Indian Pass Campground

Indian Pass Campground
Indian Pass Campground

Thursday, February 14, 2019

02-11 and 02-12-2019 Boats in the Water and a Trip to St George Island

Current Location:  Indian Pass Campground, Port Saint Joe, Florida

Brilliant sun and 61 degrees F at 2PM  and still windy

We are enjoying the sun, sitting in the MoHo catching up on a few things after a lovely walk on the beach.  I am impatient.  I really want to get over to St Vincent Island today, since rain is again predicted for tomorrow and we are leaving this lovely little campground on Friday morning.

I can tell we are slowing down, settling into Florida time, when I can’t quite be sure what day we did something or the other.  Days have been slow, and after breakfast one or the other or both of us take Mattie for a walk on the beach.  We relax and fiddle a bit, and then decide mid day that it is time to do something.

Notice that billowing shirt on Mo!

On  Monday, with a break in the weather, and winds at only 12 knots, we decided we could take a chance and get the boats in the water at last.  The bay side of the peninsula where our campground is located is shallow, and somewhat protected from the worst winds.  Or so we thought.

Still, we are stubborn if nothing else, and with brilliant sunshine did not want to wait another day to go kayaking.  We decided to wait for better conditions before driving the many miles to Tate’s Hell and Cashie Creek, so this was our alternative.  Close to home and hopefully easy enough for our maiden Florida voyage this year.

The launch site was perfect, just down the road from our campsite, with easy unloading, and a place to park the car.  It was breezy, but it felt wonderful to be outside doing something we love. 

As I mentioned, the bay is shallow, more so around the areas where vegetation emerges from the shallow oyster beds that were waiting to rip apart a boat if you got too close.  It required a bit of crazy navigation to avoid them as we rounded the point of the peninsula into the lagoon, but there were a few white posts that marked the way.  We learned to pay attention to them.

It was a simple outing.  A few birds, brown pelicans, some ducks, and some other unidentifiable feathers that were hard to even think about trying to photograph in the rocking boats.  I managed to get a few phone photos and didn’t even bother trying to get out the big camera which spent the entire trip locked up in the waterproof pelican case.

Still, as I said, it felt great to be out in the boats, finally, and we managed about 3 miles, half of it with the wind at our backs and the other half battling that same wind, fighting whitecaps. 

The next morning dawned dank and foggy, but not particularly cold.  We knew it was supposed to rain, but the heaviest rain was predicted for later in the day so we had our usual slow morning then decided to go exploring again. 

Yes, the windshield is very dirty in the Tracker

This time the winds were low enough that we could manage the drive back through Apalachicola, across the bridge, and over the long bridge to St George Island. The big draw for us on this particular day was the fact that all the beaches on the island are happy dog beaches.  Stopping in at the Visitor Center to ask about this, we were told that Mattie could be of leash on the beach anywhere that we felt comfortable. Wow.  A big difference from most of Florida where dogs aren’t allowed on the beaches even with leashes.

There are beautiful wild places on St George Island, but not where we could visit them.  The State Park on the eastern end of the island is closed until March 1, due to the hurricane damage from Michael.  Instead, we took the boardwalk right near the center of town out to the beach and just started walking. 

There are many houses along the beach, all along the Gulf side, but on this foggy, windy day, the beach was nearly empty.  Still, it was actually warm, with temperatures in the 70’s, and I had a hard time equating the murky, foggy skies with these warm temperatures.  It just seemed strange.  No such thing as warm fog on the Oregon Coast.

We celebrated our long walk with an ice cream cone from the central tourist shop, and had to eat it fast to keep it from melting in the warmth.  We then drove some of the side roads around the island, both gulf side and bay side.  There are many places to access the beach, with each road leading to a public access area, but very few places to access the bay side.  The only kayak launching site was right by the main bridge entering the island from the north.

As we returned home through Apalachicola toward Port Saint Joe, the foggy skies opened up to huge cumulus thunder clouds, and by the time we got back to the campground the skies were black and crazy and the winds were blowing hard.  It rained all night and the sounds of the wind and rain on the roof were wonderful, but didn’t portend for another great day ahead.

This morning we woke with thoughts of kayaking, but where.  It was still windy when we woke, but the sun kept coming out and I made repeated forays to the boat launch to try to see if we could get out on the channel.  Nope.  Whitecaps.  I finally asked a neighbor camper, a nice woman with a couple of kayaks who we met out fishing on our day on the lagoon, and she went with me and said, “Nope, I wouldn’t tackle it right now.  See those whitecaps over there?  That is where the current is really strong, and combined with the wind it can really tip you over easily.” 

Ah well, then.  I guess my dream of kayaking over to St Vincent Island isn’t going to happen.  Makes me all grumpy inside, and then I realize that if I am so attached to going over there, it would probably be a bust anyway.  It would be cold, or windy, or the beach would be all torn up, and who knows what else.  I will just have to imagine St Vincent Island as the wild place it is without me on it.

We had a few lovely walks today along the beach, wide open with no people for most of the way, and Mattie could run to her heart’s content.  That is what it is all about anyway, beach walking and a happy dog.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

02-13-2019 Finally at Indian Pass, Port Saint Joe, Florida

Current Location: Indian Pass Campground, Port Saint Joe, Florida

Overcast breaking up to sun, breezy, and only 49 degrees F at 9AM

We are here.  We are in Florida.  We are camped surrounded by large palmettos and wetlands on one side, sand and a beach on the other side.  It is a good place to be, even if the weather isn’t exactly cooperating with our kayaking plans.

I first saw Indian Pass in 2003, stayed here at one of the little cabins with Bel.  Then later, when Mo and I traveled in this part of the world in 2014, I brought her here to check out the campground and put it on a possibility list for some future date. 

The biggest draw here for me is proximity to St Vincent Island Reserve, a magical place accessible only by boat, listed as possibly one of the wildest places left in Florida.  Well, maybe not, there are always the Everglades.  Still, a wild barrier island with a mated pair of red wolves among myriad species of wildlife and birds is an incredible treasure.

Walking on the beach with St Vincent Island across the channel

The channel between the campground boat launch and the island is narrow, maybe half a mile at most, but there is a strong current, and the channel is deep enough that it is a fishing ground for sharks.  So I think we will wait for a bit less wind to cross over to the island. 

Instead, on a sunny but windy Sunday afternoon we took a drive east along Highway 98, through Apalachicola and Eastpoint to drive north into Tate’s Hell State Forest.  I have a great Florida Paddling guide that listed several boat launches in the upper reaches of Apalachicola Bay and the Apalach, as they call the river around here.  The river is big, wide, and fast, and not so much to our liking, but the smaller tributaries look inviting.  Just the kind of winding estuary creek kayaks that we love.

We wandered a bit through the forest, not actually lost, but not quite sure where we were in relation to the Cypress Pygmy Forest Boardwalk that was signed at the entrance road.  We never found the site and later when we stopped at an information kiosk for the forest, we discovered that we had passed very close by.  No signs at all out there in Tate’s Hell, and the forest site isn’t anywhere on Google Maps.  I had downloaded the map for offline use, but that didn’t help a bit.  It did keep us from getting really lost, however.

We especially loved the brilliant red springtime flowers of the cypress maple.  They were somewhat dull in the overcast, but when the sun shone they lit up like wildfire.  Gorgeous.

We found a nice dry camp at Cashie Bayou boat launch, and decided that when it was windy at Indian Pass it might be nicer here a bit inland and put it on a list of possible kayak launch locations for the coming week. 

As I looked closer at the launch site, I discovered that this is what is called a “blackwater river”, with organic staining of the water that makes it look like dark, strong tea.  There was also a nice picnic area, and two of the campsites were open, however they have reservations required stickers on them.  Might be a nice place to be, but then again there were also some kids around running 4 wheelers in and out of the muddy creek approaching the launch site, so maybe noisy at times.  Especially in good weather.

We returned home across the long bridge across Apalachicola Bay,  glad that the kayaks were securely fastened in the winds that threatened to lift us off the bridge.  Neither of us was in a town shopping mode, so we skipped the charming downtown in favor of wandering a few side streets of Apalachicola. 

The houses here are so lovely, true Southern gems. We saw some evidence of storm damage, but nothing quite as awful as what we saw in Mexico Beach.  A fellow blogger is in town right now, and we will be meeting for lunch on Thursday.  Really looking forward to that treat, as the two of them are people we have followed for a long time, and who actually hail from our part of the world in Ashland.  More to come on that one after Thursday!

On our way back to the campground, a 16 mile drive along the coast, we did see a lot of debris along the roadway, waiting for pickup, but much has been cleaned up and the road is still damaged a bit, but not impassable.

Home to our comfy house, with yummy smells from a crock pot of pulled pork greeting us was a perfect way to end our first day at Indian Pass.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

02-09-2019 Florida at Last and Mexico Beach

Current Location: Indian Pass Campground, Port Saint Joe, Florida

Raining, windy, stormy and dark: 62 degrees F at 8PM

We made it to Florida, mid morning on the 9th of February.  Stepping out of the MoHo at the Florida Welcome Center on I-10 we were greeted with comfortable temperatures in the 60’s, skies that were almost sunny, and the wondrous smell of Florida velvet air. 

The visitor center was quite large, comfortable, with several kiosks for each zone in Florida, and we gathered up some maps and brochures to supplement what we brought with us.  We didn’t have far to go to reach Indian Pass Campground.

When I planned this trip, I reserved a site for a week at one of our favorite places, T.H Stone Memorial St. Joseph Peninsula State Park.  We camped here in the baby MoHo back in 2007, and again with our current MoHo in 2014.  We were really looking forward to spending more time in this magical place. 

It wasn’t to be, however, since Hurricane Michael devastated the park which is just across the lagoon from Mexico Beach, ground zero for the hurricane.  Our reservation was cancelled, our money returned, and we frantically tried to find a location for the open week in early February on the Florida coast.  Not an easy task.

We were lucky to get reservations, the last one available due to a cancellation, at Indian Pass Campground, just a few miles beyond St Joe Peninsula, and just across a narrow sound from Saint Vincent Island.

We have lived through horrendous fires out west, and our campground host hadn’t even heard about the fire in Paradise.  I wonder how many of us out west have paid much attention to the devastation that happened here in Mexico Beach and all along this part of the Florida coast.

On a more positive note, talking with locals, we have learned that the people are working hard to rebuild and restore their wonderful coastline.  The positive attitude of our camp host, who lived through the hurricane in an attic in Port Saint Joe is admirable. Local television ads are almost entirely about rebuilding the community in one way or another. The extensive work here at the campground is ongoing, and some of the campsites were lost, but the park is operating and is still a pleasant place to be in spite of parts that reflect the damage of last fall.

All along the highways and neighborhood roadsides are huge piles of debris, with separate piles for household appliances and metals, and other piles of vegetative debris.  Huge black trucks use a giant bucket to pick up the piles and stuff is hauled away on a daily basis.  It will take months.  Every now and then we see a boat rammed up against a tree, an overturned trailer, or other signs of the power of the wind, and even more so the power of the storm surge.

My heart hurt from the moment we saw the first signs of debris along the roadside, insulation strewn along the highway more than 20 miles inland. I will be writing about our time here more in the next few days, but for now, I want to ask for a moment of silence as you view the photos of the devastation in Mexico Beach where lives, and livelihoods, neighborhoods and businesses, parks and beaches, were all lost.

02-09-2019 2 Days in Gulfport Mississippi

Current Location: Indian Pass Campground, Port Saint Joe, Florida

Cloudy, foggy, thunder, spitting rain 66 degrees F at 6 PM

Back on the road on the Atchafalaya Bridge after the blowout

I know better.  This always happens to me when I miss too many days writing.  I am behind, and I have three sentences of notes to try to help me remember all the things I wanted to say about our time in Gulfport, Mississippi. I did at least manage to write about the museum we visited on one of the days we were there, thank goodness.  Now…really….where are all those words that were rolling around in my head, just waiting for a keyboard to get them down? 

After the blowout, which happened on our way to Gulfport, we were several hours later arriving than we had originally planned.  Traffic through Baton Rouge over the huge bridge across the Mississippi River was horrendous.  The nice thing about the mostly ‘stop’ and a little bit of ‘go’ was that we got to see the river and enjoy the rumbling rocking feeling on the bridge.

As I might have mentioned previously, when planning this trip, I originally made reservations at Keesler Air Force Base Family Camp.  What I didn’t realize was that there are two Military Family Camps very close together, one at Keesler AFB in Biloxi, and another at Shields RV Campground at the Gulfport Naval Construction Battalion Center.  I was grateful for so many resources that helped me make the decision to switch campgrounds as we were leaving Louisiana the day before. 

With the extra hours on the road caused by the tire delay, it was pitch dark when we finally arrived at the Naval Base camp.  Landing in the dark is always stressful, and we do everything possible to avoid it.  Sometimes though, stuff happens, and we have to find our way in unknown territory, find the right gate, get on base, and find our site without anyone around in the campground.  Remember that photo of a glass of Jack Daniels that I posted that day?  We were so happy that we were at Shields instead of Keesler.  I had read that the roads at Keesler were narrow and had overhanging trees at some of the sites, and that the power pedestals were notorious for frying inverters.  (Remember that part about trying to find Camping World in Lafayette?  We never did, and still have to get a surge protector).

Shields was easy, thank goodness, and we were so tired that we settled in without a problem.  I have no idea what we did for supper that night, but I am sure it was a reheat of some sort. 

The night was COLD, and we were glad for our electric heater and warm comforters.  The next morning was gray, cloudy, cold, and windy, so we took our time getting out and about.  After exploring the base a bit, doing some shopping at the small but perfectly nice commissary, we piled ourselves and Mattie in the Tracker for an afternoon of exploring.

We had driven through Gulfport and Biloxi just 2 years after Katrina  devastated the city back in 2007.  There are still huge swaths of empty lots among the gorgeous mansions, but only those who knew what it looked like before the hurricane can really notice how different it is now.  Casinos are all along Beach Boulevard, getting bigger and brighter as we approached Biloxi.  The Gulf was steely gray, and not really conducive to walking much.

We drove over the big bridge toward Ocean Springs, visited the museum, and afterward drove down toward the beach once again.  Ocean Springs is a dog friendly town, and we were assured that dogs were allowed on the beaches.  Walking Mattie for a bit, we ran into a couple of nice women who told us they knew of no place where Mattie could run off leash, but we were happy to at least find someplace to let her enjoy a walk.

It was late afternoon as we meandered once again along Beach Boulevard toward home.  I had been thinking about shrimp all afternoon, after all we are in the Gulf world of seafood!  Shrimp and oysters everywhere.  We chose a place called Felix’s Oyster Bar, with a beautiful porch overlooking the gulf that would have been wonderful if it hadn’t been cold and windy and raining.

It was still pretty darn wonderful, and I finally got my shrimp fix satisfied with plump, juicy, perfectly cooked pink gulf shrimp.  Simple, tasty, a bit of a kick, and just a light breading.  Even the french fries were incredible.

After our early supper we found another beach where we let Mattie run a bit on her own.  It wasn’t all that pretty, and it wasn’t for much distance because there were signs everywhere saying leashes required.  Still, we gave here a bit of freedom where no one could see, and Mattie is great about coming right away when called.  made me nervous as a cat, though. 

Home to settle in for the evening, enjoying a Redbox dvd movie from the base express.  We decided on “Crazy Rich Asians’, and it was light and silly enough that it didn’t demand much from us.  We wanted to be sure that we were buttoned up and ready for the next day on the road. 

I can see that there is much that we missed in Gulfport, which could qualify as a lovely winter destination on its own, with plenty to see and do, and often relaxing good weather.  The Gulf National Seashore and campground, lovely bike trails, charming shops in Ocean Springs, all could fill up a couple of weeks of time without a problem.

However we are just one 310 mile day from our Florida destination.  This seems like a very long trip, a very long trip.  It is one that we won’t repeat any time soon, or probably not ever, but we are both glad we are here and that we did it, and that some of the trials of the journey are already beginning to fade.