Sunday, September 15, 2013

Packing up and heading home.

Sunday, September 15, 2013
Gulf State Park
Gulf Shores, AL
89*, a beautiful, sunny day

I haven't written a blog post in quite a few days because nothing really exciting has happened that would fill up a whole post.  We've had a few little moments of excitement or of interest, but nothing worth a whole post.  Wow, it's already been a full week since my last blog post.  Time sure flies when you're relaxed and having fun.
Since we head for home tomorrow, though, I thought I'd fill in with all those little things today.  This whole week, there have only been one or two other RVs in our area of the campground.  But Friday night, they started rolling in and Saturday, this is what it looked like in our section. There are still other areas of the park, though, that were completely empty.  I guess it will be kind of a "ghost campground" until November 1, when the Snow Birds start rolling in.

Although we still haven't spent any
time at the beach here, we have been swimming in the Campground pool several times.  The beach is just too steep and has continued to be fairly rough and has had jelly fish every time we've gone to check it out.

Today, while we were checking it out, a man walked along this board walk and across the very soft, hard to walk in sand with 2 large white pillars.  We wondered what he was doing as we headed back to our car.  As we got in our car, we saw the same man getting something else out of his car and a woman got out of the car carrying 2 huge flower arrangements with lovely bouquets of varying shades of reds.  We aren't sure, of course, as we didn't stay around, but it looked like they were setting up for a wedding or at least a photo shoot of a wedding.  It would have been a beautiful day for it.   The weather this entire week has been lovely.  Sunshine all week.  The forecast has called for possible storms all week, but they never materialized.  It has been hot, but not as humid as the first couple days we were down here.  Apparently being in the swamps is not as good for my allergies as being at the beach near a desert, though, as I've been stuffed up a lot and needing my inhaler.  So just the ocean breezes apparently aren't enough if I'm living in the middle of a swamp, LOL.  Mr. C says there's probably too many mold spores in the air, which is one of my worst allergens.
Speaking of where we are staying and the middle of a swamp, we have seen several animals while we've been here, besides the beautiful Corn Snake in the last blog post.  We've seen a flicker in the huge old pine tree in front of our campsite.  We've seen a bunch of what I think are  nuthatches playing tag in the sycamore tree right next to our trailer.  There are 4 of them and they run up and down the tree and chase each other, sometimes right side up and other times upside down, they are so funny.  We saw a raccoon ambling along one day, as well as a couple deer on our bike rides.
Mr. C has continued to take nightly bicycle rides.  I haven't joined him as much as we both would have liked, but my tailbone feels bruised (to put it politely) and I can hardly sit right now, let alone ride my bike.  Plus, Mr. C really likes to go after dark (or right at dark) as he sees more critters that way and I'm just not comfortable enough yet to like riding after dark.  After one of our evening rides we got back to the trailer just after dark and as we started to go into the trailer, I saw something moving up the side of the trailer.

I thought it was a lizard from the way it was moving but when I shined (shown?) my flashlight on it we saw this bright green tree frog.  Mr. C climbed up on the steps and got as close as he could and got this close up photo.  I wanted to catch him and bring him home, but he was too shy.

On Mr. C's night rides, he has seen deer, bunnies, and his favorite, a couple more snakes.  He saw this Water Snake one night.
 Another night he saw this little snake, he says it was just a baby, it was only about 16 inches long and blended right into the road he was lying on.  This is a Hognose Snake. Mr. C was thrilled to see and photograph these snakes, LOL.

I started to say we have been swimming at the campground pool several times.  They have a fantastic pool here.  The first year we were here in the early spring and although we looked at it, it cost a daily fee to swim and it was chilly out, in April, and the pool did not appear to be heated, so we never used it.  There have been enough complaints about a charge to use the pool that Gulf State Park has dropped the fee for people camping here.  Since we didn't want to go into the Gulf with the Jelly Fish, we chose to use the pool.  This is the
most interesting pool I have ever seen.  It is probably about 100 feet long x 18-20 feet front to back in the main part of the pool and then there are 2 short arms coming up off the main rectangular pool, making a squared off U shape.  Each of the arms of the U are about  18 x 18 ft.  One of the arms has 2 sets of stairs into/out of the pool which starts at 2 1/2 feet at the bottom of the stairs.  The other arm has a set of stairs and a ladder (on either side of the arm) and starts out about 3 ft deep.
Across the bottom of the squared off U, the water on one side (with 2 sets of stairs) starts around 3 feet deep, slopes gradually to the center which is about 4 1/2 feet deep and then slopes gradually up to the other side at about 4 ft.  There are ladders along the bottom of the U and at the 4 ft end.  The first day we swam, the water was wonderfully WARM.  The other 3 times we went, it was not quite as warm, but once you got in was quite pleasant and didn't require a lot of effort to "make yourself" get in, so it was not warm, but was not cold either.

There is also a fenced/gated area with a splash pool for kids.  This was a large area with LOTS of fountains spraying toward the center.  There is no depth to speak of, but the surface is a rubberized surface with either air or water trapped underneath (maybe an inch "deep" at any particular place) which moves with the kids so they can run, fall, splash and play without any fear of getting hurt.  There is a very large deck area with three shaded areas and TONS of lounge chairs.  We enjoyed it very much.

There are great views of the lake and ocean and Gulf State Park from the pool area, also.

Meanwhile, back in the trailer, when we're not doing other things like eating, cooking, roasting marshmallows etc. I have been working on canes.  I have completed 3 canes while here in Alabama and have 9 others about 1/3 completed.

It has been a wonderful 3 weeks, but I have to admit, I'm greedy and would like it to be more.  I am so ready for Mr. C to retire and for us to start RVing full time.  We have a lot of work to get our house in a sell able condition, though, before we can even consider going full-timing.

So, ready or not, tomorrow we head back to Illinois to take up our real, everyday lives.  Until I have more to write, I'll leave you here.  Have a great Autumn, where ever you happen to live or be.  Thanks for coming along on our journey.  Smiles, Sue C

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Big excitement today, Sunday, September 8, 2013

Sunday, September 8, 2013
Gulf Shores, Alabama
Gulf State Park Campground

Spoiler alert to my MOM, Don't look too closely at the pictures after the sentence "we got to the half way point". . .

We didn't do much today, it's Sunday and things are too crowded on weekends, so we tend to stick around camp.  So I caught up on my blog (including weeding out a bunch of "bad" photos and editing/cropping others).

We took a drive and checked out 3 other campgrounds.  Only one of them would be okay for our preferences.

Mr. C worked on the bikes, putting odometers on them and finding mine has a bad inner tube, so we had to go get a new inner tube for it.  

We saw a cute bird in the next campsite over.  It was there both times we came back from an errand.  Some kind of little ground bird, I can't remember if it's a quail, but I think that's what it is.  Here's the picture, you can decide what it is.

We had hot dogs on the grill with chips and roasted marshmallows for dinner and then just before dark we decided to take our 2 mile bike ride, down the wilderness trail beyond the campground.  This is the same road we saw a BIG deer on last time we rode it, so this time I told Mr. C to be sure to bring the camera.  Only problem is, the little camera is about out of battery and somehow or other we managed to leave home without that particular charger.  Poor planning on our part, I grabbed the wrong camera bag.
We got to about the half way point and turned around and started back.  
Mr. C said, wait a minute, slow down and very carefully started to go around a large stick in the road . . . but wait a minute, I don't remember going around a stick on our way out. . .
We got closer and I asked Mr. C, "Is that a snake?  What kind is it?"(I was still a ways back)?  He said "It's just a Corn Snake, and a fairly nice size one".  I excitedly said, "Quick, get the camera out and take a picture."  It was getting too dark to get a good picture with that camera, as it's a very basic point and shoot and on auto insists on

the setting and won't let you chose your own setting, even if you want to force a flash on it, you can't, plus the final battery is running out.
Darn, it's getting dark.  We need the good camera.  I said, "Mr. C, you just have to go back to the trailer as fast as you safely can and get the good camera.  We can't let this opportunity pass us by."

You have to understand here, Mr. C. LOVES snakes .  He used to raise them before he met me, used to help with poisonous reptile research, and at one time we had over 200 snakes in our house on shelves lining our walls about a foot down from the ceiling. . .200 snakes require a LOT of mice and we finally got tired of messing and gave it all away, LOL.  But that's another story. . .  Back to this corn snake.  He asked if I'd be okay, alone there by myself (remember, it's wilderness/swamp and it's getting dark).  I assured him I'd be fine and off he went.  I didn't feel safe riding my new bike that fast yet. . .
It was dark enough for me to take this picture:  Less than 3 minutes after he left I hear a grunting noise off to my rear/right. . . like a pig sound, kind of?  I've never heard a bear sound?  Then I heard an answering grunt off to the side and then one right in the ditch beside me. . . Okay, then, if it's right here beside me and I don't see anything but a ditch with a bit of water, it's a bullfrog, more than likely.  
So they kept calling and it kept getting darker and the snake just laid there in the middle of the path keeping warm on the pavement.
She was a big girl, around 4 ft long and Mr. C. says he thinks the way she was lying there she may have been a gravid female.  He finally got back, with a flashlight and the camera and we proceeded to take her picture until she finally had enough and moved off into the ditch and the dark.

I told Mr. C. about the sounds and we talked about me staying there alone and he said, "You know, it could have been a rattle snake!"  He continued, "But I wouldn't have left you here alone with a rattle snake."  Like THAT was even a POSSIBILITY, LOLOL.
But isn't she pretty,?  She has beautiful coloration.  If we hadn't been in a State Park he would have caught her and taken her home to our daughter who is trying to raise corn snakes, LOL.  Sorry B, no snake this time.  LY anyway.

We rode off towards our campsite.  We passed a man going that direction and excitedly told him what we had seen.  He said, "Oh no, I'm geocaching and I hate snakes, I'm scared to death of them".  We assured him she was long gone that she had moved off into the ditch, probably hunting.  Then, after he was out of sight and sound, said, oops, guess not everybody will be excited with our sighting, will they and laughed and laughed.  We got home, I completed last night's blog and wrote this one.

 Now I'm all caught up and I'm off to bed.  We're planning to go to the beach tomorrow, hopefully I'll have something interesting to write about, but if not, I'll be back when I do have something fun to write about.  Bye for now, thanks for reading along.  Smiles, Sue C

Caught up with a boat ride

September 7, 2013
Gulf Shores, Alabama
Still "living" at Gulf State Park

I find it kind of humorous that we don't do anything for several days and then we do everything else right in a row.  Not on purpose, but it ends up being that way.

We have taken a dolphin search cruise down here in Alabama, in the past:
This trip, we found another place that does Dolphin cruises, but also does a combination Dolphin and Wildlife Cruise.  It is Cetacean Cruises.  They take you on a 2 hour cruise (and no, Gilligan, we didn't get lost in a storm, LOL).  Their prices are very reasonable, we found a coupon good for $3.00 off each on their website, and the cruise was fantastic.

The absolute only thing I would change is that although they may be able to "legally" have 46 people on board and I'm sure money wise to cram as many paying passengers on as possible is the "way to go", it would have been a much more enjoyable experience if we had not been packed on like sardines.  Being as short as I am, it was very difficult to get good pictures or even to see over many of the other people.  I would have had a better
time with about half as many people on board.  3 people even got off the boat before we left the dock saying it was too crowded for them and I agree, although we stayed on.  There were also a couple of men between us and the Captain that were talking sports so loudly I couldn't hear the Captain telling us about the Swamp.   The boat we were on is called the Explorer and it is custom made to move efficiently through as little as 2 feet of water, which is why they can go up into the swamps where the water is very shallow.
We passed this "pirate" ship. It is owned by a couple of women who plan "pirate adventures" for kids and take them out for a cruise as pirates.  It was cute.  

We had a fantastic Captain and first mate, Rachel.  Our Captain reminded me a lot of my Uncle Kenny, a happy man with a laugh and joke for everything.  He and Rachel were both fun and interesting tour guides.
First we learned a lot about the Intracoastal Waterway which goes all the way across the Gulf Coast, from Brownsville, TX to FL.  According to the Website "Everything"  "In the 19th and early 20th centuries, navigators were faced with a problem; to ship supplies by sea to another American location, they had to follow the coasts of the Gulf of Mexico and/or the Atlantic Ocean. However, these voyages were often fraught with peril, from offshore storms, shallow reefs, and high waves. A better system was needed, to reduce the hazards of navigating the coasts and to shorten distances.
The American government mulled its options, and finally passed the River and Harbor Act. Approved January 21, 1927, the act authorized the establishment and maintenance of an inland waterway in general seventy-five feet wide and eight feet deep at mean low water, following a coastal route from Brownsville, Texas, to New York. However, work on this project was often delayed or done piecemeal; until the late 1970's, continuous projects were initiated by the Army Corps of Engineers to deepen and widen existing channels, or create new ones.
Although the plans called for a continuous route from Brownsville to New York, it required a canal through the Florida peninsula, and this was never created. Thus, the Intracoastal waterway is divided into two sections; the Gulf Coast section, running 1,100 miles from Brownsville, Texas to Apalachee Bay, Florida; and the Atlantic section, running 1,900 miles from Key West, Florida to Boston, Massach An interesting use of the Waterway occurred in WWII. Allied submarines and cargo ships were often beseiged by German U-Boats, so during the war the route became a safe refuge for ships and submarines, as well as basic industrial shipping, as the U-Boats would often prowl up and down the coast looking for targets." The depth of the Intracoastal Waterway in the main channel has to be at least 12 feet, but a lot of the rest of the bay we were, Wolf Bay, in (the Intracoastal Waterway runs through this bay) is mostly 4-8 feet deep.  Our Captain teased us that if the boat sank we'd just join hands and walk out.  It was a huge bay and I would have never guessed that most of it is less than 12 feet deep.
 They not only found us "A" dolphin to see,
 They found us a whole pod of them.  We not only found them, but were able to watch them "dancing" (a euphemism for 'playing around' when there are little kids aboard) and playing around in the water, all around the boat.  Unfortunately, most of the photos are of backs and fins, because they move too fast to focus the camera, but I still took over 300 pictures, burned up 3 batteries (fortunately they are rechargeable) and came 'home'
and deleted the 200 that were just blurs or water.  There were still more than enough for this blog and then some.  It was the best dolphin cruise we've ever taken.

 Following about a half hour of trying to get dolphin photos (their FaceBook page, has some good photos) we headed for the swamp to see what we could see.  Of course, this is dealing with wildlife, so what you see is what you see, and we didn't see much this trip.  A couple of Great Blue Herons, a couple of Osprey in the distance, and Osprey nest, lots of
various kinds of swamp grasses and a few left over wrecks from past storms.  We also learned a lot about this area.  For one thing, we learned why we haven't seen any alligators around here.  Apparently when Hurricane Ivan (back in 2004) roared through here there was a storm surge of over 6 feet which flooded the swamps (which are freshwater and remember, alligators are fresh water animals) 
with salt water.  Following the storm hundreds of alligators of all sizes were found out around the oil rigs dead.  They either drowned or died because of the salt water, so there are NO BIG alligators left in the area.  Our captain said he was please to report he recently has seen a 4 ft one swimming into an old alligator hidey hole, and he is excited to think they might be making a moderate comeback.  They mature slowly and reproduce slowly and there is great depredation of their eggs and of baby alligators, so they aren't going to repopulate the area very quickly. He told us about the various kinds of animals and birds that inhabit the area, including tiny little deer.  They originally thought they were some kind of key deer, they were so tiny, but wildlife experts told them they
 are regular white tailed deer but they just stay very small because of where they live, in the swamps, they don't get much good food.  There are also tons of wild pigs, javelinas which are a real nuisance and have made a very fast comeback since Hurricane Ivan because they have no natural predators, especially since the big alligators are all gone.  He said they have the usual, opossum, raccoon, skunks, 4 main kinds of snakes, and black bears.  Then he said, "but that's no big deal, we have those over on the island too, in the State Park. . ."  Well, that answers a question Mr. C and I had.  When we took our first bike ride down the trail past the park into a wilderness area there were several fairly flat areas of scat with very large (cherry pit size) seeds in them.  We had been discussing what would eat something with seeds that size and then leave piles around with seeds that big.  We had no idea they have bears down here, but that would be our best guess, given the scat we saw.   We also never thought of Gulf Shores being an island, but if you count the Intracoastal waterway and the bridge you have to go over to get here, I guess it IS an island.  
So, we had a very interesting, fun, and informational 2 hours with the Explorer, crew.  We even got to "Drive the boat".  Thank you, Cetacean Cruises, we had a good time and consider it money very well spent.