My parents went out of town for a week before Christmas, and we let them take Olivia with them. Once we realized we had a bunch of child-free time on our hands, we did what we do best: planned a camping trip. Fort Clinch was our destination, two hours north of home in Fernandina Beach. It looks across Cumberland Sound into Georgia, and I've been dying to go there! Chris joined us as well.
Our first order of business, besides setting up our brand new, extremely large tent, was decorating for Christmas! We took a live Norfolk Island pine tree (which I named Walter) and some lights, plus an angel ornament Olivia brought home from school, along with a string of snowman lights to Christmas-ify our site. Lots of sites had lights and decorations up, and it was nice joining in.
We were in walking distance from the beach, so before heading to bed we headed for the water. Not for swimming, of course, but for searching. The beaches in this area of Florida are great places for finding shark teeth, and we were on mission! As that last picture shows you, we were successful. We didn't have to look too hard, but it wasn't like the teeth were scattered all over the place. It took some searching. And while we were hunched down, using our flashlights and concentrating, there came noises. Dolphins. Yep, dolphins were swimming just off the beach, coming up for air. It was the neatest thing, knowing they were out there while we were enjoying some peaceful darkness on the beach.
Early the next morning we got up and made our way to the beach again. I had (mistakenly) read that low tide was at 7:20am and we figured we'd have better luck searching for shark teeth.
What we actually found was high tide, but we searched anyway:
We had a few successes, but we decided to call it quits when we got cold and hungry. Chris made an awesome breakfast of biscuits and gravy, and then we cleaned up and headed out for the day. The plan was to go geocaching and to tour the fort. A few highlights:
Okay, there are a couple of things going on in that last picture. The first thing was the Lowe's delivery truck. We were in a state park, and I work for Lowe's, and those two things are usually separate entities in my world. I was dying to know what was delivered to the park, but we were too busy worried about the other vehicle in the picture to really pursue it. That other vehicle? State law enforcement. See, when we decided to go geocaching, we parked about halfway between the two caches we were searching for. The car was pulled all the way off the road in an area that many people had used for the same purpose. And, despite the fact that there are NO SIGNS on the road, in the brochure, or in the list of park rules that state you can only park in designated areas, we were apparently breaking the law. We apologized to the officer and said we were heading out, but he had a grouchy attitude that almost ruined the day for me. Long story a little longer, I've addressed his attitude and the lack of signage with the park rangers, and hopefully both have since been addressed.
After our misadventures in geocaching we headed to the fishing pier. We parked legally in a designated parking spot and then had a look around:
We stopped a couple more times, parking legally in designated parking spots, and took in a couple other historic sites:
Then is was time to visit the fort. I've seen so many pictures and was most excited about this part of our trip. Fort Clinch, though it never saw battle, was active during the Civil War and Spanish-American War. Union garrisons go on the first full weekend of every month, and reenactors are there most other days, too.
We stepped into 1864 and found an amazing piece of history. Please, enjoy a ton of pictures:
And finally, we found out where Santa was hiding on this, the day before Christmas Eve:
We ran into one of the soldiers at the fort and had an interesting time talking to him. He was in a unit of carpenters and even took us over to his shop so we could see it. After that he showed us the blacksmith shop, too.
We left the fort and went back to camp for a snack. It started raining, softly at first, and then a steady shower. We hid out in our tents and spent the afternoon reading, snoozing, relaxing. It was nice, not really having a choice but to kick back. Once the rained cleared we were ready to set up dinner. Chris and I both have cast iron Dutch ovens, and we've been practicing making great meals in them. Dinner was great! Chris made a yummy chicken dish, and I attempted to make a blueberry dump cobbler for dessert. It didn't look pretty, but it was still yummy.
We ended the night on the beach again, this time actually seeing the dolphins in the moonlight over the water. Christmas Eve dawned bright and beautiful, and we repeated our shark tooth search. Then it was back to camp for breakfast and breakdown. Not the mental variety, mind you, but packing up to head home. I made Mountain Man breakfast...pictured above...and it smelled so delicious that a woman stop by to ask what I was cooking. Then we crammed everything into the car and hit the road.
We stopped by another state park nearby, Fernandina Plaza. It's made up of one grassy field and isn't 'officially' a state park because of limited facilities and accessibility. It isn't in our state park passport, and I'm not counting it in our total of parks we've visited. Still, it's right there and deserved checking out.
Olivia and my parents came home on Christmas Eve as well, and we drove home knowing our reunion with our little girl would be very soon. I missed her so much! Still, it was so relaxing to get away for a few days, child-free, before Christmas. Our trip was amazing, and I can't wait to return.