2015 Trip 1, Feb. 6, Florida in Winter

Destin, FL Friday Feb. 6

Sometimes the differing types of activities we do in one day amazes me. First off, if you read yesterday’s blog, you thought we were canoeing today. Nope, postponed one more day. We started out with a nature trail hike around the Adventures Unlimited property and then checked out.

Britton Hill; Florida's highest point. Note the flag waving in the breeze generated by such a great elevation.

Britton Hill; Florida’s highest point. Note the flag waving in the breeze generated by such a great elevation.

We headed out for, hold on to your hats, the highest natural point in Florida (i.e.,not counting Disney World creations, skyscrapers, etc.) The highest point in Florida, Britton Hill, is 345 feet. (Sixteen states have their lowest point in the state higher than Florida’s highest point.) Britton Hill is just two miles south of the Georgia-Florida state line and 60 miles NE of Milton in the unincorporated community of Lakewood.

Why go? Well, why not? We have been to some other state highest points (or at least very close to it) and while it is not an obsession with us, it seemed a somewhat unique goal for the day, given its lack of real elevation. There is a club and a point of pride for people to make all 50 highest points. Obviously, all of them are more of a challenge than is Florida’s. Lakewood Park,home to Britton Hill, has a notebook for people to sign in that they have “conquered” Florida’s highest point. Not too many other people seem to care, the park was deserted when we were there. This part of the state is primarily lumbering and farming; a sawmill in Lakewood closed decades ago.

So after this exciting stop, we moved on to another small Florida town that is not on an ocean beach, DeFuniak Springs. The Muscogee/Creek/Euchee Indians lived in the area and around the springs that feed the lake. The town was established, like many other towns, due to a railroad, the Louisville and Nashville. This town of 5,600 people has several claims to fame.

Postcard showing the round lake at DeFuniak Springs

Postcard showing the round lake at DeFuniak Springs

Lake side view of the site for Chautauqua in DeFuniak Springs

Lake side view of the site for Chautauqua in DeFuniak Springs

First, it is home to the only naturally round lake in North America. The lake is about one mile in circumference; we met a woman older than us who has lived here her entire life and walks around the lake three times every day. Second, the town is home to the Florida Chautauqua Association. From 1885 to 1922, the Florida winter Chautauqua was immensely popular and brought fame to the small town. It was revived in 1976 in a shorter format and continues to this day. Third, the local library which is the oldest in the state that was built as a library and still continues to be used as a library.

One of the homes on Lake Drive in DeFuniak Springs

One of the homes on Circle Drive in DeFuniak Springs

Street view of Lake Drive in DeFuniak Springs

Street view of Circle Drive in DeFuniak Springs

We did an urban hike, walking around the lake and reading about the historic homes. All of the homes are across the street from the lake. Between Circle Drive and the lake itself, only three buildings were allowed. A Presbyterian church founded by the early Scottish settlers, the library, and the Chautauqua main building. The local history museum was open so we made a quick visit. I noted that there was no high school for black Americans until the 1930s. It closed in 1969, 15 years after Brown v. Board of Education.

Rocky Bayou state park

Rocky Bayou state park

And the day of excitement was not over yet! (You do recognize the tongue in cheek language, right?) On our way to Destin, we stopped at Fred Gannon Rocky Bayou State Park and went on two nature walks. The bayou leads to Choctawatchee Bay, a major bay off the Gulf of Mexico separating the island towns like Destin from the mainland.

Deer Moss

Deer Moss

Besides the exercise and fresh air, Chris and I saw a new, distinctive looking plant, the deer moss. These look like round puffs of a greenish white sponge growing on the forest floor. They were everywhere and it seems the lichen is a combination of alga and fungus working symbiotically. The ones we saw were 75-100 years old and are a major factor in stabilizing sand. Since lichen are sensitive to air pollution, the fact that they are growing here is one indicator of decent air quality. And finally, there was one surprise-see picture below.

Rocky Bayou park used to be part of a military gun range. This concrete practice bomb was found in the park and left there for us to view.

Rocky Bayou park used to be part of a military gun range. This concrete practice bomb was found in the park and left there for us to view.

We left the park after our walks and made it to our lodging for the next four nights, a Courtyard in Destin. More adventures await.

Ed and Chris 9 pm

Categories: road trip, travel | Tags: , , , | 4 Comments

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4 thoughts on “2015 Trip 1, Feb. 6, Florida in Winter

  1. Mary Stusek

    Thanks for introducing me to deer moss. I never heard of it or saw it but will now Google it. It’s hard to believe they are so old.

  2. Rebecca

    That was interesting! I thought the highest point in Florida was near florala. I will have to go back and revisit their sign. I love Defuniak springs! My sister and i have walked that circle many times through the years dreaming about living in one of those houses (and making up stories about the people who live there). Did you see the bench and water fountain by one of the gates? They do a really nice light display around the lake at Christmas. Enjoy Destin. It is a beautiful white beach. I

    • You are not incorrect, I just used the name of an incorporated little area where Britton Hill is. Florala GA or Paxton FL will appear on a map much sooner than Lakewood.
      We saw notices of the Christmas display but unfortunately we are not likely to see it although I think I might aim for the Cambridge OH Dickens display first.

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