We arrived at Gulf State Park Feb 3. We checked into our first of four campsites, which was our 2nd favorite of the four. Since this part of the trip was also a late add-on, we had to piece together whatever campsites were available. We are pretty sure that at least some of the cancelations were due to the US/Canada border closure, though we spoke with several people who were heading back north, early, so they could get a vaccine.
During our first days here, we both agreed we had never seen so many very active people over the age of 65. Everywhere in the park you can see very happy people running, walking, playing pickle ball and riding every type of bike – bicycles, recumbents, ebikes, tricycles. Aside from the young, homeschooling family that seemed to have followed us from the last park, we were the only people under 65. Most people were from Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota and Ohio.
The park has two miles of beautiful white sand beaches, but it was too cool and windy to spend any time there. We spent most of the time riding our bikes, walking and running on the 28 miles of paved bike paths. Several of the days I was able to wear shorts without being too cold. Dave, as usual, mostly wore shorts regardless of the temperature.
While planning the trip, we were dreaming of sitting on the deck at waterfront tiki bars. Fortunately we took advantage of the warmest and least busy days. We were able to enjoy a beer, in the sun, at the Pink Pony and at the world famous Flora-bama. We also had a microbrew at the open air bar at the Flora-bama Ole River Grill, located on the Old River. Both are in Florida, almost directly on the Florida/Alabama border. The week of Mardi Gras, the weather was quite chilly, with some rain. Mardis Gras is celebrated here, like St Patrick’s Day or Cinqo de Mayo. There were more people in town and the outdoor decks were closed, due to weather. They don’t have limits on indoor dining and don’t really enforce the mask mandate, so we spent our days in the park and cooked at home. We also spent an afternoon at Fort Morgan, which I will have a separate post for.
The wildlife at the park includes turtles, snakes, alligators, a wide variety of fresh and saltwater fish, crabs, armadillos, pelicans, hawks, bald eagles and many other birds. There is a vast array of plants and trees, but the long leaf pine and southern yellow pine are what stand out the most. The wind makes a very peaceful whispering sound as it blows through the pines.
Though there were a fair amount of people here for Mardi Gras week, it was clearly low season. Many stores and restaurants were closed until March. We learned that you can easily find very affordable Gulf-front condos during low season. We have seen footage from the Hangout Festival in May, so we know the beaches are absolutely packed during high season.
During the last few days, the weather was unseasonably cold, windy, and rainy. As we watched the national weather maps, we noticed we were on the dividing line between terrible and beautiful weather. We had met some people at the last park, who were heading west through Texas. We’re hoping they are staying warm! We spent our time working on taxes, the blog, reading and planning our fall trip. We absolutley loved this park, but were excited to move on to see new sights. We are hoping the forecast for warm, sunny weather at Fort Pickens, is accurate.