Astral Nomads

One man, one woman, one rabbit......traveling with the stars.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Back to the Natch

Lately, it seemed that the Astrals were beginning to slip into Urban Cowboy mode. Going to St. Augustine was understandable given its historical pedigree but Tallahassee? (Hey, it was on the way!) Well, since the hard freezes here in Florida had temporarily put our camping on hiatus, we were in exile from nature too long. Today, we fixed that and satisfied our jones for some sweet outdoors in the form of Topsail Hill Preserve State Park here in Sandestin, Florida. This park is a real gem, with 25 foot white sand dunes and a few fresh water coastal dune lakes. We hiked about 6-7 miles through lovely wooded pine scrubs and over the dunes to a pristine white sand beach. The park was relatively empty and we felt pretty much like we had it to ourselves. The weather forecast had called for mostly cloudy skies but, half-way through the hike, it became totally clear and the temperature hit the low 60s. Perfect. This was probably the nicest Florida State Park we've seen in terms of the lanscape and they had a really nice campground. Need to file that information way for future reference.

This was one of the fresh water ponds that
are scattered about the park.

Another small pond. The two lakes in this park
are gigantic.

The sand here is pristine white, which goes with
anything, especially the rust of pine needles.

This is a typical view from the hiking trail. Pines, palm, 
and this time of year, the silver and rust of fallow bushes

Gotta love the curlicues on this palm.
Bad hair day for plant

The sign of the crossed arrow.

Despite it being winter, there was a lot of new life poking
through the forest floor. Couldn't help but think of:

The force that through the green fuse drives the flower
Drives my green age; that blasts the roots of trees
Is my destroyer.
And I am dumb to tell the crooked rose
My youth is bent by the same wintry fever.
Dylan Thomas

The hiking paths here were nice and wide. No need for blazes and the
map was fairly easy to follow. Good thing, because the trail signs
were inspired by a minimalist aesthetic. It's not that there were no signs,
it's just that the signs that were there conveyed no information.

Here's Astral Wendy on the shores of Campbell Lake. On the other side
of the dunes on the horizon lies the Gulf of Mexico. Some of the dunes
are 25 feet tall.

Here's what I mean about the signs. No indication of what trail you're
on. Just permission to go this way or that way. A small amount of lettering
would be helpful. Some of the signs had numbers for which there was no
corresponding indication on the trail map. OK, I'll stop grousing. It really
is a great park and this is a minor quibble.

We came across this guy on a paved portion of one of the trails. He
either froze to death last night or he had the ability to stand really still
for a really long time. Not sure what it was, but it looked like some kind
of giant stink bug.  While we're here let me throw in some praise for my
Merrell Moab Gore-Tex shoes.  Great water-proof and comfortable hiking
shoe. I've worn these almost everyday since we've been on the road and 
they're a great shoe. I did break down in St. Augustine and bought a pair 
of Minnetonka moose-hide driving moccasins. Hey, I do a lot of driving.
Plus, it's chocolate moose.

There were alligator warning signs posted at the lakes but we were
unable to spot any.

Just one last example of how clean the bathrooms
are in Florida state parks. We were pleasantly amazed
every time. This bathroom was in the middle of nowhere
and looked like it had just been scoured by an entire team.

After hiking around the lake and through some piny woodlands,
we finally got to the white dunes. You could smell and hear the gulf
shore at this point, but there was still some hiking through the dunes
to get there. Because the dunes are fragile and important in protecting
the coast, you can only hike on a designated path to the beach. Here
the trail becomes soft sand and the hiking gets a lot more arduous.

This is looking back towards the lakes from the trail through the dunes.
It was nice to see the clouds from the morning multi-colored and
moving away from us.

Finally through the dunes: the Beach. Nobody here but the
Astral Nomads.

The color of the water was amazing.

Since I'm a geeky jerk, I had to post a photo to
Facebook immediately, using my Droid2.

We packed a picnic lunch of some sandwiches and

Astral Wendy made some frosted cherries using sand.
The white sand here is so fine it's almost like
confectioner's sugar. Until you eat it. Then it's a
gritty mess like sand everywhere else.

The footprints indicate how hard it is to hike through this soft sand.

This is where the faeries play at night. I'd love to see these lichens
under a full moon on a clear night.

And let's not forget the Ondines.

Tomorrow we're finally leaving Florida. We've been here since two days before Thanksgiving and we've had a great time with family and the friendly people all over this great state.

I'm Alabamy bound
I'm Alabamy bound
And if the train don't stop 'n turn around
I'm Alabamy bound*

*Alabamy Bound (traditional, although the version I'm familiar with is recorded by Van Morrison and Lonny Donegan)


  1. Exceptionally great photos as usual ;-)

  2. @Barbara: Yeah, Wendy's the master. I just tag along and add commentary. This blog would be pretty boring without her photography.

  3. I'm beginning to feel I'm on the journey with you two. Lovely pictures Wendy and great comments Gerry.
    Greetings from Tennessee.

  4. Greetings Star and thank you! Hope your having fun in Tennessee, it's a beautiful state and we hope to visit there again in warmer weather!

  5. That beach is just gorgeous. The sand reminds me of Whitehaven beach of the Whitsunday islands.

  6. @Colin: Nice. Whitehaven looks awesome.

  7. gator head root. it's karma dude!

  8. @Clark: We consider ourselves to be honorary members of the mighty Gator Nation.