Sunday, August 12, 2012

Trip 61: Gamble Rogers Memorial State Recreation Area at Flagler Beach

State Parks visited: 53

What is that saying about the best laid plans?  We were fortunate recently to find a campsite open for the weekend at Gamble Rogers State Park in Flagler.  It's not very far from home and we were dying for a weekend away, so it fit the bill nicely!  It's a very busy park, so we took the availability as a good sign...right?

Rob and I are both well-versed in Florida weather, so we didn't let the possibility of rain dampen our excitement at finally seeing this awesome park.  That is, until we tried to set up our tent.  See, we were right across the dunes from the ocean, and the wind was fierce!  So much so that one of our tent poles splintered as we were putting it into place.  Olivia kept herself entertained while we struggled:

At this point I'll let you in a little something:  We had the only tent in the campground.  The other spots were all taken by RVs.  Watching us put our tent up in the wind and oncoming rain was like a spectator sport for the RVers, and honestly, it got kind of old.  Then the campground hosts came by to check on us, making sure we knew what we were in for in the weather.  That was nice of them, really, but we were ready to be done.

Turkey burgers were on the menu for dinner, so there was an air of urgency as the storm approached.  Rob worked on that while I took care of some other details, and pretty soon dinner was cooking.  Our timing was pretty good as I took the last burger off the grill as the rain started.  Now, we never allow food in the tent...ever...but this time we had to make an exception.  And so, into the tent went ourselves and our dinner, and we kept the cooler at the door as well.

Dinner was great, and eventually the rain dissipated.  It was clear enough for us to clean up from dinner and take our trash down to the dumpster, so we went out for a walk.  Here's our set-up:

And the rest of the campground:

We stopped off at the picnic pavilion during a brief shower, and Olivia educated us on the history of the the area:

Once the rain ended (again) we headed down to the beach.  The unique orange color of the sand is part of what makes this such a beautiful spot, and we had it to ourselves.

Olivia had fun running from the waves.  It was great to get out and expend some energy between rain showers. 

Our breather lasted about an hour, an all-too-brief reprieve from the rain.  As soon as we made it back into the tent, the sky once again opened up, and we decided to call it a night.  Going to bed early was a good thing, because we were well rested for our next endeavor:  Watching the sunrise.  Even though I grew up in Florida, I have never...ever...made it to the beach early enough to see the day begin.  We were determined, though, and got out of the tent and made it to the beach in time.

It was probably one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen, and a wonderful way to start our day.  Back at camp, the campground hosts stopped by to check on us and made sure we made it through the night.  It was a very sweet gesture!  While I was making breakfast (breakfast burritos, yummy!), movement by the fence behind us caught my attention.  It was  mouse!

Rodents don't bother us, and thankfully this little guy wasn't interested in our food.  We watched him for quite awhile, eating the stinging nettle plants that are common in the area.  They must be particularly yummy, because as soon as the mouse would leave, a cardinal would take its place:

Pretty soon it was time to break down camp.  We found this guy in the process:

Before we hit the beach, we decided to head across the highway to the inland side of the park.  It's situated on the Intracoastal Waterway and Smith Creek, and it has a boat ramp and hiking trail.  We didn't bring the kayaks with us on this trip but might come back. It seemed like a peaceful place to paddle.

Something caught our attention around the boat ramp, and after some time we realized we were watching a manatee:

It floated around lazily, and I really envy that approach to life!  We sat there watching it for probably half an hour.  Afterwards, we walked around a bit:

We couldn't get any closer to this trail without mosquitoes attacking us.

I want to make so many rude jokes about this sign.

So our ultimate reason for the camping trip was to visit the beach, and we finally made it for a swim!  While we were picking out a spot to plant ourselves, we saw something amazing.  Look at it and see if you can tell me what it is:

Do you know?  I'll fill you in:  Those are sea turtle tracks.  There were tracks leading to and from a brand new nest, and it was the first time I've seen that.  You can identify the turtle by the tracks they leave, but we weren't able to find out this one.  Still, it was extremely cool seeing something like this, knowing that while we were sleeping, a sea turtle was laying eggs nearby.

So yeah...the best laid plans.  The weather, initially, was pretty dismal.  However, we were able to salvage our weekend away with a soul-renewing sunrise, and it really ended up being one of our best weekends yet.