We continued to explore St. Andrews SP and close to the Gator Lake Trail someone showed us a venomous Cottonmouth pit viper snake, I likely shouldn’t have gotten so close for the photo since he was coiled in defence! We walked along the beach at St. Andrews many times looking for seashells. We found out that the SP has a population of about 20 deer and we continually saw them as we rode around the park roads. The next shot shows three of the beers I’ve tried so far. My favourite was Blue Moon which was a limited release Cappuccino Oatmeal Stout. The next shot shows a weird creature called a lugworm. We had seen lots of piles of sand but we didn’t know what was making them until we saw the actual worm secreting the sand it was filtering. Here’s a short video on how the worm works: Lugworm Video . We saw this boat at one of the many marinas we saw while riding around Panama City Beach and I’ve never seen a boat with 4 motors on it before, each 350 horsepower for a total of 1400 HP, it was 44’ of power! We saw lots of terns and seagulls along the beach and a few divers taking the discover Scuba course. We had a very quiet New Year’s Eve watching the ball drop in New York and as well the local celebration at Pier Park on TV.
Our next stop was Grayton Beach State Park after we took a scenic drive along Highway 30A. The SP is a preserved sand dune and beach area in between major vacation developments. This area is well known for all the bike trails so the first full day we did a 35 km tour west along the coast and saw several of the coastal dune lakes. These lake ecosystems are a globally unique feature of this area. We rode as far as Topsail SP which we had wanted to get in to but it was fully booked. The ranger let us ride around to see the camping areas and it was quite well laid out so we understood why it was so booked (Grayton is quite small in comparison). We haven’t seen very many geckos but we saw this guy close to the cabin area in Grayton. We also saw tons of real estate offices and one had Sharon’s originally desired powder blue MB however, it was only a 420SL. We finished off the day with a beautiful sunset sky over Western Lake by the campground.
The next day we decided to ride east from the SP past Western Lake and on to Seaside which was a planned community to promote the environment and walkability. They used no sod and only native plants in the community. This town was the one used in the Jim Carrey movie called “The Truman Show” where he was raised in a simulated television show. The real estate sign had properties from 1.5 to 5.5 Million USD which explained why our food truck lunch of 1 beer, 2 burritos (with no sides), and 1 Gelato cost us $45 CAD!!! In the center of town there were lots of kids stores (Sharon liked the large rubber ducky) and artist shops. Along the coast they had many different beach accesses and each one was a unique design. We finished the day off by seeing the outflow from Western Lake in to the gulf (note the tannin coloured water) and another sunset.
The next day was a Mountain Bike day as we visited Point Washington State Forest and did about 22 kms of riding. The trails we did were listed as easy to moderate but you got a great work out riding through the snow white sand when it got deep. The trails went through Longleaf pine flat woods, wet prairie, coastal scrub, swamplands, and sandhills. We didn’t see too much in the way of wildlife but the plant variation was amazing. We definitely couldn’t figure out how the one tree formed the letter C or P depending on how you looked at it! The last section was sculpted out of the brush and took us back to the SP for yet another sunset.
Rain was forecast for the afternoon so we decided to do the Grayton Beach Nature Trail in the morning. Most dune areas we’ve seen so far have been from the outside as they have them closed off to preserve them. However this trail took you right through the dune and into the slash pine forest and had self-guided information boards all along so it was quite fascinating. We saw the Sand Live Oak trees that grow in the quirkiest ways. If you zoom in on the next shot you can really tell why they call them Saw Palmeto’s. We also saw this bunch of berries and we weren’t sure if they were wild Muscadine grapes or not. Next we walked the beach towards the Western Lake outflow to the gulf and the terns and seagulls were having a feast of some sort. Then we saw a Blue Heron in the outflow and it seemed like low tide.
We have a couple of days left at Grayton and then we head to Fort Pickens.