Back from Florida

St. John's River/Mayport Lighthouse
We’re back after a brief trip to chilly Florida. Too much driving in too short a time, and the weather was cold for most of it. But the kids were good and we had fun.

Friday the 16th we stayed at Amelia Island, which is the northernmost island on Florida’s Atlantic side. We visited Fort Clinch State Park, with an old civil-war era fort. The main park road has a short trail which gives pretty good views of the Amelia Island Lighthouse which is normally closed to the public. After having a look at the fort, my oldest son and I played in the sand on a freezing cold beach.

Friday night I went by myself to downtown Jacksonville and saw Colin Hay (former lead of 80s Men at Work) play with the Jacksonville symphony. I enjoy his solo stuff, and it was a rare chance to see him play as he’s mostly on the west coast. The crowd at the symphony was odd…a mix of his fans plus a lot of white-haired older folks who I think have season tickets to the symphony and weren’t prepared for electric guitars. But the music was good, and I got to meet him after the show, which I think counts as the only semi-famous person I’ve ever met.

THEMIS Rocket Launch
Saturday we rode the ferry across the St. John’s River to Mayport. There I was able to photograph the St. John’s River/Mayport Lighthouse through the fence of the naval base. Then we headed down to Kennedy Space Center to let the boys see the old rockets. They’ve turned the place into a semi-amusement park which was disappointing. However, by coincidence there was to be a rocket launch that day and it went off as scheduled. First time I’ve gotten to see anything launch from there. The few other times I’ve been there has always been a delay of some sort. My oldest son now probably thinks they shoot off rockets down there every day.

Sunday we headed down to the Everglades, at the southern end of mainland Florida. My first trip there in five years, and I had missed it! We stopped to see the birds and gators along the Anhinga Trail, and were not disappointed. From there we drove to Flamingo, next to Florida Bay. If anyplace in Florida was going to be good for camping in February, this would be it. But that night it was quite chilly and the temperature according to our car was 39° F. Not exactly what we were hoping for, but the kids weathered it well.

On Monday we hiked the boardwalk through the mangroves at West Lake and then walked around the Eco Pond. The pond had recently been reopened after a long closure from 2005 hurricanes Katrina and Wilma. The viewing platforms and the boardwalks had been destroyed, and were torn out. There were some birds there but overall the pond was not as lush as I remembered it. The Flamingo area had suffered in 2005 and the visitor lodging and restaurants were still closed. We spent most of the rest of the afternoon around the campsite. I tried to get us on a boat tour of the Buttonwood Canal, but it was sold out. We did get to see American crocodiles just across the canal from the marina, and a nesting osprey.

Fortunately, the weather was better Monday night, and Tuesday was much warmer. Unfortunately it was time for us to leave. We had one last hurrah by stopping for lunch at Alabama Jack’s near Key Largo. Then it was time to fight the traffic in what I call the “concrete jungle,” the 80 miles of Interstate 95 from Miami to Palm Beach. We made it just past Daytona Beach and spent the night before finishing the trip on Wednesday.

See the photo album.