Friday, October 19, 2007

San Marcos De Apalache / St Marks

We found a real nice RV/Fishing camp in Econfina, and planned on resting up for three days, right on the river, a couple of large ponds with a few small gators floating around, covered pool, well that was the plan until we found out that the San Marcos de Apalache National Historical Site was near by, so much for relaxing. After an eleven-mile drive through what you would swear was the Everglades we found the town of St Marks and the history behind it.

San Marcos De Apalache.
The first Spanish explorers arrived in this area in 1528 but were soon forced from the area by the native Indians, a few years later in 1539 Hernando de Soto returned with 600 men pasted through this area.
In 1679 at the junction of the St Marks and Wakulla rivers the Spanish returned and built a fort made of logs and covered with lime to make it look like stone, this deception kept the pirates away for three years thinking that the stone fort
was too strong to attack before they learned the truth and looted and burnt the fort.

This area passed between the Spanish, British and Americans until 1821 when the Florida Territory was ceded to the US and US troops were sent to occupy the stone fort, which now stood there (built by the Spanish in the mid 1700's).
The importance of this area is that it was the port for supplies coming in and out of Florida, a railroad had been built between the nearby Town of St. Marks and Tallahassee. Later the large stones from the fort were dismantled and the used to build a marine hospital to help combat yellow fever. The foundation remains and is now used by the modern Visitors Center. In other areas along a marked walking trail there are the remnants of the fort built by the Spanish in the mid 1700's. The grounds are open everyday but the Visitors Center is closed Monday and Tuesday, they have a great 20-minute film that really explains the history importance of this area.
At the start of the Civil Was the Confederates took control of this area and what was left of the fort, renaming it Fort Ward.

The next day it was another journey to find the mouth of the St Marks River at the Gulf of Mexico and St. Marks Lighthouse and Wildlife Preserve. The lighthouse is a large brick structure that was built in 1829. During the Civil War the Confederates used the lighthouse as a lookout to watch the Unions blockade ships and raiding parties. One of these raiding parties was able to fight off the Confederate troops and set fire to the wooden interior staircase of the lighthouse thus preventing it from being used as lookout any more. This helped the Union in landing troops for the Battle of Natural Bridge which took place just south of Tallahassee, but that's another story. PS the Confederates won.

They have a lot of trails through this area and we took a short one along the water, the first thing we discovered was that the trail near the water was covered with thousands of Fiddler Crabs, as soon as we would get close they would start to run for cover, it looked like the entire beach was moving and the sound from their shells bumping together sounded just like rain. After about a half mile walk down the beach we started to return and noticed and a few hundred birds were walking down the beach where we had just been, as we got closer they took off and we found the killing fields of the Fiddler Crabs, all that was left was bird tracks in the sand and the large claws of the Fiddler Crab. Oh! The humanity of it all, Oh! The humanity.

After recovering from this terrible site we took the Levee trail, which followed the coast, but in the other direction, it just so happens that this is the start of the Monarch Butterfly migration, every fall the butterflies head to an area in southern Mexico to spend the winter. They mass up on the gulf coast to feed and get ready for there flight across the gulf to Mexico, the bushes were covered with bright orange a yellow butterflies and everyone there was taking the worlds greatest butterfly picture, including me.
OK! So it's one day of rest before we enter Central Florida.

This thing is called a Georgia Thumper, the told us that they were a little small this year because of the drought. It's on a 2x4 so you can see how big it really is.

Click on a picture to enlarge

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Fort Gadsden / Negro Fort

During the War of 1812 the British sent Colonel Nicolls to the Apalachicola River region located in Spanish Florida to build a British post. Its purpose was to recruit and train Seminole Indians and runaway slaves he built the fort just 60 miles south of the US territory line. When the British pulled out of Florida at the end of the war they left the fort well equipped with cannons, ammunition, guns and kegs of black powder. They left the fort in the hands of 300 escaped slaves and a handful of Indians; the fort was soon renamed “Negro Fort” It attracted over 800 escaped slaves who settled and started a community.

The US Military made demands to their counterparts in Spanish Florida to return the escaped slaves to their owners in the US and destroy Negro Fort, The Spanish refused to answer and plans were made to attack the fort.

Col. Clinch led his infantry and surrounded the landside of the fort and ordered them to surrender, their answer was to open fire with their artillery. On July 27, 1816 US gunboats moved up the river and opened fire on the fort, after a short exchange of artillery, one of the US rounds, a heated canon ball, went through the open door of the powder magazine causing hundreds of kegs of black powder to explode instantly destroying the entire fort. Over 270 men, women and children died in the explosion.

In 1818, Lt. Gadsden was ordered to rebuild the fort; he built his fort inside of the earthworks of the original British post and named it Fort Gadsden. Years later during the Civil War the Confederates used the fort until an outbreak of malaria forced them to leave.

The earthworks still remain for both the British Post and the US Fort, they have an nice interruptive center there and a trail which take you to the Renegade Cemetery, where there are the remains of a small brick tomb where the dead from the explosion where buried.

We wandered around the forest a little and came across a sign for the Bloody Bluff Cemetery; we searched the area and only found one stone.

Here endth the lesson.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Rickwood Field-Where dreams come true

As always Click on a picture to enlarge it

As we headed out on the road this morning the sky was pretty cloudy and it looked like some darker clouds were moving in on us, for awhile it looked like we might get rained out, but that wasn’t going to stop us because we were going to “RICKWOOD FIELD”. What the heck is Rickwood Field you might ask, well then you don’t love baseball like we do if you have to ask, but since you did I’ll explain.

August 18th 1910 the Birmingham Barons played their first game at Rickwood Field, which makes it the oldest ballpark in the nation, and sort of a Mecca for baseball lovers. Another great thing about this park is that once you get here you find that everything is open, just park the car, grab a walking tour map of the park and have at it.

First read the Historical Marker in front to get some of the history. Willie Mays played here when he was 16 years old.

There were two Teams that played here the White Team known as the Barons and the Black team which was called the Black Barons

After entering the field you pass through the turnstiles, only one original remains and that was moved to the new stadium.

Check out the line up board so you know who’s playing today

Then we got to go out onto the field and wander just about wherever we wanted, this is the view from behind home plate, dead center is 400 feet.

This is a copy of the original scoreboard as you can see Washington is at Detroit.

These billboards were painted during the filming of the movie ‘COBB” when it was filmed here in 1995 to reflect that time period.

View from behind the pitching rubber, and then my moment in history, I’m standing with the Gods of baseball, on this pitching rubber, on this pitchers mound, in this park have stood all the greats that came before me. Satchel Paige, Christy Mathewson, Grover Cleveland Alexander, Dizzy Dean, Burleigh Grimes, Rollie Fingers and a couple hundred more of the all time greats hurlers in baseball. Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Shoeless Joe Jackson, Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and thousands of others major leaguers have run these bases.

When this field was first built it had concrete walls in the outfield but since the left field line was 470 feet they had to build the wooden walls in just a little closer so the players would be able to hit a home run.

Another very interesting thing about the ball games here, since both black and white teams played here, when the white team was playing any black fans had to sit in a separate stands that was in right field but not connected to the regular seating area and it was not covered so they were in the sun. But to square things around, when the black team was playing the white fans had to sit in that section if they wanted to watch the game, and since the Black Barons were a better team then the Barons this section was always filled.

The lights were added in 1936 making this one of the first minor league teams to play night games, the original light towers and lights are still used.

For much more information about Rockwood Field check out their web page at

In case you haven’t noticed we love BASEBALL!!!

P.S. When I was walking around the outfield I got carried away and made a mad dash toward the centerfield wall, made a giant leap right at the 400 foot mark and made the game saving catch… God, it was wonderful.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Birmingham-Southern Museum of Flight

Onward to Birmingham, found a nice quite little RV park almost right in the middle of Birmingham, on our way there we stopped at the Southern Museum of Flight. This is another one of those little museums that is run by volunteers and supported by admissions and donations which means it is a great museum, it’s amazing how much information and displays they can fit into these small places, we spent about 2 ½ hours here. The newest display is of a B-25 bomber which crashed in a lake in S. Carolina during a practice bombing run during WW II, it sat on the bottom of the lake until in the mid 1990’s. The long sit on the bottom of the lake made it so they can’t restore it to original so they are presenting it as it looked on the bottom of the lake, one good thing was that it was in 150 foot of water so divers were unable to strip anything off of it, so they have all the 500mm guns and such on display.

This reproduction plan was used in the movie the "Blue Max"

This is the Red Baron, they have a great deal of information on him.

Talk about getting up close, this was actually a small model about 12 inches long.

Huntsville Alabama

We were camped about 25 miles from Huntsville Alabama and found this Bat Cave about 3 miles from the park, during the prime summer months close to half a million Gray bats exit this cave at dusk. During the rest of the year the bats still come out but the number is much smaller, we never made it down there at dusk because it would have been scary.

Also about 6 miles from the park is the Cathedral Caverns, this caverns holds 4 different world records, one for the largest cave entrance (see picture below) it is over 128 feet wide and all natural, another is for the largest stone water flow (see picture below) the third is for the largest stalagmite, didn’t get a good picture of that, and I forgot the fourth. Everything is so large that it was almost impossible to get any good pictures, the guide takes you back about 2800 feet and at one point you’re standing on a ledge and you can see for 800 feet both in front of you and behind. There wasn’t a lot of color in the rocks or formations but just the shear size of everything makes this worth taking the tour.

The one night we were there they had a mini rodeo, this was just for kids 12 and under, some of the kids were pretty good as you can see in the pictures. The really young ones 4 & 5 were strapped into the saddles so they couldn’t fall off, some had a look on their face of pure joy and others had the look that said “Dad I’ll never forgive you for this”. The funny part was they had stick horses, you know like a broom stick with a horse head on it, and the kids do the race around the barrels, boy they were giving it everything they had.

We drove over to Huntsville and did a walk through their Botanical Gardens, we were surprised at how much was in bloom this late in the year, they have probably the best Herb Garden that we’ve every seen, it had everything that you could think of. There was a contest going on for the best scarecrow, there had to be about 100 of them scattered through out the gardens

This was the kid’s garden had a lot of hands on things for the kids to do.

The columns are the original columns from the first state capital built in the early 1800’s