Santa Rosa Beach, FL Wed. Feb. 11
Glamping is a term that has been popularized recently. It refers to glamorous camping, usually expensive digs in exotic locations. Chris likes to call our state park lodgings glamping when I might call it low frills lodging. We had moved the ten miles from the Courtyard by Marriott in Sandestin (which was cheaper and much nicer) to Topsail Hill Preserve State Park to be lodging inside the park itself. We do not camp and we do not own an RV. Topsail, and numerous other state parks nowadays, offer furnished cabins with linens, equipped kitchens etc.
We are staying in one of the bungalows, one bedroom units. Our neighbor across the street informed us that this place used to be a private RV/bungalow park until the state bought it. The neighbor has been here since the early days of the privately owned park and actually owns his bungalow but leases the land from the state-he was grandfathered in. When the lease expires, he is out. I found no data on how or why the owners were bought out, the neighbor indicated the state initiated the transaction.
Most likely the press of development spurred action to preserve a rare spot of open land. You see the high-rise and expensive new developments on either side of Topsail. A realtor in one of the cutesy towns along Scenic Highway 30A we drove through on Tuesday said that the average selling price of homes in 2013 in her town was $1,500,000. Seaside, one of the towns we drove through, was started in 1984 on 80+ acres of land as a planned community. Now it gets rave reviews of how town living should be. Of course, at high home price residents can afford lots of amenities. Town names don’t hurt the image: Rosemary Beach, Blue Mountain, Seascape, Seagrove, Watersound, Watercolor, Seacrest, Gulf Place, etc.
The bungalows here at Topsail were double-wide mobile homes/manufactured housing. Ours is spacious with lots of storage space, but furnished on the thrifty side. There is a TV and heating/cooling, screened-in porch, shower with lots of hot water. Towels are skimpy, no soap (we always carry some extra), 4 place settings of Correlle dishes, etc. The definite advantage is the ability to walk out your door to go hiking. The beach is a mile hike away although they do run a tram on the hour. The tram starts at the day use area for people who just come for the day. Not too many of those at the moment. I can see families packing up for a great summer vacation here.
Florida has “branding” names for various sections of its ocean coast. This one is called Emerald Coast; the waters in the Gulf of Mexico are more green-blue. Certainly the sand deserves all of the rave reviews. It is white, very soft and should be great for walking in during the summer. I have been told that the sand here does not heat up during the summer months. We have not had warm enough weather to test that out. Our hike along a mile or more of the beach on Tuesday was easy, the sand compacts nicely where the wave action is. The interior dunes have looser sand than takes more slogging.
Sonic booms continue from the military jets flying overhead. It is frequent but once you get used to it, it becomes background noise. There is another military base to our east by Panama City.
Wednesday was spent entirely hiking inside the park. We spent almost five hours hiking in three trips through the wooded areas, usually said to resemble Old Florida, the panhandle of lumbering and small towns. According to the trail guide and our usual pace, that should be about 15 miles. Our legs are definitely getting a workout. We had considered renting a bike. The Timpoochee Trail runs for 20 miles along Scenic Highway 30A but we figured we had seen those sights and most of the ride was along the highway.
Wildlife and birds continue to be sparse. Some people have seen deer; we saw one but deer are so common in Minnesota that it is like saying you saw a squirrel. We saw one flock of birds on Campbell Lake, a few on our walks and some sandpipers along the ocean beach. At sunset Tuesday night we observed a dolphin just off-shore.
Meals are not all fancy restaurants. Tuesday we shopped at the Publix grocery store and for $11 picked up 8 pieces of chicken, cole slaw, baked beans and rolls that provided us with three meals. We did add some fruit.
I will sign off with a few more sunset shots.
Ed and Chris Thursday Feb. 12 9 AM