A guy that we talked to at the David Bayou unit of the Gulf Islands National Seashore in Mississippi suggested that we check out the Fort Pickens unit in Florida. He owns a Casita travel trailer (a sort of cousin to the Scamp travel trailers), so we figured we should check it out as anyone who owns a Casita or Scamp has to know what they’re taking about.
There’s Scamper parked up at the Fort Pickens campground ($26 a night with water and electric). We had a heck of a time getting settled into a campsite, but that’s a story for another day.
You can probably tell from the name that Fort Pickens has something to do with forts. We started off our walk at Battery Worth. Great views from the top.
Then we headed up the path to the main attraction – Fort Pickens. The fort was built between 1829-1834 to defend Pensacola Bay and its navy yard from foreign invaders. The foreign invasion never happened and the only real action the fort saw was during the Civil War.
When I first saw it, the arches reminded me of some of the Roman sites we’ve seen in Europe and Tunisia. Until you see the cannon on top, then you remember that this isn’t a Roman site after all.
The American flag and the fact that you can hear them playing taps and reveille at the nearby Naval base in Pensacola also gives it away. Completely unrelated to Fort Pickens, but do you remember seeing Officer and a Gentleman with Richard Gere. I kept thinking about that movie the entire time we were at Fort Pickens as the fighter jets kept flying overhead.
We poked around the fort on a self-guided tour. We started off with me reading out loud from the pamphlet as we went along, but that got old fast, so Scott got his own and we read quietly to ourselves instead. I don’t think I could be a tour guide.
Fort Pickens was pretty interesting from an architectural standpoint and, if you’re into American military history, then you’ll love it. Personally, I sometimes get a little bored when there is too much talk about battles, armaments, troop deployments etc. Just ask my American History teacher. My grades weren’t stellar, to say the least. So for me, the beach was the real attraction of our time at Fort Pickens.
And there it was - just a hop, skip and a jump from our campground. I love boardwalks. No idea why, but they’re so much fun to walk on.
As we headed down to the beach, we saw a woman poking her walking stick into the sand. Scott thought she might have been tormenting some sea turtles. I thought she was probably writing something in the sand. I guess you can tell which one of us is the cynical one in this relationship.
I was right! She was drawing a cute little heart. Isn’t it adorable? I think I saw Scott roll his eyes a little bit when I took this picture.
As we walked along the beach, I saw what looked like burrows in the sand. I asked Scott what kind of animal he thought made them. He laughed. Turns out they’re just marks from walking poles. Not burrows from some strange sea creature. Sometimes, I’m not the sharpest implement in the toolbox. Imaginative – yes, sharp – not always.
We ended up following these walking stick marks along the beach. I think they’re from the lady who made the heart. Along the way, we saw all of these cairns made out of feathers.
And another heart.
It’s the kind of place that inspires people to do silly things – like create hearts and feather cairns. Or try to remember what you learned in that ballroom dancing class you took in Scotland many years ago. We might of looked stupid, but we had fun and laughed a lot.
And the perfect end to any day at Fort Pickens – just look at that sunset. Of course, our retinas will never be the same after looking at the sun as it was setting, but sometimes you have to pay a price to enjoy the beauty of nature. Even if that means forsaking your eyesight.
We soaked up the sunshine at Fort Pickens, Gulf Island National Seashore on 15-18 January 2015.