close by to my right with three fishing poles in the sand and a kayak. After a while I looked up from my reading to discover that he had launched his boat into the decidedly choppy surf and was struggling to paddle out.



The wind and waves pushed him in my direction; he turned around to paddle back to shore, arriving about five feet in front of me. I said "Gee, you could have just walked over..." He smiled and headed back to his fishing poles, dragging his kayak behind him...

At about 5:00 I took the camera along the path near my site to the bay side of the island, hoping to see an egret or heron. My timing was off for that, the tide was all the way in, leaving very little shoreline. A woman that I had met earlier at the campground was letting her dog have an off-leash run around. We chatted while the dog cavorted in the sand and surf. She was from New Jersey, in Week One of a four-month camping trip with her dog and cat. I suspect that at the end of the four months, some of the sand that Scruffy, the dog, was picking up in the beach that evening will still be in her camper. After a while a couple came down with their dog, which they let off-leash to play with Scruffy. They were from Ontario. We watched the dogs and talked. Time went by and the sun started to set. We talked some more and the sun got lower. I had only brought the large zoom lens with me, which is not appropriate for scenic photos, but I couldn't let this sunset go by without at least trying to get some of it.



And then the dogs were leashed again and we all headed back up the trail. I left the next morning so I didn't see them again.

There was another new element to this trip. If you've been reading this blog for a while, you know how much I love my little Scamp camper. However, through a somewhat convoluted series of events, I now have a new camper. This one is a Coachmen Apex; it's 17', and therefore longer than the 13' Scamp. This was my second outing in it and I have to admit I am already spoiled by having a bathroom and refrigerator, as well as a few other conveniences. Here it is in the site:



Yes, I know, it's not nearly as cute as the Scamp. And the hitching process is far more complicated now to compensate for the increased weight of the thing over the Scamp (and now I am noticing a difference in gas mileage). One of the things I really like about it is the windows, which you don't see in the photo above since only the kitchen window is on that side. There is a very large back window, as well as one over the couch on the side (and another next to the bed, which is at the front of the camper).



A cool thing about these windows is that they are tinted. Unless there is a light on inside the camper or the windows are open, people outside the camper can't see into it, which is nice from a privacy standpoint.

And so that was this trip. I am not letting the new cold Florida winter weather keep me home this year and plan to camp as much as possible through spring--I just wait till the last minute to make the reservations, keeping an eye on the temperature forecasts. I'm hoping to get out again in early January.

Merry Christmas to everyone!!!