Mount Sutro: An Electronic Periodical

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The Thanksgiving Weekend

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Photo Credit: David July — Top of the Natchez Beach Pavilion, Natchez Street at East County Highway 30A, Seaside, Florida, 26 November 2010 This year for Thanksgiving my family and I decided to do something different. On Wednesday, I met up with Mom and Ross at Topsail Hill Preserve State Park in Santa Rosa Beach, close to Destin and Seaside. Before its eventual purchase by the state in 1992, the park and its 1,640 acres of woodlands, trails, undeveloped beaches and three dune lakes was the focus of much controversy including a savings and loan fraud scandal. We set up camp in Site 3 on Pampas Loop in the park's Gregory E. Moore RV Resort, a pleasant but modern facility which operated as the privately-owned Emerald Coast RV & Golf Resort from 1986 to 1998. There are no in-ground fire rings or grills present so we brought our own portable fire bowl. While other parks in the state offer larger campsites with more privacy, the atmosphere here was very enjoyable even during the busy holiday weekend. On Thursday, we walked from the campground to the beach along Tram Road—a park operated transport ferries guests the 0.7 miles to and from the beach but we had no interest in not walking—and photographed the hilly dunes, pristine white sand beach and some of the hundreds of Portuguese Man o' War (Physalia physalis) siphonophores that had washed ashore. Afterward, Mom and Ross prepared a delicious Thanksgiving meal of ham steak, turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, red cabbage and apple pie, quite a feat considering the limited kitchen resources of their camper and the size of the meal. The next day we set out to wander around Seagrove Beach and Seaside, the planned beach community I last visited in June 2007. Going on memory from that trip, I led us on a path which took us to various sites such as the Natchez Street Beach Pavilion, The Truman House and Central Square. After stopping for lunch, cocktails and a view at Bud and Alley's Waterfront Restaurant and Rooftop Bar, we enjoyed the flowers of Cerulean Park in the nearby WaterColor community. Photo Credit: David July — Three running lights and the Airstream logo on the Queen Bee Cupcakes trailer, 2235 East County Highway 30A, Seaside, Florida, 26 November 2010 In the evening, we drove to Destin and roamed the HarborWalk Marina and Village which has expanded significantly since my last visit. It was cool and breezy but that did not stop us from enjoying frozen beverages from Jester Daiquiris. On our drive back to Topsail we stopped and had dinner at The Whale's Tail Beach Bar & Grill, a beach side restaurant that would normally offer excellent outdoor seating but on this night it was too cold. In lieu of our planned outdoor breakfast on Saturday morning, we went to The Donut Hole Cafe & Bakery. Obviously frequented by locals and visitors alike, the Donut Hole offers a wide variety of fresh, homemade sandwiches, breakfasts and baked goods with professional and friendly service. Back at Topsail, we hiked the Turpentine Trail and visited Campbell Lake before heading north. Moving along the Bear Track Trail, we encountered the northern boundary of the park and actually spotted the Donut Hole through the woods. We next took the opportunity to drive through and assess the campground site options at Grayton Beach and Henderson Beach State Parks for potential future visits. Wanting to catch a sunset and revisit the HarborWalk Marina during better light, we headed back toward Destin stopping first at The Back Porch Seafood & Oyster House for lunch. Once we arrived at the marina, we found it to be the perfect chance to spend some time taking pictures of the boats, lights and wildlife with few people around. Hoping to find some nightlife, we stopped at AJ's Seafood & Oyster Bar and The Lucky Snapper Grill & Bar for drinks and food. Unfortunately, since it was off season there was not much going on around town. Given the weather conditions, the clear starry night was begging to be observed and so I drove us to Seaside, Grayton Beach and the Point Washington State Forest to find isolated darkness. It was more difficult than I anticipated but we did see several shooting stars and the Milky Way before returning to Topsail and turning in for the night. Sunday morning, we started packing up camp and prepared to go our separate ways after a successful five-day visit. We returned to the Donut Hole for lunch and had another great meal. Our timing was perfect since it was the last day they would be open before closing for three weeks for their off-season vacation. I took one last walk around the park near our campsite and said goodbye to Mom and Ross, knowing that we would see each other again soon for Christmas. The roads were quite busy as expected, although my journey to Tallahassee was uneventful. Mom and Ross had quite a different experience unfortunately, as they were stuck in heavy traffic on I-10 and I-75 for several hours. They ultimately got back to Orlando far later than they should have, which made me feel bad since they had already endured the hardship of traveling 64% more than me in addition to preparing the camper, supplies and paying for everything. In all, it was a successful trip and I am thankful to have been able to spend quality time with my family.
The Thanksgiving Weekend The Conterminous Emulator | The Ardea Herodias
The Physalia Physalis Photographs  Topsail Hill Preserve State Park | Destin
Seaside & Seagrove Beach | WaterColor
Photo Credit: David July
Photo Credit: David July

The Fourth Light

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Photo Credit: David July — "Warning Eglin Air Force Base Closed Area - Posted Do Not Enter" sign and the Cape San Blas Lighthouse (1885) from Cape San Blas beach, Eglin Air Force Base, Test Site D3A, Cape San Blas Light Drive at Keepers Cottage Way, Port St. Joe, Florida, 21 August 2010 One of the places Mom specifically wanted to visit during our August 2010 photo road trip was the lighthouse at Cape San Blas. Funded in 1883 and lit in 1885, this lighthouse is the fourth to be built in the area. It was relocated in 1918 and subsequently reactivated in January 1919. The original Cape San Blas Light was completed in April 1848 only to be destroyed in an August 1851 storm. A replacement was built and became operational in November 1855, but it too was destroyed by a hurricane in August 1856. The third lighthouse built was lit in May 1858. It was stripped of its lens and severely damaged during the American Civil War, but was repaired and returned to service in July 1865. Ultimately, beach erosion caused it to topple into the Gulf of Mexico in July 1882. After browsing the Sleeping Beauty Gift Shop and historical items in the restored keeper's house, we paid $5 each to ascend the lighthouse. It was a mostly overcast day but the climb and views were still quite nice. We spent some time on the adjacent beach, discovering several marked sea turtle nests in the process, before driving to Panama City Beach for dinner at Sharky's Beachfront Restaurant and Tiki Bar. The drive back to Tallahassee via SR 75 and SR 20 was uneventful, save for a double rainbow sighting and an unexpected sunset—the sky cleared shortly after we gave up on seeing the sunset and departed Sharky's for home. I really enjoyed Mom's visit and our two-day trip around the panhandle. Photograph sets for each segment are available: Carrabelle, Apalachicola, Cape San Blas, Panama City Beach and St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge. Our next destination is Topsail Hill Preserve State Park not far from Seaside. The park features 3.2 miles of secluded and undeveloped beach, 25+ foot tall dunes, three rare coastal dune lakes and several hiking trails. It sounds quite different from the other state parks I have visited and should be an interesting location to celebrate Thanksgiving.
North Florida Photo Road Trip with Mom The Fourth Light | The Beacon of 1831 | The Tower in the Woods The Distance to Here | The Lights Leading Home Photographs  Carrabelle | Apalachicola | Cape San Blas Panama City Beach | St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge
Photo Credit: David July

The Beacon of 1831

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Photo Credit: David July — St. Marks Lighthouse (1831) at St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge, Lighthouse Road, Plum Orchard, Florida, 22 August 2010 As recently mentioned, Mom and I visited the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge during our August 2010 photo road trip. Although overcast at first, the day turned out to be quite nice and warm. We stopped at the visitor center and chatted with a park ranger before slowly making our way to the St. Marks Lighthouse. There were many paths, trails and other places to wander and photograph which in turn exposed us to a variety of flora and fauna. We managed to see quite a bit in the three hours we had but I would like to return sometime to hike the trails.
North Florida Photo Road Trip with Mom The Fourth Light | The Beacon of 1831 | The Tower in the Woods The Distance to Here | The Lights Leading Home Photographs  Carrabelle | Apalachicola | Cape San Blas Panama City Beach | St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge
Photo Credit: David July

The Tower in the Woods

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Photo Credit: David July — The wooded surroundings of the Crooked River Lighthouse, 1975 Highway 98 West, Carrabelle, Florida, 21 August 2010 The Crooked River Lighthouse in Carrabelle was one of the first destinations on my August 2010 photo road trip with Mom. We walked around the lighthouse and inside the museum but did not ascend the tower. Afterward, we enjoyed lunch at Hog Wild Bar-B-Q and then continued on Highway 98 west toward our next destination: Apalachicola.
North Florida Photo Road Trip with Mom The Fourth Light | The Beacon of 1831 | The Tower in the Woods The Distance to Here | The Lights Leading Home Photographs  Carrabelle | Apalachicola | Cape San Blas Panama City Beach | St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge
Photo Credit: David July