North America · 19 Days · 94 Moments · May 2017

Southern USA Road Trip


25 May 2017

End of journey. 5,200 miles on our faithful Subaru. 63 degrees in Beulah, Michigan, when we arrived. Time to unpack and settle in.

24 May 2017

Our 2nd to the last stop: in Grand Rapids, Michigan, to see my dad, and our daughter's family.

23 May 2017

We encountered our first traffic jam just north of Cincinnati -- after driving nearly 5,000 miles. Tomorrow we will arrive in Grand Rapids, Michigan, for a night with our daughter before getting to the cottage on Thursday.
We did a hike to another falls, called Eagle Falls. We got rained on, but fortunately had our ponchos along, so stayed dry.
The falls are the largest falls south of Niagara. It was threatening rain when we got there. These falls are famous for moonbows -- like rainbows but in the light of full moons.
Drove two hours to Cumberland Falls State Park in Kentucky. Jenni thought she visited here with her family as a child, but later changed her mind to Cumberland Gap.

22 May 2017

Another old homestead. Cades Cove is treated as an historic district by the National Park Service.
This little snake (4 inches long) crossed our path.
We caught the tail end of blooming rhododendrons.
We hiked 5.2 miles along Abrams Creek.
Abrams Falls --our destination.
Along the way we were treated to thousands of blooming mountain laurel trees.
At the visitor center are many old buildings from the early residents, including an operating grist mill.
We got our National Park Passport stamped at the visitor center. (We've now seen 31 of the 57 National Parks.)
There is a one-way drive around the cove. Our first stop was at an old church and cemetery.
We found out that "Cove" in the slang of the Tennessee mountains refers to a large flat area between mountains. In the mid-morning to late-1800s up to 700 people lived and farmed in this area.
Five hours of driving (much of it through drizzle) took us over the Great Smokey Mountains to Cayes Cove on the National Park.

21 May 2017

This snake was not the least interested in us passing in our canoe.
After lunch we succeeded in finding out where do for a Ranger-led canoe tour on the Cedar Creek. It was very peaceful.
There were low areas along the trail that had water standing. At wet times of the year the water can flood the boardwalk and trails. Loblolly pines grow to over 150 feet tall. There are also tupelo gum and bald cypress trees.
One fun thing on the walk was to see this pileated woodpecker. I've never seen one on the ground before.
We drove to Congaree National Park, arriving about 10:30. The visitor center was closed until noon for repairs, so we couldn't get the in we needed about the park. So we went for a 5-mile walk. I was surprised to find out that Congaree is not a swamp, but a bottom land hardwood forest.

20 May 2017

The live oaks make intriguing shapes.
Walking along the beach. This is supposed to be a good place to find sea shells, but we only found a couple.
We were surprised to find sand dunes.
There are feral horses on the island. Must be left from the settlers decades ago.
We did make it to the Dungeness ruins. This was a four-story home a hundred years ago. There were other houses nearby, but only foundations remain.
On this whirlwind trip we didn't plan to spend much time at any one park. We are able to only get a taste of each one. Because of the ferry schedule we only had 2 hours on the island. What did we do? Walk, of course.
We left St. Augustine and drove to St.Mary's, Georgia, and caught the ferry to Cumberland Island National Seashore.

19 May 2017

We ate a great seafood dinner alongside the St Johns River in Palatka.
We traveled to St. Augustine and met Jenni's aunt Doie. She took us 30 miles west to Palatka where we walked in Palatka Ravine State Park. I saw my first armadillo!
A fisherman.
We had a chance to walk 4 miles on the beach. Even found a few seashells.
This late 1800s house is the last remaining of a community that was established to supply ships passing the Florida coast. Unfortunately, it wasn't open to the public today.
Visited the Canaveral National Seashore in the morning. The land was set aside as a wildlife preserve in the 1960s when the space center was developed. There are barrier islands along the coast.

18 May 2017

Today was a day of driving -- from Key West to Edgewater, Florida.
When we arrived in Edgewater we were early enough for a 4-mile walk along the Indian River. The barrier islands across the lagoon are part of the Canaveral National Seashore -- which we will visit tomorrow.
We stopped at a Haitian restaurant in Pompano Beach for lunch. Rice and beans, griot (fried pork), plantains and sautéed greens. Got to speak Creole with some of the other diners.

17 May 2017

Several seaplanes came in while we were on the island.
Jenni went snorkeling -- saw quite a few fish and some nice coral formations. I watched from the beach -- Too many problems in the past with water in masks because of my mustache.
Fort Jefferson was built in the early 1800s to defend U.S. shipping interests around the end of Florida. It was never finished, was never attacked, and never fired canons. It served as a prisoner of war prison for the Union during the Civil War.
First view of Fort Jefferson.
Very windy on the 70-mile trip, but the waves weren't too big.
Saw lots of birds -- spotty terns and brown noddies nest nearby.
Arrived at 7:00 at the ferry dock in Key West to go to the Dry Tortugas National Park. A brief shower passed and we saw a beautiful rainbow over the harbor.

16 May 2017

A satisfying sunset at the end of a nostalgia-filled day.
My vision for a Key West lifestyle -- rockers on the porch.
Enjoying a margarita a few blocks down from Jim my Buffet's Margaritaville.
The Conch Train and Duval Street.
There are still a lot of quirky things to find in Key West.
We walked around Key West in the afternoon. It is much more upscale than when we first came here, but that is progress, I guess.
Spent some time at Bahia Honda State Park -- where I have fond memories of flying my kites on the beach.
Walked on a part of the old Seven Mile Bridge and saw an angiogram eating a fish, a stingray, and three people fishing for bonefish.
Oh, the Overseas Highway! The new bridges are much safer, and less terrifying to drive. The old bridges were narrow with only old railroad rails along the sides.
Drove from Florida City to Key West -- with stops along the way. The first one was on Lower Matacumbe -- Jenni's uncle used to have a beach house there that we used regularly during the 1970s. It is no longer there, but the sea oats on the beach are still there to bring memories.

15 May 2017

Ended the day visiting Biscayne National Park, in Homestead, Florida.
Drove through our old neighborhood. Our house has need torn down and this mansion is being built in its place. 11 of out 16 mango trees are still in the backyard, however.
Took a 4-mile walk on the tram road at Shark Valley in Everglades National Park. Brought back memories of when we visited back in the 1970s.
Drove through Big Cypress National Preserve. Saw a few birds and quite a few alligators.

14 May 2017

Stone rabbit capital of the world! But the season was just finished and none of the restaurants had any left for us.
Visited an old store, now a museum called Smallwoods. Built in the early 1900s. It is so hard to imagine living at the edge of the Everglades without modern roads.
Stayed at a charming 1950s motel.
In the morning we drove to Everglades City. Went to the visitor center for Everglades National Park. Rented a canoe. Paddled 5 milesout among the 10,000 islands -- basically stands of mangroves hanging on valiantly against the seas. It was very windy for most of the trip. We saw a few birds and a manatee.

13 May 2017

Drove all day (600miles) to Port Charlotte, Florida.

12 May 2017

The second Friday of each month Mobile hostage an art and music festival downtown. We got a chance to stroll through the vendors and listen to music.
Did a driving tour of historic Mobile. The rain had passed as we came up from Dauphin Island. Don't know much about the history of Mobil, but the architecture is lovely.
Jenni's parents spent a few winters on Dauphin Island. We had a chance to walk the beach - even though it was threatening rain.
Steamed crawfish for lunch on Dauphin Island.
We particularly enjoyed the Asian-American part of the garden.
They had a private chaple.
The Bellingrath home has all the furnishings in place as of the mid-1950s. Very interesting.
Toured the home and Gardens at Bellingrath, South of Mobile, Alabama. This was one of Jenni's father's favorite gardens. Built in the 1930s by a Coca-Cola bottles.

11 May 2017

Visited Gulf Islands National Seashore. Took a walk on a nature trail. Saw a few flowers and animals.
Drove to Mobile, Alabama. Stopped for lunch on the north side of Lake Pontchartrain --had excellent fried oyster po-boy sandwich.

10 May 2017

A bonus at the sculpture garden : magnolia trees in blossom.
We drove to Houston in the afternoon. After supper we visited the Cullen Sculpture Garden at the Art Museum. Small but interesting.
We left Padre Island and got to take a short ferry ride.
We encountered several vehicles on "Turtle Patrol". Evidently the turtles only take 30 minutes to come out of the water, lay eggs and return to the sea. The Park Service actually recovers the eggs when they can be found and incubates them until hatching, when they release the little ones. This minimizes predators eating the eggs on the beach.
Saw thousands of little shore birds, but they were too skittish to be photographed. Love seeing the pelicans.
We drove 15 miles down the beach (literally on the beach). Speed limit was 15 MPH. The all wheel drive on the Subaru came in handy.
Went back to the National Seashore early in the morning for a 4.5-mile walk along the beach. Saw many beautiful flowers on the Dunes.

9 May 2017

The wind was fierce. Salt spray covered our glasses -- I had to take mine off in order to see. Very interesting to learn about the role of barrier islands at the visitor center. Saw a curious piece of driftwood with Gooseneck barnacles on it.
Drove from Sanderson, Texas, to Padre Island National Seashore. Walked several miles along the beach in the late afternoon.

8 May 2017

Santa Elena Canyon. The Rio Grande comes through here. On the left is Mexico, On the right is the USA.
Helped a couple get their kayaks up on the roof of their car.
Got down to the Rio Grande River.
On the scenic drive we passed several historic buildings - from when the land was use for ranching.
A beautiful cholla on bloom.
Saw a white tailed deer on the hike.
We hiked the Lost Mine Trail in Big Bend National Park. The views were great. Had to drive 100 miles from Alpine, Texas, to get to the trail in the park.

7 May 2017

It has been very windy in Tucson for many weeks. In the distance are the Dos Cabasas Mountains near Wilcox. They are nearly obscured by blowing dust.
Driving out of Tucson we passed the "Boneyard", moth balled Airplanes at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base.
Left home early on Sunday morning. Said goodbye to our favorite view of the Santa Catalina Mountains.