Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Up The Atlantic Coast

Up The Atlantic Coast

Phipps County Campground is next door to the Port Lucie Locks and Dam. This man made canal leads from the Atlantic Ocean thru this extremely northern edge of the Everglades and into Lake Okeechobee. From there the canal passes one of our other favorite places to park – WP Franklin Lock and Dam (SPFB) and out to the Gulf of Mexico at Ft Myers. Improvements have been made to Phipps Park and it was our parking spot for a few days – just to get us thru the weekend. The campground folks said the park was full but they would accommodate us by allowing both trailers to park on the same spot. It was tricky but we managed!

The park backs up to the canal and is within sight of the Florida Turnpike and Rt 95. Stuart has several nice beaches and our day was spent exploring – the beaches, the quaint “historic” downtown area and a good-sized flea market. Even tho we came away empty-handed from the flea market and the marine salvage store, our tummies came away full after a great lunch at Manatee Island Grill an open aired seafood spot right on the dock in the harbor!

Sunday was our moving day again. It was time to part ways with R&N since they were headed inland to Davenport. We lucked out and moved around the corner to the Lock and Dam campground. There are a total of 9 camping spots and only ONE “walk in” space that is available for 3 days at a time. H and I watched many an interesting vessel lock thru and head west! While we were parked there we also went out exploring again! We discovered Hutchinson Island – one of the many barrier islands that protect the mainland of this sandstone peninsula called Florida. Beaches, grass, palmetto and mangrove covered dunes; lofty condos and marinas dot the long skinny island. Towards the southern end of the island the map showed a “lookout” which turned out to be Gilberts Bar – House of Refuge. The “house” is one of only 9 commissioned in 1875 for U S Life Saving Service. Keepers provided shelter, food, clothing and transportation to survivors of shipwrecks and storms at sea. In this area, the coastline is a jagged outcropping of huge rough rocks that would remind you of lava boulders in Hawaii that are subjected to the voracious wave action of the sea or the enormous boulders on the coastline of Maine!

Steadily we’re moving up the coastline of the Atlantic Ocean. This time a hop and a skip up to Sebastian Inlet State Park for a few days before hopping and skipping up to Manatee Hammock, a Brevard County Park and Campground, just south of Titusville. The park is situated off Rt 1 and borders on the Indian River. On the other side of the river is the Kennedy Space Center with its easily visible tall white Assembly Building standing proudly on the horizon. The park is woodsy, with narrow roads that wind around tall pine trees and spreading live oaks, which have blanketed the ground with their tiny shiny brown leaves. There is a lovely pool but since the water temp was a chilly 64 degrees – no one was in it. Some silly soul also posted a sign on the enclosure wall that stated “ Swimming Prohibited – Beware of Alligators”. On the waters edge is a long fishing pier extending out into the river and the resident Blue Heron was stationed on the railing, keeping guard this VERY windy afternoon! As we inched our way out onto the dock, slowly as not to scare (HA!) him away, H kept on snapping his picture. We got eyeball to eyeball with this windblown-feathered soldier before H lost the staring contest and we moved to the other side of the dock! While in Titusville we visited with my dear high school girlfriend Lois and her husband Dave. Out to dinner at Boston’s Beef and Seafood one afternoon after the morning was spent exploring parts of the islands and walking the beach. Most places along the coast there is just one barrier island but in this area there are two that stand together – Cocoa Beach and Merritt Island. Between them and the mainland are the Banana and the Indian Rivers. There is a canal that has been dug (imagine that!) and a lock has been built to subdue the tide and the waves and allows the larger boats a short cut from the ocean to the rivers. Over this canal there is a high bridge. The road leads out to the Cruise Lines Parking lots and Shipping Docks. The bridge is almost high enough but still has to be opened for the tall working vessels that use the channel. H and I were compelled to watch over several tugs and barges that struggled to maneuver against the currant and lock thru. There were also a half dozen manatees milling around in the lock, seemingly trying to assist in the operation!

One day was spent out on north end of Merritt Island where the Kennedy Space Center and the Shuttle Launch are located. Way too crowded and too late in the day to attempt taking a tour but we did stop and visit the Astronaut Hall of Fame and Museum where the full sized model of the shuttle Inspiration is on guard. The size is amazing! We learned that the Delta 5 Rocket was to be launched on Thursday evening from the Kennedy Air Force Station, adjacent to the actual Space Center. We postponed our departure one more day and invited R&N to come up to watch it with us from the fishing pier at the campground. We froze for one whole hour out on that dock while the launch was moved back by 5 or 10 minutes at a time. At 6 30pm it was cancelled - due to high winds aloft. Oh well – it was dark and we were cold and hungry - out for seafood we went!

Friday morning the winds were calm and we headed west! We’re going to Moss Park!