Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Gulf Islands National Seashore

Gulf Islands National Seashore is a series of barrier islands that protect the coastal areas of Mississippi, Alabama and Northwest Florida.  In Texas they also have the Padre Islands National Seashore.  On our first winter’s trip, we blogged about camping on South Padre and also at the northern end of that chain of islands.  See “Previous Florida Blogs” for our last visit here, too!
The four inches of rain from last Sunday finally quit coming down but the solitary 2-lane road that leads from the park entrance gate, past the check-in building, and on to the campgrounds was flooded and took 5 days to dry up!  Our campground loop was fairly high and the water drained pretty quickly but the other, larger campground loop did not fare so well!  It’s a good thing that all of the electrical boxes are mounted 4 feet off the ground on tall wooden posts.

We’ve already gone thru the main part of the fort before but on each visit we find more to inspect and learn about.  This time we’ve checked on the World War I Cooper’s Battery that held the disappearing canons.  These canons popped up, disappeared and reappeared like jack in the box!  According to the sign nearby, this battery held 2 6inch rifles mounted on disappearing carriages.  When the guns were fired, the recoil automatically lowered them behind the concrete wall, which protected the crews while they reloaded the guns.  Counterweights then returned them to the firing position.

Flooded park roads did not hold us back from venturing out to explore Pensacola and surrounding areas.  On Pearl Harbor Day we headed back to Mobile and the Battleship Memorial Park where we toured the battleship, USS Alabama and the submarine, USS Drum.   Alabama is 680 ft long and 108 ft wide!  She carried 9 16-inch guns in 3 main turrets, 20 5-inch guns, 48 40mm guns and 52 20mm guns!  Her crew numbered up to 2500!  We followed the self-tour signs thru the lower two levels past the galleys, bunks and even the bathroom area which was what amounted to a long plank w/toilet seats attached
and one long trough underneath. (Ewww!)  While below we also saw the engine room and the room where the HUGE big guns on the top of the ship got aimed.  We saw rows and rows of missiles and the area where the smaller 5” bullets were stored and then placed in a conveyer tube and sent up to the guns above.  On the above decks you could see what her sailors and marines would see – except now it includes the city skyline and the collection of restored military airplanes in the surrounding park area below.

H chose to return to our base via a different route – a ferry boat from Dauphin Island - a barrier island south of Mobile to Fort Morgan Island – another long narrow barrier island on the east side of the bay.   On both sides of Mobile Bay are 2 more restored forts and each faces the Gulf of Mexico and had once protected the mouth of the Bay.   Out in the open water were imposing oilrigs on tall metal legs.   We passed fairly close to one set of two that were joined by a small bridge.  As we rumbled past and approached the commercial channel, our captain had to throttle back and wait for a long slow moving freighter to pass by and head out to the Gulf of Mexico.  Those of us who were up on the observation area of the ferry got an extra bonus when we watched 2 dolphins leap up and out of the water as they chased along!

We’ve met some neat folks – Wanda and Ed are from the Mobile Bay area and filled us in on some of the local lore. We shared a walk on the beach and a gorgeous Gulf Sunset with them.  Another local neighbor is an armadillo who wanders along and thru the scrub bushes behind our “home”! We’ve seen eagles and osprey and have listened to all kinds of little birds that flit from one tree to another!  And then there are the jets that take off and land all day long from the Pensacola Naval Air Station - right on the other side of Pensacola Bay.  This morning we heard an exceptionally loud roar above us and looked up just in time to see the Blue Angels fly over in formation. Before we leave – I MUST get a picture.  IF I am successful – that picture will be the first thing you see on our next blog!
Not Snow

Our daily routine has settled in to riding the bikes, walking the beach, watching for eagles (or angels!) and occasionally driving the 4 miles back up the road past the gatehouse, thru drifting snow and piled up drifts along the road!   Snow?!  Sorry – I meant SNOW WHITE SAND!!  Snow white SAND!