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Trip report: Camping in St Joseph Peninsula State Park

Opp, Alabama
Level Contributor
623 posts
158 reviews
Trip report: Camping in St Joseph Peninsula State Park

Saturday, April 23: Arrive just after noon at site #76, setup camp, have quick sandwich lunch. Coated with sunscreen, head out for adventure on the golf cart to first beach access from Cabin Rd. Note that at this access that you walk down a LONG path, climb a 30 foot dune, then a 20 foot dune to get to the beach. This would be more properly labeled a 1/2 mile rugged terrain hike that ends at the beach. Take pics from top of dune. What a view!!! Can you believe red ants have also discovered Cape San Blas??! They're not everywhere and you can certainly avoid them, but wow they walked a long way! Beach is completely awesome! Warm, clear blue water, endless sunshine, tons of shells, incredibly huge expanse of beach, both in breadth and depth with the towering dunes in the background, nobody else around... Note that, like last visit, cell phone on Sprint has service out here, net 10 phone does not.

6 PM, back to camp for dinner, which was sooo good - steak with bell pepper & onions cooked on the campfire & potato salad (made at home.) Grab camera, drinks in plastic bottles, walk down to beach at campground access to watch sunset. Explore shoreline with net & drink in handy holder (back of bathing suit bottom.) There's a few folks out here fishing, looks like they are not packing up for the day yet. What are they trying to catch? They are using something as big as mullet or catfish for bait. Scratch up coquina clams and watch them rebury. Note the really big crab holes. Watch little shore birds run around, bigger ones flying along shore line. Note both stratus & cumulus clouds which will enhance sunset colors. Sit down and really watch that sun 'cuz it's gonna fall in the water very fast! Take a bunch of pics, whistle taps. It takes only 2 minutes from the time the bottom of the sun "touches" the water until the top of it disappears. I swear you can HEAR the sun fall into the ocean. Back to camp for showers,

then sit by campfire. Asleep by 10 PM.

Sunday, April 24

5:52 AM, bird #1... 6:17 AM, all 26,187 birds chirping at once... so much it's kind of a really loud white noise & masks the sounds of humanity coming to life.

8:19 AM, sunlight in eyes = HEAT, need COFFEE! Nuke water for coffee while starting fire. Cook scrambled eggs (& chicken for lunch) over fire. Eat eggs & blueberry muffins (made at home.) Gather beach items - fishing net, umbrella, towels, camera, hats, cooler of drinks - pack golf cart for more exploring, glob on sunscreen. Visit estuary between Shady Pines & Gulf Breeze campgrounds. COOL! Hermit crabs in beautiful shells, oysters, several other kinds of crabs, several kinds of tiny fish, snails, blue heron. Awesome luck finding a few shells with no crabs in them! Quick drive through Gulf Breeze campground to check shade situation at this hour. Make notes to compare to last trip's notes.

10:45 AM, back to Cabin Rd. for another foray toward the tip. First, stop at gate where road ends (where last rental cabin is) to investigate. Walk to bay side and find the cabins look incredible and totally private - except cabin #8 which has this trail next to it, but there is TONS of foliage between cabin & path. There is so much foliage we have only a brief glance at the side of the building. It's a long walk to beach side from cabins but bay side is COOL! No waves this far from tip, crystal clear green water, sargasso, marsh grass, not white like the beach because of lots of powder-fine silt in the sand, many kinds of crabs including some little completely white hermit crabs, stingray, jillions of tiny fish, shallow for a long way out - incredible! Do not come here and only visit the beach!

Continue miles down the road, briefly investigate 2nd beach access. Wow it's so quiet out here, sheltered from the wind by layers of dunes, no road or structures for miles, just birds chirping. Striped lizards everywhere, a few prickly pear cactus in flower, Asclepias (milkweed = host plant for monarch butterfly larva,) deer, lizards. Create display of giant broken shell & write today's date in the sand. Keep hearing strange noise. Sounds like it's coming from just below me... must be something in the sand. Bend down to hear better & hold breath. Realize noise is coming from pocket. Realize shells are not empty. Remove shells from pocket & wrap in towel to deposit back into ocean. Forget to take a picture.

Proceed farther down road past last beach access. Arrive at the very end of the road on the bayside, about mile 5. At this point, the people across the bay are closer to us than almost everyone at the park. It's totally beachy here, white sand, waves, grasses growing all along the shoreline, many palms at the edge, we can clearly see the bridge in Port St Joe across the bay, sailboats, fishing boats. And LOTS of critters!! Horseshoe crabs mating, urchins, big white crabs with bright blue claws, sand dollars (both dead and alive,) driftwood with barnacles, several kinds of seaweed, clams, snails mating, pelicans, lots of driftwood. It's so beautiful & shallow. Time for lunch, break out the chicken & chicken! You wanted something else with your lunch? Ooops! Nobody remembered to bring anything else but beverages. Anyway, it's finger-lickin good! Grab net & set-out for serious treasure-hunting. Success! Awesome shells, urchins, turtle shell (left in situ for posterity.) Also found plastic shopping bag which was quickly filled with: can cozy, floating seat cushion - which I kept, bottle caps, a ball, piece of vinyl tarp with barnacles, flip flop, cigarette butts, some kind of plastic handle, glass beer bottle (shame on someone!,) tons of plastic bottles, styrofoam cups, empty water softener salt bag, and the #1 most common item of trash = the NATURE valley granola bar wrapper (NO, these are not biodegradeable!)

By now, the wind is blowing so hard and making big waves and ripples on the water, can't see what's in the water, getting knocked around. Crab bites toe, retreat back to beach like a cartoon character walking on top of the water! Explore shoreline, gather more trash. Past the 6-mile marker, the dunes recede to a mostly flat area of scrubby palms, sea oats, grasses, beach all around the edge, windy enough to remove a tied-on hat from your head. Dig the obligatory buried-treasure-hole. Hit water, concede defeat. Now it's about 5 PM, we are burned, beat to death by the wind, tired, loaded-down with gathered trash, ready to head back to camp. Arrive back at camp just before 6, start fire, unpack cart. Cook brats over fire, serve with more potato salad, chips. Hit the showers & decide we're too pooped to go to beach for sunset. Notice raccoon in top of palm tree in campsite next to ours. Darkness sets in as sun falls behind dunes. Warn neighbors when they return from sunset about raccoon in "their" tree. Shine flashlight at palm tree to see raccoon eyes glowing. All food & coolers have been put away except big bag containing many little assorted bags of chips. Hear a noise by picnic table. Look over & see raccoon stealing bag of chips, 3 feet away. This gives me the munchies for some reason so we break out the marshmallows, chocolate, grahams, and make 'smores. O man they are SO GOOD! Pack golf cart with all trash from campsite & beach & drive it to dumpster. Return to fireside. Take pictures making Captain Morgan pose. Asleep by 9:30.

Monday, April 25: 6:04 AM, wide-awake. Need coffee. Realize I have several globs of marshmallow from 'smores last night stuck to various body parts. 7:30 AM, glob on sunscreen & head to beach via campground boardwalk access. Walk about 1/4 mile toward tip, set-up umbrella, finish drinking 2nd coffee. Shells everywhere. Wander shoreline, big waves today, strong winds. Realize friend is doing something interesting - he's making an island with castles, a crab king, bordered by a log & surrounded by a moat. Add row of turrets to decorate. Write "fantasy island" in the sand with 3-foot-high letters. Island is finished. Make sea-serpent creature with mermaid tail next to island. Make smiley face. Take a ton of pictures. Back to camp for breakfast. Repeat eggs & muffins. Cardinal on golf cart trailer and electric outlet box. Back to fantasy island. Add sand angel to our display of sand art. Rest & take more pics. Wander shoreline... spend half hour dislodging coquina clams to watch them dig back into sand. Sit under umbrella for a while. Wander shoreline. By now, it's time to vacate our campsite. Nobody really knows what time it is here but there's no doubt it's time to pack up. 45 minutes later, all packed and ready to go. Make sure to pick up all non-organic stuff to deposit in dumpster, leave huge log and fire-poking stick as gift to new tenants (and to balance karma from accepting free book left in ladies' room.)

Hit McD's drive-thru in Port St Joe for more coffee & food. While waiting in line, hear net 10 phone finally regain signal. Take picture of cell phones side-by-side, showing 2 different times. It's either 2 or 3 PM. Interestingly, it's the net 10 phone that shows the accurate time of 2 PM. (We are just a few miles from time zone border which meanders around as if drawn by a drunk.) Maybe Sprint phone is just smart enough to know we never really bought into the time-change thing, and it doesn't matter at all what time it is when you're camping in the state park as long as you get your dinner cooked before it gets dark. Stop at Mexico Beach via roadside access - nice wooden walkways & steps with wind-proof trash can holders. The road is busy but except for a lady with 2 kids, there is nobody else around. Discover there's billions of venus clam shells just under the sand at the shoreline. Spend 45 minutes or so scratching/digging the sand & watching the waves rinse shells. Pick up the most purple ones. Really burned now, must retreat from sun. Pick up some wrappers & reluctantly return to truck. Make notes to improve next trip. (Forgot paper towels 'cuz they weren't on the list, could have used longer stick for poking at fire, motion-activated video camera to catch Rocky the bandit raccoon (and anything else creeping around campground at night) in action next time. Arrive home about 6 PM, tired, burned & strangely-tanned with raccoon eyes & striped feet, scratching bites, totally relaxed & happy. What a blast at Cape San Blas!

Opp, Alabama
Level Contributor
623 posts
158 reviews
11. Re: Trip report: Camping in St Joseph Peninsula State Park

Hi jeepluvr. Thanks and glad you enjoyed the reports. I agree Opp is cute.

We borrowed our golf cart from a friend but they're ubiquitous. If you want to rent one that should be easy. Most people camping there don't have one, so I wouldn't say they're necessary at all, and we only brought it on one of three trips.

Site 39 should have a good breeze and view of the sunset. Have a blast!!

Ohio
Level Contributor
6 posts
8 reviews
12. Re: Trip report: Camping in St Joseph Peninsula State Park

Don't you know that you're not supposed to swim out to the sandbar? That's where the sharks lurk. Bull sharks LOVE sand bars.

Ohio
Level Contributor
6 posts
8 reviews
13. Re: Trip report: Camping in St Joseph Peninsula State Park

Don't you know that you're not supposed to swim out to the sandbar? That's where the sharks lurk. Bull sharks LOVE sand bars.

Ohio
Level Contributor
6 posts
8 reviews
14. Re: Trip report: Camping in St Joseph Peninsula State Park

Don't you know that you're not supposed to swim out to the sandbar? That's where the sharks lurk. Bull sharks LOVE sand bars.

Opp, Alabama
Level Contributor
623 posts
158 reviews
15. Re: Trip report: Camping in St Joseph Peninsula State Park

Camped last weekend in site #31 with my son and friends with a son of similar age. This site had almost no poison ivy, a refreshing change from the last site last year. The kids had a blast driving their matchbox cars around in the sand and throwing pine needles in the fire. We took a canoe this time and it was awesome to paddle around the bay. Incredible how far out you can get and still be in only a few feet of extremely clear water.

We bought a new tent and set it up for the first time Saturday. It's a bigger tent with a screen room attached, which we wanted to have a place to sit if it rains, and to have more room for food and coolers. Mistake! I was awakened by something and realized it was a raccoon foraging through our site. I got up and got the flashlight and there he was, sitting in a pile of muffin wrappers. I shooed him away and saw the rip in the tent, about a 4" gash along the side at the bottom. A quick inventory of the vestibule revealed that we were now missing 6 blueberry muffins, 7 banana nut muffins, 11 chocolate chip cookies, and most of a pack of hot dog buns.

After being robbed in some way by raccoons on 3 of 4 visits, we've decided that the only way to avoid this is to put all coolers and food in the truck every night. It's a little more work, but easier than figuring out how to fix our new tent and suffering through meals with missing parts. I would urge anyone else camping here to do the same.

We spent most of Saturday on the bayside with the canoe and Sunday at the beach. Sunday was the windiest day I've ever had at any beach. Our umbrella was not strong enough to use and the little tent-like shelter thing we bought did well although the really strong gusts would make it fold down and bump into our heads. The boys had life jackets on and spent the day jumping over the breakers. We brought fishing poles but the wind and current was so strong that even the men could hardly get a decent cast and when they did, the hook washed back up almost immediately. It was so windy that the water was fairly murky with silt. That's unusual!

Then we went back to camp to have some steaks and chicken. Our friends had to leave to get back to work on Monday, so after packing their stuff up, we took the boys to the playground to let off any remaining steam for the day. After they left, the 3 of us went back to camp to sit by the fire for the evening. Although we had put all of our food in the truck and nothing woke me up that night, in the morning there were raccoon footprints all over our picnic table but we had left nothing available to be molested.

Monday I woke up first, just as it was getting light enough to see. So I went for a walk on the beach and went all the way from Gulf Breeze to the houses just outside the park entrance and didn't see any other people until I was almost back to the GB boardwalk. Back to camp for coffee & eggs (no muffins!) when the sun got too bright. What an awesome and peaceful start to the week!

We did see some of those rats this trip for the first time. I don't know if it was the same rat 3 times or we saw 3 different ones. The 3rd time I threw a piece of wood toward it and we saw no more of them. I'm pretty sure they only came around because of some spilled popcorn and other crumbs, little boys are messy. They seemed very timid to me, and kinda cute as far as rats go, but not cute enough to want them around. My son thought they were big chipmunks.

It was time to go home so we packed up after breakfast. We stopped for an ice cream at Coneheads on our way out, stopped by the lighthouse and, as we wished, drove through some rain which washed the sand off of the canoe (on top of the truck.) What a beautiful time to visit, Oleanders in full bloom. Already making plans for the next trip...!

16. Re: Trip report: Camping in St Joseph Peninsula State Park

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