Throughout this article you will find hyperlinks followed by the icon. These links take you directly to a picture from the trip. You can also browse the entire 117-image Big Bend Photo Trip album.The past few weeks in Tallahassee have been absolutely beautiful. As always, spring break means an entire week with no students so the population drops significantly. It is wonderful how quickly one can zip around town with the student body dismissed. It was about then the temperatures finally started to warm up, bringing to an end the winter that would not relent. There is a very similar student exodus and weather trend that occurs in the Fall as well. Around that time last year on Saturday, 04 October 2008, Claire and I went out for an afternoon of picture taking and driving around. Meeting at my apartment, we had breakfast at Jenny's Lunchbox before heading to the Tallahassee Amtrak Station. Originally built in 1858, this site on the National Register of Historic Places has been closed since Hurricane Katrina when damaged tracks truncated the Sunset Limited service route. New Orleans is the eastern terminus to this day, although Section 226 of the Federal Railroad Safety Improvement Act of 2007 gives Amtrak nine months starting 16 October 2008 to "transmit to the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure of the House of Representatives and the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation of the Senate a plan for restoring passenger rail service between New Orleans, Louisiana, and Sanford, Florida." After an hour at the station we drove up to Havana to walk around the shops and galleries of the historic downtown district. Finally, I took Claire to see the protected oak trees on SR 12 between Havana and Quincy. The venture was an unqualified success and we afterward vowed to select some new destinations and do it again soon. In February, we started discussing possible dates and destinations. Assembling an itinerary of local sites, several of which I have wanted to visit for a while now, Claire and I settled on Saturday one week ago. As Claire had arranged an entire day's availability, we were able to venture out further than Havana this time. Our first stop was Natural Bridge Battlefield Historic State Park, site of the second largest Civil War battle in Florida. During the engagement that saw Tallahassee area volunteers including Confederate soldiers, old men and young boys, Union troops were forced to retreat to the coast leaving Tallahassee the only un-captured Confederate capital east of the Mississippi River. We walked around the monument and then continued down the wooded Natural Bridge Road on foot. The area is an apparent hit with locals, many of whom were fishing or boating in the nearby St. Marks River. The State-owned Rakestraw property sits fenced in on the opposite side of the road, shaded by trees and vegetation of many varieties with ponds and creeks running throughout. There is even a resident gnome with the best setup I have ever seen. Next on the itinerary is a location I have been to frequently, one I was surprised to learn Claire had never visited, the nearby Edward Ball Wakulla Springs State Park. Approaching the main parking area at the lodge, I could see there were many more cars here than usual. We continued past over to the additional parking areas, which was just as well because it gave us a nice walk through the park. We hit all the usual spots: the boat dock, the view from the high dive tower and the lodge, enjoying the day more as the sky cleared and the temperature warmed. We also noticed there was a wedding taking place on the grounds, no doubt the source of the excess cars. Although they have a pretty good restaurant at the lodge, part of the trip plan was to have lunch at a restaurant I drove past a few years ago while Mom and Ross were visiting me one weekend. Back in the car and on the road, we set our course for Carrabelle ready to enjoy barbeque at Hog Wild Bar-B-Q on Highway 98. The drive from Wakulla Springs was nice but took us twice as long as expected because of slow moving vehicles. Soon enough however we arrived, sat down and perused the menu. I have enjoyed some damn fine BBQ before so my expectations are generally lowered, but Hog Wild was an enjoyable find. From the expansive menu I ordered the pulled pork plate with baked beans and cole slaw, a standard platter in my book. The meat was flavorful, tender and without fat. Of the four sauces available, I only tried the sweet variety—a typical BBQ sauce with a nice flavor and not too sugary. The baked beans were good but could have used a hint of marmalade. The Texas toast was crisp and buttery. And the cole slaw, well the cole slaw was like no cole slaw I ever encountered before. If you ask me, cole slaw is shredded cabbage in a creamy, mayonnaise base and often mixed with purple cabbage, celery seed or pineapple. I do not like it too creamy, but what I was served substituted a watery vinegar base for the mayo sauce all together. The cabbage and celery seed were there but it was a fraud. Suffice it to say, I hope I never encounter this "cole slaw" again. In all, it may not have been completely "worth driving 100 miles for" as their slogan claims, but Hog Wild is certainly worth a stop if you are driving through. The next time I do so, I will try the potato salad instead. Continuing toward our final destination, we took time to stop at the Carrabelle Beach parking area that has a nice view, picnic tables, grills and is also the former site of World War II D-Day training. We sat in the sun and enjoyed the breeze off the Gulf of Mexico before walking back to the car. On our way, a young boy and his brother saw me taking pictures and precociously attracted my attention. Upset that his older brother got a photo snapped, the younger boy ran up and said "cheese" repeatedly until I took his picture as well. It was a brief but entertaining exchange. The second detour was in Apalachicola where there are cool shops and restaurants somewhat like in Havana, except here you are on the river and boats are docked nearby. We walked around the boats, through a shop and by an old, overgrown structure for twenty minutes or so and then resumed our course to the lighthouse at Cape San Blas. Located on the property of Eglin Air Force Base, the Cape San Blas Light has an interesting history of destruction and relocation which ultimately resulted in the (I think unusual) framework design. Approaching the two structures on site, one of which I already knew to house a gift shop and museum, I noticed there appeared to be people walking up toward the lighthouse. The gift shop was unfortunately closed but next to that sign was another advertising lighthouse tickets for sale inside. Everything online had led me to believe there was no public access inside the lighthouse so I was quite pleased to see this. I spoke to the man who opened the door for a few people to climb up and he said they only started permitting access a few months ago. Having only enough cash for myself, I took Claire's camera and climbed up the extremely narrow spiral staircase to the top. The view was nice although by now the weather was starting to change, the clear sunny skies replaced with darker and darker cloud cover slowly moving in from the west. The nearby beach was deserted except for two men fishing. It looked like a hurricane had just blown through by the trees and other natural debris. Jagged remains of tree trunks poked out of the sand, seashells speared and broken throughout. We sat on a long downed tree listening to the Gulf waters peacefully crash upon the shore until deciding there would be no sunset. The drive back was pleasant and soon enough we were back at my apartment. Since Claire had borrowed my memory card, I made her a copy of the pictures she took before bidding her farewell. Our next little trip should happen one weekend in April, during which we will visit the Tallahassee Antique Car Museum and then take a drive through the scenic eastern part of the county around Capitola. We are both looking forward to it.
Day Trips with Claire Smith The Georgia Plantation | The Florida Caverns Trip
The Big Bend Photo Trip Photographs Pebble Hill Plantation | Florida Caverns State Park
Tallahassee Antiques Museum | Big Bend Photo Trip | October Day Out
Photo Credit: David July