Ravine Gardens State Park is not a new park for us to visit. We've made a couple of trips here in the last year or so. However, we had never made it to their annual Azalea Days festival, so we made it a point to visit. The Boys were working on the day of the festival, so Olivia and I were instead joined by one of my coworkers, CJ, and her grandson Zane. CJ is the Live Nursery Specialist at work and had never visited this amazing park, so it was exciting to see it with her. Xandra met up with us at the park as well, and we had a great adventure!
I'll be the first to admit, this entry will be mostly pictures. The azaleas were so gorgeous! I can't help myself when it comes to taking photos. I do it a lot. Like this:
Babe Ruth? You got it! During the festival the park had tours, showcasing the history of the area. Babe Ruth once played for the farm team here in Palatka...The Azaleas...and this reenactor came out and told us a little about 'his' time in town. It was a very cool touch to the tour.
The azaleas I've shown so far are cultivated. These are wild:
We had a really lovely walk down to the little spring inside the park, and then up and around the Azalea Trail:
My little tree hugger!
While Rob and Chris were at work, Rob, at least, was there with us in spirit:
Olivia striking the classic 'The Robby' pose...
....while she and Xandra looked for Robby's beach ball:
This tree was particularly neat-looking:
Eventually we worked our way to the upper rim of the ravine, where the kids (and by 'kids' I mean me and Xandra...and Zane and Olivia) had fun playing on the playground:
The walk back down into the ravine was gorgeous and shaded:
Ahem. I know one day she's really not going to appreciate my humor:
Not long after this our visit was complete. We grabbed snacks and drinks and relaxed on the lawn before heading home. A couple of weeks later, though, The Boys were free from work and wanted a chance to see the azaleas for themselves. And so Rob, Olivia, and I met up with Chris and Xandra for one more tour of the park.
The neat thing was seeing the stages of flowers in bloom from two weeks prior to this trip. Azaleas have about a 3-4 week window in which they're the most vibrant, and our second trip was the tail end of that time.
Even Chris has adopted 'The Robby'
This looks like a bird to me:
And Chris likes to climb things:
There was some debate over which of the following two pictures to post, so I decided to post both. You decide which you like better and comment!
Pretty soon we began hearing from other hikers that there was an alligator out sunning itself next to the trail. Hmm, maybe it's the Florida girl in me, but I have a soft spot for gators, and not just because they're tasty. We headed down the trail to see what was going on, and we found this cute little guy:
Yep, walked right behind him...respectfully, of course...and moved on down the trail. He let us know by hissing how displeased he was we were there, but that's as far as it went.
And just like that, we were done. This visit, aside from the gator, was pretty uneventful. We got to see some beautiful sights, although I'm sure Rob would argue that there were hardly any azaleas in bloom at all. I could see the difference in blooms from the last visit to this one. I did notice that despite going hiking each time I have visited the park, I have not hiked exactly the same trail twice. There is always some new route to take. I guess it goes to show you that our wonderful state parks bear visiting more than once.