Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.

Henry David Thoreau

It’s a Dune day….mostly

Thursday May 2, 2013
Site 9, Grayton Beach State Park
Santa Rosa Beach, Florida


I apologize in advance for the length of this post and the number of pictures it was just a jam packed super dooper day!


The weather folks apparently don’t really know how to predict the rains here so they just predict that it’s going to rain every day and usually it does at some point.

When we get up this morning, despite their prediction that it will be raining,  it is not raining.  It is looking like rain but it is not raining.  So out we go, David on his walk, me for a run. 



A little indoor gardening is in order with breakfast.

When we get back we have a big scrambled breakfast with fresh basil  from my basil plant which seriously needs pruning.  We’ve been putting basil in everything lately and still it looks very leggy.  I guess I could make some pesto but I’d have to figure out how to do it without quite so much oil.


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I have 5 herb plants sage, basil, oregano, chives and rosemary.  I bought an English Thyme plant to go with them but it brought some sort of bugs with it so I had to get rid of it and have not been able to find another healthy one since but I’m still looking.  The 5 live on Winnona’s dashboard except when we are moving and they go into the shower for the ride.  I love seeing them in the front window. They provide a wonderful homey feel, the clean the air, they smell divine and are wonderful fresh additions to much of our food including this morning’s breakfast which I forgot to take a picture of before it was all gone every single bite. Sorry!  

I think you’ve seen it before though, tofu scramble with red pepper, onion, garlic, basil, turmeric and paprika.  A side of sweet potatoes and toast rounded it out.  YUM!



We decide that although it’s still overcast and they are still predicting rain any moment, we’re going to hike the dune hike. 


Before we even get out to the road David finds this fellow hiding in the litter under the bushes of our camp site.  I think he looks like a miniature alligator.  Maybe a lizard is a lizard?  You think?


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We walk over to the dune trail a bit over a mile away.  It is just beyond the access to the beach.  On the way we find the first Prickly Pear Cactus flower in bloom.  It always amazes me to see them in Florida.  I think of them as a southwestern flower.   There are quite a few blooming wildflowers here actually. 


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They have a nice map at the head of the trail. 


Although after hiking it, we both agree that they have changed the route but not the map.  No matter it is easy to find your way.


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Really cool looking trail I think.  I’m excited to follow it into the dunes.  You don’t often get to walk in the dunes since in most places that can be very destructive.  People seem to be staying on the path here so it’s great that we still have this opportunity.


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It’s a self guided “nature trail” which means it has little informative signs along the way.  Over time we have learned quite a bit about Florida’s Natural history by reading them.

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Clouds are looking ominous but the wild flowers are looking beautiful. 

I just had no idea there were so many different wild flowers in a dune ecosystem.  I love it.    This is a gulf coast lupine. From a distance they look  like giant lavender bushes in the dunes.


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There is a lot of Sandhill milkweed (the pinkish plant) and Tread Softly (the white flowers).   Tread Softly is another name for stinging nettle so I guess you would want to ‘tread softly’.   All of the flowers are very low growing due to the harsh environment here.


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I am almost beside myself at this spot.  WOW! 

Everything is so alive and green with all the rain they have had and we are having.  We are in a little sand oak room.  It is so beautifully decorated.  Joy, joy, joy.   That’s what I feel.


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We find ourselves in this gorgeous room.Dune hike & rain paddle 028


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What a gorgeous trail this is.  Every step is just magical.  We move from a leaf covered path, back to a sand path and out into the open overlooking the lake.


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Dunes are so important.  And so fragile.

This dune is entirely covered with vegetation holding it in place and blocking the devastation of hurricanes to the lands beyond.  We really must protect our dune and wetland ecosystems so they can protect us.


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Here’s another amazing sight.  Low growing magnolia almost in bloom.
In the pine woods we later find the tall growing magnolia not quite as far along toward bloom but very soon this entire area is going to be smelling magnificent.  Wish I could be here for that.


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David stoops to see the wild sorrel by the path

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Here’s the drawing of it from wonderful information at the beach access bath house.  It is too delicate for my camera and knowledge of it to get a good close up.


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The rains this spring have filled the lake to overflowing and flooded the paths.


The trail comes to a fork.  We turn left and find that the trail is under water.  A little too deep for the shoes we are wearing.  We’d been warned about this so we just go right instead.

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Everywhere I look there is something to attract my attention. 

I love pine trees.  They make such a soft carpet of needles and smell so wonderful.  At this time of year they are putting out their new candles.  I think the rain here this year has made them especially fine.  Although what do I know, perhaps they are like this every year.  But they are definitely fine on this day.  


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The new pinecones too are lovely.   But what is this orange stuff??  My mind is instantly worried.   I look at other cones.  They are the normal green.


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Faced with the flooded trail again, we solve the problem.

On this leg of the trail into the pine woods we are stopped again by flooded trail.  This time we decide we’ll  just wade on through in our bare feet.  It’s a sandy bottom after all.


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Nice little resting spot in the middle of the flood.

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So it looks  like we’ve reached the boardwalk and can put our shoes back on.  But I think I’ll just walk barefoot.  I love going barefoot.  David not so much.  He has sensitive feet.


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The boardwalk is dry, until we round the corner. 


Then David’s glad he took a chance without shoes.  The boardwalk turns into a floating boardwalk in places.  You step on the boards and they sink into the water or they are no longer attached to the frame and bounce back up.  It’s slow going but we make it to higher ground.


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We make it safely to the dryer pine woods.  The plants change totally here.

It isn’t long before, amid the vivid green of the happy ferns that the boardwalk comes to an end.  We are in the pine woods.


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Now the flowers are on bushes.  I don’t know what either of these are.



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  This one is especially strange.  At first we think it is a growth of some sort but there are so many bushes with these in slightly varied colors that we think it must be a flower.  Anyone know?


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This one is as big as David’s palm

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Walking this section of the trail I feel like I am on a path framed by tall candlesticks.  The pines and their candles  line the way.


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Our hike is almost over.

Soon we are back to walking in the water and then to the intersection with the resting bench. 


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Even colored with tannin, the water is so clear you can easily see where your feet are stepping.


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Looks like a sandy trail up ahead.  No need to put shoes on.

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We reach the end of the trail and if we had more time here, I would definitely do this again on another day, and another and…..  It’s been a real unexpected treat.   It is just a SUPER hike.


On our way back for lunch we stop to look at the beach.  They’ve changed the flag from yellow to red.  But it doesn’t look or feel any more windy or the water any rougher than yesterday so I don’t know why they have raised the caution level.


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It looks great and this is my last day here.  I’d really love to come down to the beach and hang out for the rest of the afternoon.  But I also want to kayak in the dune lake.  After all dune lakes are unique and this county is the only other place in THE WORLD where they exist other than Africa.


We make a quick lunch and head down the path across from our site, kayaks in tow.  Couldn’t be more convenient!  No need for wheels.  It’s a short carry.   Nice site choice if I do say so myself.


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At this point, it is about 3:00 and we figure we can be out a couple of hours before we need to return to fix dinner.   No chance for a sunset tonight unfortunately.

David gets in and shoves off.  I get in and shove off.  I am about 5’ away from the put in when out of the blue, well actually out of the gray, it starts to rain.  And it gets heavier.  I’m turning around.  David asks if I’m going back.  I say YUP.   He says he’s going on and he’ll be back in a little bit or sooner if it begins to lightening.


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Fine I think until I get back to Winnona and find he’s locked the door and taken the key.  At this point I’m soaked because it is raining harder and harder.  Surely he’ll come back.


But he doesn’t return for an hour.  I sit under the awning and watch the rain pound Ruby.  The frogs are happily singing, the rain is pouring off the awning.  I’m chilled and my clothing is soaked but luckily I had my bath towel hanging on the line from this morning and although it is totally dry, it’s dry enough to wrap around me when I take off my long sleeve shirt that is making me so cold.

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So I missed the dune lake and David had a paddle in the rain.  And we both had a delicious dinner to round out our mostly dune day.


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  1. Yes, that is a lovely trail. It was always dry when we were there. Looks like another park you must return to!

    1. I think you are right, I need to kayak the dune lake and spend more time on the beach and do the trail again!

  2. The first mystery flowering bush is lyonia, also called fetterbush. I'm working on the ID of the other one. :)

    1. Paula, so good to see you again. Thanks for your help with the Florida flora. The parks don't know what they are missing not having you as a ranger. Don't be a stranger. Love hearing from you.

  3. Well, seems to me Grayton Beach-Site 9 has moved up on the Winter 2014 tour...Thanks!! I love the dunes and that hike was spectacular:o))

    1. There are other entries to the lake across from other campsites. Maybe the on line map will show you other spots too. The dunes all along the panhandle are wonderful. You are so right about the hike.

  4. I have say Sherry your writing is top shelf and having travel all 48 states for a living (42yrs) I love the way you tell your story's...and bring out the subject matter, makes me feel like I'm right behind you...

    1. Thank you Captain. I am happy to see you again. And glad that I could give you a hike you enjoyed. I did too!!

  5. I agree with Capt. Joey, you do a great job writing your posts. I feel like I just got to hike the trail right along with you. So glad you had such a fun hike.


    1. Thank you so much for the compliment Ruth. It was a great hike and I'm so glad to have you hike along with me.

  6. Boy, what a day!!! I could just feel your joy! The Captain is righ because I was right behind him. :) That's not an Oleander Bush is it? I would think they'd have a sign since it's poisonous. I've only seen them in an orangy-red color, but I don't know if they come in other colors.

    I give you credit. I don't know if I could put my feet in water that was that color, but then I'm chicken. I had to laugh when you went back and were locked out of Winona (and, the thought did go through my mind that it might have been even funnier if the awning hadn't been out). Sorry. :) I guess David was even wetter when he returned.

    I have been in Florida rains and they are like waterfalls. Refreshing, though, if you're not cold. :) Can't wait to read your next adventure. I can picture you, some day in the distant future, reading your blog from beginning to end to David. I hope you'll consider making a book out of it for Carrie.

    1. The flowers didn't look like an oleander. They were very strange to me. I've never seen anything like them before. Thanks for your encouragement Nancy. Although this blog with my blabberfingers would take ages to read as a book. :-)

  7. Could the orange stuff simply be pollen that has fallen on the cones from the tree?

    I'm with David, I don't walk anywhere barefoot.

    1. That it was pollen was my first thought too. David thought it looked like a fungus. The color was really striking. I guess I'm just an ol' country girl. I love to go barefoot anywhere I can get away with it.

  8. Great post! Loved walking along with you. Barefoot in the white sand is the best!

  9. After wading through a swamp, walking in that little bit of water was no problem for you.

    Truly a magical day, even Disney can't top Nature for such wonders that you found.

    I have a door key hidden away outside my MH so I can always get in, not that I have ever locked myself out or misplaced my keys... ;c)

    1. It's true Paul, We both said 'oh it's a little swamp walk, cool'. The mystery flower actually reminded me of something Disney might have created but Nature beat him to it. The extra key is on my list.

  10. Fantastic! I'm glad you could see all the way through the water - never know what lizard/allegator critters could be lurking down under. The flowers on the dunes are amazing - I imagine some people think of dunes as nothing but sand and have no realization of how amazingly diverse they are. That was a lot of rain - both you and Dad definitely got soaked there! You always harp on me to have a spare key...soooo...where is yours, huh, huh?? ;)

    1. LOL at your comment! We did get soaked. I think he was less cold than I because he was moving and I was sitting. Somehow I never think of Winnona as a "motor vehicle". She's my home so the key thing didn't occur to me but you are totally right. Even a house needs a "hidden key". Getting one for Winnona may not be as easy as going to a lock smith and saying 'could you copy this?'

  11. I meant to mention earlier, the beautiful lizard in your photo was a Northern Fence Lizard (a.k.a. Eastern Fence Lizard). I love them!

    And I have some interesting information regarding the second flowering bush. The bush itself is rusty lyonia, or lyonia ferruginea (the first one was another type of lyonia, the lyonia lucida). The large flowers aren't flowers at all, but galls. A gall is a plant's natural reaction to an irritant, usually either a fungus or an insect. Insects will generally irritate a plant in hopes that a gall will form so that they can use the gall for protection. If that one was caused by insects, chances are you could cut it open and find them inside it.

    Galls can take many forms. These just happen to mimic flowers. They are fascinating! I shared your picture with an author friend of mine, and she got a group of botanists involved (really). So, there you go!

    1. Paula you are a gem. Why don't these state parks snatch you up?? I've been now to a lot of Florida state parks and I have yet to see a ranger with as much knowledge as you have. Thank you so much for going to the trouble to do this research. Nature is amazing that's for sure. The bush and many others along the path were covered with the galls.

  12. Nice to be ble to walk amongst the dunes without the threat of endangering them. Like so many others ... not a barefoot walker, except on the beach, that is.

  13. What a great hike with all those wildflowers on the dune trail. I don't think, however, I would feel comfortable going barefoot in that water. Good for you. Too bad about the rain when you started kayaking. The dune lake looks amazing. Guess you'll have to make a return visit next year.

  14. What a great day! I love going barefoot too!

  15. I know this is a late comment to an even later post but maybe you will see it.The pine you saw was a Sand Pine (Pinus clausa) it is found in two separate locations, one across central peninsular Florida, and the other in the western Florida panhandle and the Alabama coast. Over much of its range, it is fire-adapted to stand wildfires, with the cones remaining closed for many years (clausa = closed), until a natural forest fire kills the mature trees and opens the cones. These then reseed the burnt ground.The green cones you saw were the new cones about a year old. The orange covered ones were older maybe many years older. The coating is a kind of resin that protects and seals the cones. Most southern pines keep their cones for 2 to 3 years and then they drop from the tree after they open and release the seed which have wings like little helicopters and can fly up to 50 to 75 yards from the mother tree. I'm retired now but i spent the early years of my time with the Alabama Forestry Commission collecting cones from different pines for a genetic s study, even these little buggers. Don't worry there is nothing wrong with the cones, they are just waiting for the right conditions.


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