Sunday, February 19, 2012

Carrabelle Beach on the Forgotten Coast

Carrabelle, Apalachicola, and St George Island are all towns on the Florida Panhandle called the Forgotten Coast.    Tourism is slow, although growing, as people discover this peaceful area.  Our RV park was across the street from the Carrabelle Beach and most days we could walk the beach with very few people around. 

Carrabelle's boom time came after the Civil War when lumber and naval stores were important to the area.  The first lumber mill was established in 1875, cutting pine and cypress from up river and in swamps and shipping the wood north.  The town was incorporated in the late 1800's and business flourished.  Between World War I and II the area went into an economic slump and fishing became the primary industry.  Today, the town of Carrabelle has a population of 1,300 and few fisherman remain.   Carrabelle Beach has some tourism but nothing like other areas of the Panhandle.

Low tide with the pups.

Seemed like you could walk out to another island the water was so low.

One of the natives.

I loved this sign.

Our biggest surprise was one afternoon at low tide when we saw this critter.  I thought it was a kite under water because it was so close to the water's edge.  Then I realized it was a stingray and I was glad I wasn't barefoot.  We saw quite a few of them each afternoon at low tide so it must be one of their feeding areas.

This stingray was gliding further out to sea as I was attempting to take it's picture.

Carrabelle Beach is very pristine and peaceful.
  We also took a drive to a town called Apalachicola about 30 minutes from Carrabelle.  It is a neat little town with eclectic shops and restaurants, bed and breakfasts, and an old hotel.  The area produces 90% of the oysters for Florida and 10% for the United States. 

One of the quaint shops in Apalachicola.

Cafe con Leche where we stopped for lunch.  I had a daily veggie sandwich which was served on Focaccia bread with spinach, red peppers, asparagus, and other wonderful vegetables.  It was divine !
The front sitting area across from the wharf where we had lunch.

A shop with buoys and other strange looking things.

The Gibson Hotel built in 1907 and still in service.

The wharf with some of the oyster boats.

Is somebody in there?

The entrance of a sponge shop.  The sponges were more expensive than we thought.
Chapman Botanical Gardens.  Tulips were already in full bloom.

A tree stump carved into a figurine.

One of several historical homes in Apalachicola.
 While staying in Carrabelle we walked the dogs through Tate's Hell State Forest.  There are hiking trails, waterways for canoeing and kayaking, and lots of hunting and fishing.  The forest consists mainly of tall march grasses,dwarf cypress trees in wetland areas and pine trees. 

Tate's Hell State Forest.

Dwarf Cypress in  Tate's Hell State Forest..

A very marshy area in places.

According to the locals, the forest got its name from a farmer who set off in 1875 to catch a panther that was killing his livestock.  He got lost in the woods for seven days, was bitten by a rattlesnake, and had to drink from the murky waters to curb his thirst.  When he finally found his way out he was nearly dead.  His final words were, " My name is Cebe Tate and I just came from hell".   

Also near Carrabelle, over a long bridge, is St George Island.  There are 20 miles of beach open to the public and one end is St George Island State Park.  There are quite a few vacation homes here and shops, restaurants, and hotels so this area has a much larger tourist trade but is also a very nice area for a vacation.

One other local saying we heard while on the beach from an old time resident of Carrabelle...... 'What happens in Las Vegas, stays in Las Vegas.  What happens in Carrabelle really didn't happen'! 

On to Cedar Keys.  Peace!  


Monday, February 6, 2012

Waveland Mississippi - The Aftermath of Katrina Six Years Later

The city of Waveland, MS, was 'ground zero' when Hurricane Katrina made landfall on August 29, 2005.  Waveland was hit directly by the eyewall of Katrina with a 28 foot storm surge and 55 foot sea waves which obliterated the town.  The storm dragged away almost every structure within one half mile of the beach leaving only driveways and foundations.  The death toll was reported at 50 people.  Bay St Louis, the town next to Waveland was almost as badly damaged.  Below are pictures of the area days and weeks after the hurricane hit.

A home in Waveland after Katrina.
A major road into downtown Waveland.

Very few homes were left standing along the Gulf.  Just driveways and sidewalks.

Waveland Town Hall.

This home was on Beach Boulevard with the Gulf of Mexico in the distance.

Bay St Louis Bridge connecting Bay St Louis and Pass Christian on US 90.   

We stayed at the Buccaneer State Park which is right on the Gulf of Mexico.  The state park was also flooded and all the buildings were destroyed.  They have rebuilt most of the park and the buildings now stand on 20 foot pillars above the ground.  The area is very peaceful and beautiful and it's hard to believe such a terrible hurricane went through there until you realize how much has not been rebuilt and may never be.

A view of the Gulf right across the street from where homes used to sit.

New roads and sidewalks have been added for bikers and joggers, and strolling along the Gulf. 

But there are also stark reminders of piers that were destroyed.  The owners of these piers are no longer living on Beach Boulevard.

Only the birds use them now.

Some of the families have rebuilt but more than 50% of the lots are empty with many for sale.  We saw signs on empty lots that said, For Sale By Owner, 1.5 acres for $165,000.  This is right across the street from the Gulf with fantastic views so you would think the properties would be snapped up. One of the problems is the cost of homeowners insurance, a home valued under $200k has insurance costs of around $900 per month.

St Clare Catholic School and Church was destroyed.  The new building is in the background.

There are mansions like this one.........but very few.  This owner must work for an insurance company!

Most homes are modest like this one that is still being built.
A distance shot showing how few houses are on Beach Boulevard. 

A new pier was built in Waveland for the community.

We also went into Bay St Louis and checked out the sights.  It's a quaint little town a little bigger than Waveland.  We also saw the new Bay St Louis Bridge that was build between Bay St Louis and Pass Christian.  The bridge was started in 2006 with one lane opened in each direction by May of 2007, and all work was completed by  November 2007.  The bridge is 2.1 miles long and was built higher eliminating the need for a draw.  There are wide sidewalks on each side of the bridge for biking, jogging, and walking and you see people on it all the time.  It is an amazing example of what can be accomplished when an area is so badly devastated.

This is the beautiful new Bay St Louis Bridge.   It is quite the marvel.

A park in Bay St Louis.
The old train depot in Bay St Louis.

Across from the old depot another part of the old town that has bars and restaurants now.

This used to be the Starr Boarding House.  They have made it into a Community Theatre.

While we were in the area we crossed the Bay Bridge into Pass Christian and drove along the coast through Long Beach up to Gulfport.  We saw some magnificent homes along the way that appeared to have avoided the wrath of Katrina.  But, not surprisingly, there were also areas with empty lots and homes that were up for sale.  Below are some of the stately mansions we saw.  Directly across from them are the white sands of the Gulf. 

I could live in this one!
Or this one.......

President Woodrow Wilson spent holidays here.
Some of the wildlife in the area.

Always looking for a meal.
Just far enough away so we can't quite get that 'super' picture.

But great in flight.

And the pups had a good time fighting over a stick.

But Max could never quite catch up.
Lucy taking a stroll on the beach.
 We are moving on again.  This time we are going to Carrabelle Beach which is further east down the Florida Panhandle.  Peace!