GRAND ADVENTURE - Day 23 - July 12, 2009
I woke up a 5
a.m. to a great cup of coffee that my brother made enjoying some more great
conversation before we both had to leave. I went over to Gulf Coast Community
College to bird a bit while the weather was still cool (there is no such thing
as cool here – just not as hot… muggy applies to all times of day). Not too much
activity but a few terns and gulls overhead. I drove over the Hathaway Bridge
(where the bridge got struck by lightening 34 years ago while I was watching a
waterspout) towards Panama City Beach… I had intended again to drive some
distance but saw Allison Ave. and couldn’t resist taking the road to the first
apartment I lived in after getting married to Clayton back in 1975. The
apartment was gone but it led me to the beach where I continued the drive.
The number of
huge hotels on the beach is disgusting. No view of the gulf anywhere. When I
first moved to Panama City, we were hit by Hurricane Eloise which destroyed most
of these types of buildings; fifteen years later Hurricane Opal did it again.
Why do people continue to elect uninformed officials who allow buildings to be
put in areas they shouldn’t? Anyway, I digress, I stopped here and there trying
to bird wherever there was an opportunity. I did pick up a few Least Terns
flying along the coast.
I got back on
Hwy 98 but saw a turnoff to Seaside and the Florida Birding Trail (which
basically seems to just direct people to every state park… the people at the
Florida visitors centers should offer to sell annual park passes to every
visitor who asks about birding opportunities so they don’t continuously get hit
with the entrance fees).
Seaside is a
really bizarre village where the movie “The Truman Show” was filmed. Narrow
streets filled with beautiful little cottages… more bike paths than roads.
Really Stepford Wive’s feeling place.
Just west of
Seaside, I stopped at an amazing beach where the water was an amazing turquoise
and so clear. The sand on the beach was so white. Out in the water was a loon
just bobbing along with its head down fishing. I thought at first it was a
dolphin or something similar. I took photos and finally got my feet wet which I
had been reluctant to do because I didn’t want to travel with salty skin (they
had a rinse off place). I dropped one of my sandals unknowingly way down the
beach and a very helpful woman pointed it out to me. That was a pleasant stop.
west I stopped at Gulf Islands National Seashore where I got my National Parks
passport stamped. The fellow at the desk was helpful yet completely clueless
about nature watching. I really think the park service needs to make visitor
center staff go out and explore their park and go on interpretive walks. I loved
being able to share with visitors all of the exciting possibilities for
adventures in Sequoia National Forest, being the person at the information
center may be the only contact the public has to staff, it is really important
that that person is a people person and willing to go the extra mile to help.
Anyway, despite the less than stellar information, I did walk the nature trail
and found many wonderful birds for the day. Best of all was a Red-headed
Woodpecker feeding a very anxious fledgling.
Florida behind, I entered Alabama to a most helpful woman at the I-10 Rest Stop.
Birding rest stops is not to be missed if one is traveling. I found six species
there including surprisingly Cinnamon Teal in the sump. I got an Alabama Coastal
Birding Trail map and found the detour to Battleship Memorial Park in Mobile a
good quick opportunity. While few birds were found beyond hundreds of Laughing
Gulls, three Ring-billed Gulls were the first I had found in the east. They
charged to enter the park which I thought was strange until I found out even
with all of the military aircraft, the Battleship Alabama and a submarine, this
was a privately funded park, I find that intriguing. I also find it strange
America’s fascination with violence and glorifying tools of war. I am proud of
the sacrifice of our soldiers but our need to fight others whose beliefs are
foreign to our own (especially on their land) is so contrary to a truly
civilized society. Oh, well, I am not about to change the world with my rants,
but I would love it if those visiting such places would stop to enjoy and
respect the world about them.
All through my
voyage, I have been relying not just on my GPS, but on my ground support team,
which consists of my sister Margot! I have to thank her for helping me figure
out where to go next, where I am and what the weather is forecast to be.
Funny thing, I
have been saying all along that I have a special relationship to Mother Earth
(Gaia) and that she has been protecting me. Margot scoffed (as would I) at the
supernatural helping me on my journey. I had asked about severe thunderstorms
and Margot checked, letting me know that a very bad system was heading my way. I
was prepared but asked Gaia for assistance since my tires are getting worn and I
am worried about the possibility of hydroplaning and having an accident. So
while Margot was telling me what time the storm with the heavy downpour and hail
should arrive, she was surprised when I told her I received just a few drops and
that the road continued to remain dry. As she watched the radar, a bubble of
cloudlessness opened up along my path and quickly closed behind me with heavy
rain. My path remained dry and here I now sit at a rest stop in Atchafalaya,
Louisiana without a cloud in the sky. I will rest for now.