Headin’ South

September, 2018 – Springfield, MO to Gulf Shores, AL We managed to leave Springfield as planned two days after our daughter’s wedding. I was miserable with a cold and I asked Jim to please get me to the beach. I assured him if I was not cured by the time we got there, a good dose of sea and sand would heal me. So we made a beeline for Gulf Shores, Alabama.

We took 6 days to get there, stopping in 4 places along the way. The most interesting stop we made was 2 nights in Little Rock Arkansas. The Downtown Riverside RV Park was in the heart of the city and right on the Arkansas River. The price for our full hookup site was $31 per night per night.

There was a great pedestrian bridge just at the end of the park that you could walk or bike to the south shore where Clinton’s Presidential Library and Park are located.

The Arkansas River Trail runs for 21 miles along the river and if I had felt better there were tons of interesting places we could have biked to from our campsite.

I was starting to feel better by the 2nd day of our visit so we took a walk over that bridge and along the south shore stopping at The Central Arkansas Nature Center where they had lots of great exhibits.

We then continued a short ways to another interesting pedestrian bridge, the Junction Bridge, and then home.

It was about two miles round trip and felt great to be moving again!

Each night the bridges are lit with a light show at the top of every hour.

Once we reached Gulf Shores we had an amazing 4 nights at Gulf State Park. This is definitely one of our favorite parks. Last year around this same time we had a brief stay that was cut short by Hurricane Nate.

I was feeling about 80% when we arrived but one afternoon playing in the ocean and lying on the hot sand and that jumped to 95% cured. Another dose of sea water the next day and I was my old self. I, and I’m sure Jim, was happy to see her!

This is a very bike friendly park so we gratefully unleashed our bikes from their bumper carrier and set them free. There is a network of trails around the park totaling 15 miles that make up the Hugh Branyon Backcountry Trail. All the trails we rode were wide and either paved or most often, wooden boardwalk.

From our site we could bike less than a mile and cross one awesome pedestrian overpass to reach the beach. Our third day there we biked 5 miles total with a swim in the ocean as an intermission.

One of our favorite spots in the park is the pier. Admission to the pier is included in your camp fee. We love watching huge schools of fish darting willy nilly to avoid the predators stalking them from the depths. What is even better is when you actually get to see those predators.

Our first afternoon on the pier we saw a couple sharks and thought that was pretty awesome. We returned one evening to watch the sunset and were thrilled to see several more sharks as well as quite a few rays near the shore. But when I forgot my sunglasses that evening and we went back the next morning, our last, in the vain hope they might still be there, we really hit the mother load.

We saw shark after shark that morning. There was one spot where it was rather shallow and you could see them really well against the sandy bottom. There was a whole gang of sharks weaving in and out of this area so who knows how many there really were but at one point I saw 7 at once! I am pretty sure the majority of the sharks were Blacktip Reef Sharks although we definitely saw at least one nurse shark as well.

We had to leave on Friday morning as the park was full for the weekend. We had a big move to make that day, a whole 18 miles to Big Lagoon State Park just on the other side of the Florida state line. We were just riding out the weekend before moving to another of our favorite beach parks on Sunday.

As is often the case we had to seek a less popular camp for Friday and Saturday nights. Big Lagoon was actually a very pleasant park though: uncrowded, with lots of room to move, and just a few miles drive from the amazing Johnson Beach National Seashore.

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