Fort Pickens

We are leaving the “swamp”… but not Florida; at least not yet. Our travels takes us northward up the west coast to a beautiful farming community called Land O’Lakes. Instead of opting for a traditional campground, we are staying at a “Boondockers Welcome” site (an organization that are peer to peer campers). We’ve been here before and the host are very gracious. It is close to Zephyrhills and this two day stop will enable us a chance to visit some dear friends there.

Sand Hill Cranes are plentiful in Florida this time of year.

Bad weather has been plaguing northern Florida for the last month and we are dreading driving through it. After leaving Land O’Lakes we encounter some powerful thunderstorms on I75. A tornado warning is issued so we pull into a rest area and watch the light show. (radar picked up circular motion east of us and it was heading northeast – we were clear). Thunderstorms are quite impressive in Florida.

It’s beautiful and rural away from Disney and the coast. Notice the Maine carts at Zephyrhills

By late afternoon we arrive at our next “Boondockers Welcome” place. Its about 10 miles south of Alabama and west of Tallahassee. Quiet and rural is the setting and it is perfect for us. Our host is a holistic healer and has recently moved her business to her home. We found her quite fascinating. This place is also near the Florida caves. But most interesting, is the legend of the Ghost of Bellamy Bridge. There are some very good hiking trails here.

Bellamy trail goes out to a haunted bridge. The other pics are from the Healing Place.

Finally, our next day travels has us only going a 175 miles to Fort Pickens. The fort is on the western perches of a long peninsula guarding Pensacola Bay and the city of Pensacola. The peninsula is 30+ miles long is basically white sandy beaches from one end to the other. It is a mecca for beach goers but there is so much beach that it is never crowded. Finding a place to park maybe an issue though. The last 5 miles is the National Park and there is an entrance fee. The campground is within walking distances of the beaches and the Fort.

The beaches stretch for 30 miles and is “sugar white” fine sand

The fort was completed in 1834 and was the first of many along the east and south shores of the young United States. It was ordered to be built mainly because of the War of 1812. During that war several US cities were conquered and occupied by British forces to include places like New Orleans and our capital, Washington DC. One place that was not taken even though the Brits tried very hard to get was Baltimore. Fort McHenry guarded the harbor there and after intense shelling from the British ships, the Fort held …and the invaders repelled. Of course, this victory is famous in the lyrics of our Star-Spangled Banner. The importance of our port cities to have protection was obvious!

Pictures are of Fort Pickens and Geronimo

Fort Pickens worked in conjunction with two other forts across the bay, Fort McRee and Fort Barrancas, to protect the city and its accompanying port. Oddly enough, the only time these forts actually saw battle was during the Civil War when they fired on each other. So much for working together! Fort Pickens remained in Union hands throughout the war.

Like most of our coastal forts, Fort Pickens provided vital protection right up to and including World War II. New technologies such as aircraft, submarines and Navel shipyards made these 1800’s era protectors obsolete. Fortunately many have been restored and are protected as important historic sites. They truly do give us an insight to our past.

The Florida Trail southern terminus is at Oasis Visitor Center in Big Cypress. The northern terminus is at Fort Pickens, 1300 miles away!

The other draw to this area is its “white sugar” beaches. On the Gulf side, the beaches are often as wide as a football field and stretches for 30 miles! But that’s not all. There are more secluded albeit smaller beaches on the bay side. Because of this enormity the beaches are not crowded but trying to find a place to park can be an issue. If you are camping at the Federal campground, the beaches (and fort) are within walking distance but you better book way in advance. This is a popular campground.

Beach pictures of Gulf Island National Seashore at Pensacola (Ft. Pickens)

On a side note, as we travel these United States, the connections of the different areas are becoming more noticeable. Little things such as Fort Massachusetts (in Mississippi) and Fort Jefferson (Dry Tortugas. Florida) have bricks from Maine. Why? What about the Native American history “Trail of Tears” and its relationship with Florida; or Geronimo at Fort Pickens. When we were at Yellowstone, we learned about the Nez Perce trail and Chief Joseph. He was eventually captured by General Howard. General Howard became the Commissioner of the Freedman’s Bureau and established an educational system for southern African Americans. Howard University is named after him. Knowing more about our history and understanding our past will only make for a better future. Denying it (or hiding it) will do just the opposite.

Happy camping!!!

Coming soon, more tales from the Campah!

Next adventure; “Savannah, GA”

STAY TUNED! More “tales from the campah”!

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One thought on “Fort Pickens

  1. This is great!! It’s so interesting. You should have reminded everyone that General Howard was from Maine, though. 😊 I learned that from you. 😊 That would be fun to hike the trail from the southern terminus to the northern. Although I’m sure it was more fun driving it. 😊


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