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Published: February 11th 2020
View from my room
Let me start by saying that the people in Gulf Shores are friendly. That applies to locals and visitors alike! I started my morning with a walk on the beach, which required me to ride down to the lobby in an already occupied elevator. The gentleman saw me follow him out the door and said "Morning walk on the beach too huh?" He is a snowbird from Valparaiso and gave me some food tips and wished me luck on my shell hunting. I walked east along the beach for quite a ways. Along my walk I saw several dead jellyfish (I was careful not to step on any), a Great Blue Heron and lots and lots of shells. The waves are very large right now and there are rip current warnings all over. The water temperature is quite chilly so I doubt many people are attempting to do any swimming right now. After my walk I ate breakfast and headed out for the day.
My first stop of the day, Fort Morgan. This fort sits at the end of the peninsula and was built over a 15 year period starting in 1819. The fort was active during the Civil War,
One of several I saw on my beach walk
Spanish American War, and World Wars I and II. After World War II it was turned over to the state of Alabama as a historic site. I have visited a lot of forts in my life, mainly because my dad likes them, but also because I like history and will visit almost any site that has some historical significance. An $8 per person fee gains you entrance to the park. Once inside you are free to walk around pretty much anywhere. These are the kinds of sites I like because you can go at your own pace and aren't rushed on a guided tour. There also were very few people so I basically had the place to myself. This fort is pretty large and I think a person could spend a good hour or two wandering into all the various passageways. As it was, I spent about a half hour walking around and marveling at a structure that was built by hand, 200 enslaved hands, from the ground up. The brick and mortar were made by hand and then placed together to create the fort. Some of the walls are very thick and the structure is fairly large so it's
no wonder it took 15 years to complete. As a suggestion to anyone who does end up visiting Fort Morgan, plan on bringing some snacks and maybe even lunch because you will need it!
The plan was to then take the Mobile Bay Ferry across to Dauphin Island to visit the fort on that side as well as some other sites. However, the guy at the ticket booth said it wasn't for sure the ferry would come back because of a Dense Fog Advisory. Now I could have taken my car over and drove back around to the other side, but I didn't want to do the drive so I decided not to chance being stranded over there with no way back. Instead, I headed back East into Gulf Shores. I recommend stopping at the Visitor Center as they have lots of pamphlets and coupons and the ladies there are very friendly and helpful.
After much debate, I decided to spend the rest of my day visiting Gulf State Park. This is a free park with 28 miles of trails across various different ecosystems. The most interesting thing to me was the speed limit through the park. It
was 26 MPH! I've never seen a speed limit that didn't end in a 5 or 0, at least I don't think I have. Before I could do any hiking, I needed some lunch. I stopped at this place I found on Trip Advisor called Shrimp Basket. Many of the reviews commented on the po'boys so I decided to get the whitefish version to go. After a short wait, I was on my way to a picnic area in the park where I enjoyed my lunch along the banks of Lake Shelby.
Fortified, I crossed Highway 182 via the pedestrian bridge and headed to the fishing pier. This pier is the largest on the Gulf of Mexico and has lots of signs about the fish, mammals and birds you may encounter in this area of the gulf. One thing I learned, manatees migrate through in the spring! Wish I could see one of those! There is a $3 charge to visit the pier, but it's worth it to be able to walk out and watch the fisher(wo)men at work and try and spot some wildlife. Pelicans are one of the main birds you will encounter. They hang around just
waiting to grab a fish off a line as it's being pulled out of the water. Or to grab said fish as it's being tossed back into the water. I was lucky enough to spot two dolphins cruising around. They aren't whales, but still fun to watch. It's also nice to stand on the pier and listen to the sound of the water.
Back in the state park, I decided it would be a great idea to rent a bike. There is a free bike rental program, as long as you return the bike within 3 hours. Well I only lasted about 30 minutes and that was on relatively flat ground. Apparently my leg muscles need some work! Bike returned to a stand, I went back to my trusty feet to get me around. I found a nice trail that ended with an overlook at Lake Shelby. This is a great place to look for alligators and I was able to see two of them. Everywhere I walked or biked in the park, the oncoming people said "Hello" or "Hi, how are you?" One guy was calling it out to everyone even before he got right up to them.
Inside the casements. Very interesting with the stalagmites and stalactites located around.
Maybe they are just all so excited to be in warmer weather? In any case, it's kind of nice.
By this time, I was tired of walking around so I headed to the grocery store to pick up some food for dinner and then back to my room. I grabbed my book and sat on the beach for a long time. I don't know what it is, but sitting by the ocean just soothes my soul! After a read and another nice walk, I headed back inside for dinner and to relax for the rest of the evening. Now I need to decide what to do tomorrow!
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