I recently completed a trip from Naples, to Orlando, to Tallahassee, to Gulf Shores, Alabama and returned. I saw several parks and historic sites along the way.
Day one and two.
I started by visiting my Dad and take care of some business.
The next day I headed for Tallahassee. I took the back roads through the forest instead of the interstates. This was good because there was an accident with a fatality that shut down I-75 in Ocala. Returning two days later, there were several more horrific accidents where I saw the destroyed remains of several cars.
Right before Chiefland I stopped at the Levy County Quilt Museum. It is housed in a cracker style ranch house as you see in the photo below. I don’t think it has any air condition inside, and the lady who runs the museum looks to be about 85 years old, and lives in the back room. She was born and raised in the area and is a wealth of information. Except that she believes that Lake Okeechobee was built by the Army Corp of Engineers.
The place doesn’t really fit my definition of a museum, but more of a quilting store and warehouse, where classes for quilting are held by the local guild. Don’t let that keep you away. There are some small display cases along the walls, and scrap books of the local history. Even a model of my favorite steamboat that docked at Silver Springs, the Okahumkee. (Which is not in Levy County.) Still, I really enjoyed the place. She has some great prices on fabrics.
I then had some business to get done up in Tallahassee and stopped off at the headquarters for the Florida State Parks. What I found was not marbled hallways and spacious offices with lots of abstract art. Instead, they were in a large office building, and crammed into small cubicles on the third floor with cheap office furniture and few if any office decorations. It is obvious that the money is spent on the parks, and not the main office. Everyone was so close together that you can visit the whole office within a few paces.
The director for the Florida State Parks is Don Forgione, and we knew him when he was park manager at Wekiwa Springs State Park, which I consider my home area. He is very gracious and enjoys talking to people, and wears the most perfect park ranger uniform that I have ever seen on someone working for the FPS. He came up the ranks from park ranger to director, and is well liked and respected by many. He gave me a message to pass onto the staff and other park rangers: He said that he is extremely proud of everyone and the dedication they show for the park service, even in these difficult times for us. He continued, and said that when we see something come down from Tallahassee that looks very strange to us, we should have seen what it looked like when it first walked in their door and was dropped on them. I can only imagine!
I spent the night north of town, where I had a peaceful sleep on the back porch of a friend’s cabin in the forest. Birds were in abundance and I heard flying squirrels at night. It was a good, peaceful recharge.
The next morning I passed by Chattahoochee. In 1834 the Chattahoochee arsenal was established to supply arms and ammunition to the Florida volunteer militia. Ten years ago there was talk of establishing a museum in the old magazine, but there is no sign that it has progressed and become a reality. Darn.
I continued on and visited Three Rivers State Park. Here the Chattahoochee and Flint Rivers meet at the reservoir to become the Apalachicola River. There was a nervous anhinga down by the boat ramp, and there are good signs of some well managed prescribed burning.
Leaving from there, I saw a road sign pointing to Two Egg. Two Egg is a famous stop just because of the name. Stories abound of the origin, but it is generally believed to have come from the great depression, when the only way to obtain needed supplies was to barter in farm produce. Two eggs might be all the currency needed. Unfortunately there is no longer a store to sell t-shirts or memorabilia.
But nearby, I did find the location of Fort Kimbell!
Heading back south I swung by Falling Waters State Park to collect their passport stamp. It has been so dry that the waterfall is not flowing. After the rain this week, it will probably start up again. It is a great park to see some karst geology.
Down to Pensacola, I was running short of time, so I needed a quick historic stop. Pensacola is loaded with some great historic sites, so I will have to plan another trip. But I briefly visited St. Michael’s Cemetery. St. Mick’s is the second oldest cemetery in Florida. On the back fence line and very close to each other are two burials significant to Seminole War historians.
Major Dade’s daughter Fannie is buried here. She died in 1848 at age 18. Nearby is John Innerarity, who ran the Panton-Leslie Indian trading store. About a mile away is a model of the store on the original location, in an island in the middle of traffic near the courthouse.
Approaching Gulf Shores, Alabama, I saw a wild fire at Gulf State Park. It was started by embers from a cooking grill the week before.
I arrived at Fort Morgan, and my main reason for this trip. The park manager, Blanton Blankenship, is retiring after 23 years at the park. It was a lot of fun working here, and we had many pleasant memories and told many stories. One story is about the lighthouse on the cake. The iron Mobile Point lighthouse is currently in storage for repair and conservation. So the joke is, are we saying goodbye to Blanton or the lighthouse?
And below, Blanton and myself. We also shared our mosquito stories.
Since I had a lot of driving on Friday, after the party I drove a couple more hours to get back in Florida.
After a night in Crestview, I decided to take the southern highway home. On highway 20, east of the town of Freeport is this nature preserve. The Muskogee word for black bear is Nokuse. That’s my clan and name from my previous life, so I am into bears.
And one last stop for my trip is Fort St. Marks at San Marcos de Apalache Historic State Park. I have visited here several times. This time I noticed in one display case these U.S. Infantry buttons. They are no doubt from soldiers of the U.S. 7th Infantry who were here with Andrew Jackson in the First Seminole War.
There are 19 soldier burials in the back from when a nearby boat ramp was constructed by the city years ago. And then again recently, when a new boat ramp was constructed, the city showed no concern that this is an archaeological and historical site, even with pleas from the park rangers. Local artifact hunters went to the spoil pile that the city left when they dug out and dumped from the construction of the new ramp, and found these buttons. Fortunately, the metal detector guys were kind enough to donate them to the museum.
This many uniform buttons can mean one thing. That uniform coats were buried here. The wool disintegrates, leaving only the buttons. And buried uniform coats mean that soldiers were buried there. Unfortunately when you see this boat ramp, it is sobering to think that the city held no regard for the soldier graves that it desecrated to build the boat ramp. Not only will builders and politicians destroy Indian mounds without regard, but also their own soldier’s graves.
Sorry for reacting so harshly. But I am very upset about this.
Coming home, I lost my alternator on I-75. Fortunately I have AAA, so I got back on the road a few hours later with one new alternator and a lot less money in the bank. I arrived home in Naples at 1:00 a.m. No more trips for me this month; I cannot afford any more.