Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Gulf Islands National Seashore: Fort Pickens

We drove into the campground at Fort Picken after dark last night, so this morning I was really excited to see what our temporary home for the next day looked like.
campsite
I started with a quick walk on the trail that led out of our campsite
trail to beach
and to the beach. It is a nice spot with a view overlooking Santa Rosa Sound.
beach
I even found a few interesting seashells.
seashell
We ate breakfast at our campsite and then headed over to Fort Pickens to explore.
Fort Pickens
walking under arches
walking outside of fort
gun
coming out of fort
The fort is old and parts of it are a bit creepy.
walking in fort
I found it to be really interesting with lots of secret passageways leading into the dark unknown.
silhouette in tunnel
going down tunnel
Amongst the highlights was the big gun mounted on top.
big gun

While touring the fort, because we happened to be visiting on a Tuesday, we got to see the famous Navy Blue Angles in action.
blue angels
I'm not the biggest fan of airplanes, but I have to admit seeing the tricks they performed and seeing them fly so close to each other in formation was impressive. After a morning at Fort Pickens we headed back to our campsite for lunch.

Post lunch it was time to head to the beach! We walked the short nature trail through the dunes to the impressive white sand beach. The water had a tropical turquoise color.
at waters edge
It was much different than the cloudy gray liquid I grew up swimming in off the coast of New Jersey. We dipped our piggies in the Gulf of Mexico and got splashed a little bit by the waves, but it felt too cold to go all the way in. Sierra's favorite pastime at the beach was playing in the sand.
cute Sierra
Sierra in the sand
We helped her build a small sand castle, but she really like climbing up and down
sandy Sierra
Sierra in sand
(and sometimes sliding down on her belly)
sliding down sand
a little hill that had formed at the high tide line. She also enjoyed rolling in the sand. As far as wildlife, we saw some pelicans that flew right in front of us.
pelicans2

After spending a good portion of our afternoon at the beach we headed back to the campsite for dinner. After dinner we headed back down the trail from our campsite to the Santa Rosa Sound beach.
walking to beach
We looked for shells
Noelle and Sierra walking beach
and were treated to a view of a heron fishing in the shallow water.   
heron at sunset

Monday, March 30, 2015

Tuskegee National Historic Sites

We arrived in Tuskegee just as the sun was starting to peak through the clouds. Because it was the first sign we saw, we decided to visit the Tuskegee Airmen site first.
Airplane hangar
We arrived to find no picnic area and so we spread out some beach towels on the grassy median of the parking area and had our lunch there. We then went inside Hangar #1 to check out the exhibits. The stories of the obstacles these men had overcome was pretty inspiring. I can't imagine having to deal with the racism these men faced. Among the highlights of the exhibit were two restored vintage airplanes.
airplane
airplane 2
There was also a flight simulator module that Sierra seemed to enjoy.
Sierra in plane
When then went over to Hangar #2
hangar
and checked out the exhibits there, before moving on to the campus of Tuskegee university to visit the Tuskegee Institute National Historic Site.

At the Tuskegee Institute NHs we walked through a portion of the very nice campus
Baldwin monument
to the George Washington Carver Museum.
Carver museum
Like most Americans, I knew about Carver's work with peanuts. However, I did not know about some of his other agricultural experiments and certainly did not know that he was an accomplished artist! After touring the museum we hit the road again. This time we would be headed out of Alabama and into Florida. When we told Sierra that we were no longer in Alabama, but had moved on into Florida, her response was "Daddy changed it!"       

Horseshoe Bend National Military Park

From Cheaha State Park we headed south on Alabama Highway 49 to Horseshoe Bend National Military Park. It was raining when we arrived and so we went inside to check out the exhibits and learn more about what had occurred here. It turns out it was the site of a battle between the US Army, led by Andrew Jackson, and a large confederation of Creeks. Aided by some Cherokees, the US Army was victorious. As their reward for assisting the US, the Cherokees got ...... sent to Oklahoma on the Trail of Tears.

After checking out the exhibits we drove the short loop road. We had wanted to do the short nature trail hike, but didn't want to get wet. I did get out of the car to check out a cluster of monuments located near Stop 2 on the loop road.
jackson Trace
Revolutionary war soldier grave
monument and cannon
monument
From Horseshoe Bend we headed further south on Highway 49 to Tuskegee.    

The Highpoint of Alabama: Cheaha Mountain

It was perfectly clear when we went to bed last night in our tent in the primitive camping area at Cheaha State Park.
Cheaha campsite
We watched the sunset through the trees,
sunset
and the summit of Cheaha Mountain glowed in the waning sunlight.
Cheaha Mountain from distance
However, it rained pretty hard last night with some thunder and lightning. We awoke to a light rain and decided to find the lodge restaurant to eat breakfast. The restaurant was closed, but it was close to the summit area of the mountain. Since we were there we decided to head over and bag the peak. We hit patches of fog as we made the short drive to the observation tower at the summit.
Cheaha Mountain

I found the benchmark on a rock near the foundation of the tower.
benchmark
Then Noelle and Sierra joined me for a walk up to the top of the tower. The stairs were a bit damp and dark. We took a family photo at the top
family in tower
and then headed down into the thickening fog.
Eric and Sierra at sign
We drove back to the campsite and packed up our wet tent for our drive south.        

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Little River Canyon National Preserve

After a great night's rest and delicious breakfast at our friends' house, we hit the road again. This time we headed over to the Little River Canyon Preserve near Fort Payne. Our first stop was the picnic area near Little River Falls. We ate a picnic lunch there and then hiked over to check out the falls.
walking to falls
With spring water flows the falls were pretty impressive!
Little River Falls
We checked the falls out
Sierra checks out falls
from two different vantage points
at brink of falls
and then headed over to the visitor center. There were not many exhibits in the visitor center and so after stamping our Passport books we moved on for a hike on the Beaver Pond Trail.

The hike on the Beaver Pond Trail was pleasant,
Noelle and Sierra hiking
even if the pond itself was a bit of a disappointment.
beaver pond
We found a clump of animal fur that was interesting.
animal fur
We think it came from a deer. When we had returned to the parking area, I took a quick walk across the road to check out the view from the Lynn Overlook.
Little River overlook
We then hit the road on our way down to Cheaha State Park and our campsite for the night.