Last week, I had the opportunity to head to Pensacola, Florida for a few days. I'd really never been to the Gulf Coast, so I wasn't entirely sure what to expect.
The beaches and the city of Pensacola exceeded my expectations. Pensacola has a lot of southern charm, featuring buildings with ornate decorative wrought iron, bright colors, and lovely gardens. I didn't spend much time in the downtown area, but what I saw I enjoyed. They were hosting an annual seafood festival, and while I don't eat seafood, the food looked amazing and it was a great opportunity to check out the locals.
I love the beach, so after a day holed up in a hotel room with a nasty head cold, I headed off to the Johnson Beach segment of Gulf Islands National Seashore. What a treat! This beach goes on for miles and was largely unoccupied except for the occasional fishermen (and fisherwomen). I saw beautiful birds. Unfortunately, I also got eaten alive by what I learned were dog flies, so I had to keep moving to avoid their hungry mouths. At least I got my exercise!
The next day, I visited Fort Pickens and the lovely beaches along the way to this Civil War construction. The fort was built by slave labor, and once was used to imprison Apache Indians, including the famed Geronimo. It was beautiful in its age and slightly eerie due to its sordid past... and because it was mostly deserted. Unfortunately, there were more dog flies, which put a little damper on my fun on the beach that day, too.
Saturday, I drove out past Gulf Shores to Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge. It was gorgeous and secluded, with slowly rippling waves and lots of large crabs to be observed. The jellyfish made their presence known with a few little stings, and the dog flies tried to have another meal. Goodness, I sure am delicious!
After my time at Bon Secour, I headed back through Gulf Shores and Orange Beach and returned to Johnson Beach, where I walked for miles along the water. The wind was enough to keep the flies away there, and I enjoyed the shallow Gulf Coast waters, walking quite a ways out... until spotting a couple of small sharks! These guys were probably too small to take more than a nibble, but I like my calves the way they are, so I enjoyed the rest of my time from the shoreline. It was amazing to see them there, though, and I'm glad I got to experience that.
All in all, it was a lovely and relaxing time as I gear up to vacate my house and work through selling the last of my unnecessary belongings. The drive back was a little mind numbing, but was highlighted by the opportunity to see cotton fields for the first time in my life in Alabama. I even swiped one of the little soft puffs as a souvenir.