Monday, November 26, 2012

Day 83 – Fort Clinch State Park, FL

Fernandina Beach and Amelia Island are such lovely spots.  We only had today to look around so we wanted to make it count.  Of course, there were a few errands to be done first.  We needed to get some groceries and since we were out of milk it was a good time to go out for breakfast first.  We don’t have Huddle House at home but they seem to be all over the place in Florida.  I know it feels like I am breaking my pledge to avoid chain restaurants but, again, I’ll give this the benefit of the doubt because we’ve never been to one.  May I say that whoever invented biscuits with sausage gravy should receive a medal?  

We had to get some of the pink (non-toxic) antifreeze for the whale.  It will be a game of cat and mouse with the weather.  At some point as we head further north, we have to drain out all of the water and put the pink stuff into the pipes.  We don’t want to do it too soon because then it won’t be as convenient to camp (somebody has to get up and use the bathroom quite a few times at night) and it seems wrong to stay in a hotel when you’ve got a big 5th wheel with you.  Last year we made it all the way home with weather in the 40’s and didn’t have to do the winterizing until we were in our own driveway.  It doesn’t look like that will be the case this year.  Now we have adequate supplies to keep fed for the rest of our drive home (I think).  

We decided to visit Fort Clinch this afternoon.  In 1842, the US government purchased a tract of land on the northern end of Amelia Island at the Florida-Georgia border.  A military installation was to be built on the property to guard the mouth of the St. Mary’s River, protect coastal and interior shipping, and defend the deep water port of Fernandina Florida.  Construction began in 1847.  When you approach the fort you see a sign “Imagine – You are stepping into the past.  The year is 1864 and the Civil War is in progress.  Ahead of you is a masonry fort under construction.  Union soldiers are involved in the building of the fort.  Ask them questions about the life they lead stationed at Fort Clinch.  Follow the path into 1864.”  And so we did.

The fort is beautifully reconstructed and contains furnishings in the proper style for the period.  There are cannons, and cannonballs and it is possible to walk into most of the buildings, most of the rooms, many of the tunnels and to climb some of the stairs.  We spent quite a long time exploring inside the fort and then walking on the ramparts to see and touch all the cannon. 

 While we were on the ramparts we saw a Trident submarine sailing down the channel (with her tractor boat) and going out to sea.  She came from Kings Bay Naval Submarine base in Georgia.  While I enjoyed exploring the fort, I must say that since I have never seen a submarine in the wild before, she was my favorite sighting of the day.  As we were by the cannon when we saw her, Brett wondered if he should fire but then noticed the American flag and felt confident that she was one of ours.

My favorite sign of the day: it was in the kitchen of the fort.  “No spitting in kitchen” sounds like good advice.

After several hours of touring, we biked back home to get a snack and then hopped back on the bike to go see the other campground here which is located on the ocean side of the park.  Along the way we discovered the half mile long, concrete fishing pier and walked part of the way out on it.  A half a mile looks very long when it is going out into the ocean.  People catch everything from pin fish to tarpon from the pier.  We thought that the ocean campground did not look nearly as appealing as our river side campground and were glad that the sites available were riverside.  Brett says that we biked 3 miles or so today but I’m sure that it was more like 30 miles.  Really!  

 We got back home in time to go down to the river and watch the sunset.  The sunset tonight was glorious.  I really, really want to come back to this park.

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