Daytripping Destinations

Guess What Day It Is!

Guess What Day It Is: Week 24

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Dear Daytrippers,

Some places call you back and for me Apalachicola, Fl is one of those places. I have visited briefly before but am happy to visit again and take this place of longleaf and slash pines, stately antebellum homes and sky blue waterways dotted with shrimping boats at its own pace – slowly.

It is spring on the Forgotten Coast and the Shorebirds are everywhere. I took this picture of a striking black and white bird with a flashy red beak that the Florida Audubon Society app identified as an American Oystercatcher.

I want to say that I am becoming casual about the Blue Angels flying over head because I have seem so many of them while here in the Appalachacola/Pensacola area but, I stop in my tracks each and every time they take over the sky and gape – it will always be an awesome spectacle. I am here putting the final touches on a trip for spring 2022 but the added bonus of the Blue Angels as well as Black Hawk Helicopters and B-2 Bomber pilots practicing maneuvers is such a huge treat.

Apalachicola sits on water that looks exactly like the shrimping scenes from Forrest Gump. It is a taste of “Old Florida” with tree lined streets, coastal cottages, regal homes of past sea captains, a quaint downtown where almost every building is historic and weather- worn shrimp boats … to a boy from California it looks like a ‘stage set’. This quaint southern town’s allure is it’s authenticity, strong sense of place, vibrant history and rich maritime culture. I find in this time when everything changes in the blink of an eye a place that has retained it’s original flavor extremely comforting. With a deep-porched Gibson Inn that feels like the coolest spot to stay on the Panhandle, world class seafood restaurants and brewpubs I want to visit this tiny city again and again.

Traveling by airboat for a ride on the Apalachicola River, I feel like a lucky explorer discovering the backwater wilderness of ancient Florida – skimming across untouched waters at speeds up to 40mph. I search for wildlife native to the Estuarine Reserve – alligators, dolphins, birds, turtles, manatees, and fish, darting alongside the boat as the boat flies across the water – following my ride I learned that it is also offered at night – next time.

Just west of Apalachicola are the remarkable wild beaches of Cape San Blas and the St Joseph Peninsula, a spit of land that arcs out from the mainland and parallels the coast for miles of windswept high dunes and untamed beaches. I am in paradise.
Each spring, Bellingrath Gardens and Grand Estate Home of Walter and Bessie Bellingrath blooms with more than 250,000 vibrant azaleas in an explosion of color throughout the 65-acre garden and gives you a peek into the lifestyle of successful the Coca Cola bottler and businessman. The annual Azalea Bloom Out goes back to Bellingrath’s earliest beginnings in 1919, when Walter purchased a rustic fishing camp on Fowl River. His wife, Bessie, who loved gardening, wanted to beautify the property and relied on old-growth azaleas as a starting point. Ever since, Bellingrath Gardens has been synonymous with the Gulf Coast’s beautiful azalea season. My stroll around Mirror Lake was epic – the still water reflects pink, lavender, red and white azalea blossoms, giving a double image of the season. In addition to the azaleas I spotted tulips, Easter lilies, hydrangeas, pansies and dozens more that I can’t begin to identify for you – but they were stunning. I wish it was possible for you to enjoy the fragrance. Unfortunately, I missed the Azalea Trail Maids – a tradition dating back to 1929 – each year high school senior girls are selected to represent the finest in old-school southern charm. While dressed in the custom-made fifty pound antebellum dress and bonnet their duty is to smile, wave, pose to have their picture taken but never to speak. These ladies marched in President Barack Obama’s 2009 inauguration parade. They appeared at Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, Disney’s Easter Parade, and the Rose Bowl Parade.
This long and winding road trip has taken me down familiar roads and new roads. As we roll into March, I am hoping ‘Spring has Sprung’ at home, and wishing we were together on the bus for Bill Montgomery’s Wildflower Drive. Remember to Spring ahead for Daylight Savings this weekend.

Missing you,
John

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