March 31 – April 3
It rained hard all night but our year-old Marmot Limestone 6P handled the moisture effectively, without any leaks and little condensation inside. The biggest issue in staying dry inside a tent, outside of the obvious leaks, is condensation. A completely waterproof tent prevents water from entering, but can also keep it from exiting. Two people breathing all night as they sleep can create quite a bit of moisture and this can make it damp inside if it can’t leave the tent.
A typical tent system today will include the tent body, constructed of various types of nylon usually formed with a waterproof tub base, then a body of solid ripstop and mesh for breathability. Over this body a waterproof fly is stretched and secured to the tent, generally on top of the poles that provide support. The fly not only keeps water out but also provides an effective aerodynamic shield against wind.
Still not 100% physically and with a meet up arranged for later in the day with Jenna and Tyson, daughter and son-in-law of Ann and Rendy, we decided to make an easy day of sightseeing out of it. Our first stop was the small town of St. Marks on the River of the same name where we parked across the street from the Riverside Café, a place we’d eaten at some years back with Joanna’s sister Nicole instead heading to the other corner to the Cooter Stew Cafe, looking to be an old gas station converted to a restaurant.
We’d happened to arrive just after a large group of motorcyclists who were in the middle of a poker run, so what we thought would be a quick bite to eat turned into an extended session in people watching. Although known for their burgers, which indeed look very good, we opted to stay the course with our fish centric diet of late and split a fish sandwich. I had a beer and we spent a relaxing hour or so waiting for the food and observing.
Finished with what was a very good sandwich, we hopped in the car and drove to the point of land where the St. Marks River meets the Wakulla to visit San Marcos de Apalache Historic State Park. The history of this National Landmark dates back to 1528 when Panfilo de Narvaez arrived in the area with 300 men; however, the first fort was not built until 1679.
Andrew Jackson occupied the fort for a brief time in the early 1800s and the US Navy started building a Marine Hospital in the early 1850’s to treat sailors with yellow fever. During the American Civil War, Confederates took control and renamed it Fort Ward.
We took a leisurely walk through the grounds on a self-guided trail, stopping at interpretive stations detailing the significance of each site. Much like with our travels in Europe, it is always interesting to see how older pieces of property like this have been repeatedly re-purposed over time, just as this site has seen service as a Spanish fort, marine hospital and then a confederate fort.
We left the park and drove back up to Hwy 98, then over to Lighthouse Road, which took us to the entrance to the U.S. St. Marks Wildlife Refuge, home to the St. Marks Lighthouse. It’s a pretty long drive down to the end of the road and the Lighthouse, roughly six miles as you pass through saltwater marshes, islands, tidal creeks, and the estuaries of seven north Florida Rivers.
The second oldest light station in Florida, it was originally constructed in 1829, but the Collector of Customs for St. Marks, Jesse H. Williams, refused to accept it because it had been constructed with hollow walls. It was subsequently rebuilt with solid walls and entered into service in 1831. Over the years it has been moved and restored a number of times and during our visit, we couldn’t climb up to the top of the tower as it was deemed unsafe, and is waiting on funding to restore it.
We walked along a levee like path separating the river from the surrounding marshes, then doubled back to the car for a drive into Tallahassee for dinner with Jenna and Tyson. They moved down to Florida over a year ago for work and while they both miss North Carolina and family, have adapted well to living in an area commonly referred to as South Georgia.
We met them at their house and after some refreshments and conversation, took a spin in their golf cart, a handy mode of transportation for development they live in where amenities are spread out, and then made our way into Tallahassee for dinner at Miccosukee Root Cellar, a farm to table restaurant with a focus on fresh naturally-grown organic food. I can’t recall all that was eaten that night, but the chicken dish I ordered was nicely done, served with root vegetables (radish, turnip, etc.) that were plainly cooked, good, but not something to rave about.
From there we drove over to one of Tallahassee’s more popular breweries, Proof, for one beer to close out the evening. The popularity of the micro-brewery movement is well documented, Charlotte alone has almost twenty, and this was no exception. The brew house was jammed and we managed to grab a table outside that had just been vacated, otherwise there would have been no seats available. It was a cool but pleasant night outside and but for our need to make the long drive back to camp, I’m sure we would have had another round or so, engaged in pleasant conversation, delighted to be around two great people.
Our return to camp was much easier this time around, a clear night without any driving rain. Sleep came easily, fueled by the events of a long day and good company. We’d wait for the morning to see about a bike ride, but my lingering illness and much to see had us leaning in the tourist direction. We’d see what the day would bring.
Cooter Stew Café: http://www.yelp.com/biz/cooter-stew-cafe-saint-marks
Poker Run: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poker_run
San Marcos de Apalache: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/San_Marcos_de_Apalache_Historic_State_Park
U.S. St Marks Wildlife Refuge: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St._Marks_National_Wildlife_Refuge
St. Marks Light: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St._Marks_Light
Miccosukee Root Cellar: http://miccosukeerootcellar.com/
Proof Brewing: http://www.proofbrewingco.com/home/