St. George Island

   Perhaps now, November will bring  memories of the time I spent with my three sisters for a getaway on St. George Island in the Panhandle of Florida.  Only one of us had visited that part of our state and we were eager to see what it would bring to our stay on the island.

     Our youngest sister, Mary, came from Kansas and our sister Tracy joined us from her home near Boulder, Colorado.  The four of us had never taken a trip together before and we looked forward to spending the time with each other.  Mary and I drove the six hour trip from Orlando and settled in on our check-in day of Saturday afternoon.  She and I had the spacious, three bedroom, three bath house to ourselves until Jan and Tracy joined us on Tuesday.

      We explored the nearby, small town of Apalachicola, home of roughly three thousand residents.  (St. George Island is mostly inhabited by visitors.)  We met one that first afternoon, John Lee, who ran a small shop in the historic downtown district.  He had run the newspaper there for years and now could come and go as he pleased being semi-retired selling t-shirts with historic figures on them and offering the popular Tupelo honey that was made locally.  He knew much about the area and we received quite a history lesson that day.  He told us about Dr. John Gorrie and other historic notables.

     Driving around on the outskirts of downtown, Mary and I spied an old cemetery and decided to walk through it and see some of the resting places of well-known past residents who had made this fishing port their home.  We were looking for Dr. Gorrie’s grave site as well.  He was known for inventing the first ice machine used for helping keep yellow fever and other illnesses at bay.  His discovery later led to refrigeration and air conditioning.  We also learned that his remains rested across the street from a museum in his honor and not in the town cemetery where we had been looking.

     We also drove down to one end of St. George Island to St. George Island State Park where camping is popular and trails are numerous and there are many undeveloped beaches to explore.  Pure white dunes, covered in state-protected sea oats populated the area along the beach.  The length of the island is around 38 miles and we drove from one end to the other at times driving with the Gulf of Mexico on one side of the road and Apalachicola Bay on the other.

     The four of us hiked Tate’s Hell State Forest a tract of land covering over 200,000 acres where we saw black bear tracks (large and small) in the sandy trail that we followed as well as cat prints–bobcats or Florida Panthers?  I was very glad that we didn’t come across a bear even though I was told they were usually quite timid and would run if they heard voices.  I didn’t want to test out that theory!  We all had our binoculars at the ready looking for a new bird to spot but didn’t have much luck throughout the trip.  Timing seems to be very important when bird watching–apparently we were a little early to spot any new “snow birds” arriving to the area.

     Cape San Blas was a destination another day where we all stopped for a picnic and walked along yet another beach looking for shells.  After lunch, we continued on our drive to St. Joseph’s Peninsula State Park where we came to the end of the point that looked out onto a small island in the bay which could only be accessed by boat.

     We made most of our meals at home but my sisters enjoyed some of the fresh seafood made famous by the area waters when we went out for dinner a few times.

     The weather was perfect for hiking and sightseeing during the week.  The days were mostly clear blue, sunny skies in the low to mid 70s with the nights in the 40s to 50s.  It became quite blustery at times and a heavy but fast-passing rain hit one night as we played Scrabble.  The house of three levels, which was built on high stilts, shook with the wind.  We felt a little disconcerted but our feelings passed quickly as the storm did.

     Apalachicola was hosting its 48th annual Florida Seafood Festival and was expecting thousands of attendees this weekend.  This is Florida’s longest running maritime event held at the mouth of the Apalachicola River.  Mary and I saw some of the preparations as we went into town the day before the festival began but we left Saturday morning as it was getting underway.

     Yes, this trip may become one of my favorite memories of all of my Novembers. It was a very memorable time had with four very special sisters.


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