Tag Archives: beach

A Trip to Oak Mountain

Hi Everyone!

Sunday afternoon, Mark, Kayla and I hopped in the car and drove up to Oak Mountain, a state park in Birmingham, Alabama.

Oak Mountain is located just south of Birmingham, on what is probably closer in size to a foothill than a real mountain.  Just to the north of Birmingham, in Tannehill State Park, there is a sign that proclaims that the end of the Appalachian foothills (0r the beginning, depending on which side of the sign you’re on) is located there, but personally, looking at Oak Mountain, I think they missed one.

A tree at the top of the ridge

Oak Mountain has both overnight camping and day use facilities.  We were there to see what the day use facilities had to offer.  As I carefully explained to Kayla, this was a scouting expedition only, to see what the park held for future use.  With my bronchitis, I knew I couldn’t walk far, and I was right.  I managed to stroll at an incredibly slow pace about one and a half football fields worth of space with lots of stops, but at least I did it.  We also were hoping we might see some autumn leaves, even though we were a week or two before fall foliage’s peak in Alabama.

We stopped first at the entrance gate (they seemed to kind of expect us to pay the entrance fee – $7 for the three of us), then on the way up to the day use area passed riding stables and the golf course.  The riding stables offer trail rides, and also the park offers something called “equestrian camping” which I had never heard of before, but would guess is a two-word phrase for “camping with horses.”  I admit the prospect of a trail ride was enough to tempt me away from my “scouting expedition” intentions, but I stayed firm, so we continued up to the turn for what are called the “day use” facilities.

The Lake

The centerpiece of the day use area is the 74 acre lake located in a hollow surrounded by the ridge of the mountain.  This was the place where I was able to get out and walk around for a little bit.  Kayla was ecstatic.  She immediately ran down to the front of the water to look.

Kayla headed to the lake

Kayla, Lake Side

A Little Girl, A Big Lake

We then found a sandy beach, which was even better.  The beach has restroom facilities, and in the summer has an open snack bar.

The Line in the Sand!

Kayla likes beaches, of all kinds.

Running across the beach....

To Dad!

There are pavilions for rent around the beach and the lake, and on a quiet October place, they made a great place to stop and just look for a while.

Mark looks across the lake from one of the pavilions.

Another picture of Mark and the lake

A View of Some of the Pavilions

A family brought their canoe for a fun afternoon, and we made a mental note to remember to bring our own kayak next time.  There also is a place to rent paddle boats or canoes if you forgot to bring your own.  I suspect there are seasonal hours for it, also, but it was open Sunday.

A family canoes

One person was brave enough to swim in the lake.  I didn’t think it was that warm, but then again, I wasn’t the person out there.

In addition to the pavilions, there are picnic areas all around the lake, and throughout the park there are over 50 miles of trails for hiking and biking around the park.  (One note about the hiking:  when you pay your entrance fee, you need to ask for the separate hiking trail map, which is 50 cents.  We didn’t but since I couldn’t really hike anyhow, it didn’t matter.)  There is even a BMX course, although I never was entirely certain that we found it.

One very interesting feature of the park, which is high on our “must do” list when we go back is the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center’s “Treetop Nature Trail.”  The Wildlife Rehabilitation Center rescues raptors who have been injured and prepares them to go back to the wild.  Unfortunately some of the birds are injured so badly they cannot survive in the wild, so they have constructed enclosures for them in the forest surrounding Oak Mountain.  The nature trail takes you on a winding stairway/trail where you can see the enclosures.  I think it is a marvelous way to allow the birds to feel somewhat like they are still out in the wild.

Once you make your way past all of the day use area, there is a road that lets you drive through the forest up to the ridge, in that uniquely American concept of a motor nature trail.  (Of course, there are hiking trails that will let you walk up there, too.)

The bones of the moutains show through

We saw all kinds of beautiful trees and interesting scenes while we were driving up to the ridge.

I took a picture, too, as we got close to the hilltop.

We begin to see the top of the ridge

Then we got to the ridge itself, and looked over much of Birmingham.  It’s hard to tell that a major city is tucked down among these trees.

The view from the ridge

Mark Looking Over the Ridge

Then, finally, it was time to head back home.  

A Final View Overlooking Birmingham

We had to turn away from an inviting stretch of further roadway, but at least we know there is more to explore next time – and there will be a next time!

Have a great day everyone!


Dolphin Cruise

Hi Everyone!

Although yesterday I had no pictures to share from the beach, today I have a plethora of pictures from our Friday evening dolphin cruise. 

We have taken the dolphin cruise before in Destin (we always go on the Southern Star) but still enjoy it each time we go.  We took the sunset cruise this time, which lasts from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m.  We had to arrive at the dock by 5:15 to pick up (and pay for) our tickets, and then we waited on the pier for the boat’s gates to open.

The Southern Star (at least the front half!)


Kayla and Mark waiting for the boat

Mark and Kayla wanted me to lean over the water like I was about to fall in, but visions of a waterlogged me being hauled out of Destin Harbor due to an unfortunate lack of balance required me to nix that idea.  This is the closest I would come:
Once the ship’s gates were opened, we found seats on the top deck of the boat so we would have a good view.  The first place the boat always travels is around Destin Harbor.

One view of Destin's Harbor

Another view of Destin's Harbor

The Fishing Fleet

Where the Southern Star berths: Destin Harbor and the Emerald Grande

The entrance to the harbor is guarded both by sand bars and a stone jetty.

Destin Harbor's dunes

The Stone Jetty: The Entrance to the Gulf of Mexico

 Once we entered the Gulf of Mexico, the boat turned right (I know the nautical terms are port and starboard, but I have enough trouble with left and right) and headed up towards Fort Walton Beach.  Halfway between Destin and Fort Walton Beach, we came across two dolphin pods, which totaled about 12 to 18 dolphins, and they decided to hang around the boat for a while.  It was fantastic to see all of them, but the special treat was the opportunity to view a mother dolphin with her calf.  The calf wanted to come closer to the boat, but Mom wasn’t having any of that; ever time the calf managed to get on the side closest to the boat, Mom had him/her jostled back out of position by the time they surfaced again. 

I did not take any pictures of the dolphins – by the time I knew where they had surfaced, they were on their way under again.  Also, pictures of the dolphins from the boat never do justice to the impact their presence has on you in person.  The picture just looks like a piece of gray amid the blue-green waters of the Gulf, but when you are seeing them it is breath-taking. 

However, I did take pictures of Kayla driving the boat.  Every cruise, after the Captain has found dolphins, he takes the boat away to somewhere harmless and lets the kids get their pictures taken holding the wheel of the boat.  At the moment each child is holding the wheel, he or she is driving the boat!  I know this because he pointed out a slight course correction to Kayla as she sat there.  She would have sat there the rest of the cruise, but he nicely told her that just wasn’t possible. 

Finally, it was time to head back to the harbor.  Along the way I also got some pictures of the Destin shore and sunset.

Destin's Shore

Bridge over the Destin Pass

Sunset over the Gulf of Mexico

(Yes, the sand is really that white.) 

The dolphin cruise was, as always, a memorable experience.  The only problem is that looking at the pictures makes me wish I could go back soon!

Have a great day everyone!


Beach Talk

Good morning (almost good afternoon) everyone!

We went to Destin, Florida for a few days, in connection with a meeting I had, and got home last night.  I have one more day off to get us caught up on household chores, especially laundry, before I start back.

Load of Laundry: From Print Shop Professional 2.0

The weather at the beach was pleasant – a little hot, but the breeze off of the ocean made up for it.  I got to play in the ocean for a while late Saturday afternoon.  It was the perfect time to go – late enough that we didn’t have to worry about sunscreen, or fooling with chairs or any other paraphernalia besides towels, and late enough that the water had been warmed by the sun all day, making it enjoyable and refreshing instead of numbing.  There were a few people around, but not many.  Because we weren’t going to be there that long, I left my camera in the room, so you will just have to picture the sugar white sand, with the blue-green turquoise water on your own. 

From PrintShop Professional 2.0

We have been trying to encourage Kayla to be a little braver while swimming in the ocean.  We will let her swim in a pool without a life vest with one of us watching her, but she is not quite a confident enough swimmer yet to do the same in the ocean.  She does well, but every once in a while, even with the life vest, she starts to panic and when she does, she immediately grabs my swimsuit (often in a place where I would prefer a wardrobe malfunction not occur).  At one of those moments this trip, her hand slipped across my back, giving me a scratch.  I told her to be careful, she had just scratched my back , and she looked at me and said, “Usually you like having your back scratched.”  I started to comment further, but decided to let her win that one on points. 

Back Scratch: From Professional Print Shop 2.0

On Friday evening we got ready to go out.   She put on a skort and a cute top that matched the new purse she bought with her allowance( to go with the other 10 purses she has that she doesn’t use – can you tell I wasn’t exactly in favor of the purchase?) and began prancing around the room.  I asked her what she was doing, and she told me “I’m a professional!”  I asked her “A professional what?” She shrugged, answering, “I don’t know.”  It didn’t particularly worry her!

From Print Shop 2.0 Professional

One of the things about being a mother is that once your child is able to talk, you are programmed to react automatically every time you hear, “Mom!”  We went to see the movie Green Lantern one afternoon, and after we finished we both went into the restroom.  A voice floated out from somewhere in the bathroom while I was in a stall that said, “Mom, is that thunder?”  Being well programmed, I answered, “No, the theater music is just very loud.  Don’t worry about it.”  When I went up to wash my hands, Kayla was grinning from ear to ear.  “You do know that wasn’t me, don’t you?”  Well, no, I didn’t, (the echo made it hard to identify the voice) but I wasn’t going to admit it to her! 

Thunder Clouds: From Professional Print Shop 2.0

Have a good day everyone!


The Gulf Coast Beaches: Beautiful and Ready for Visitors!

Good morning everyone! 

We recently had the chance to spend a weekend in Perdido, one of the beach towns that run along the Gulf of Mexico from Orange Beach, Alabama through Pensacola, Florida and on through Panama City, Florida. 

Mark letting me take a picture of him while driving

Kayla in the car
We left for the beach Friday after work, having left the dogs at their kennel/day care known as Cutie Patootie Dog Boutique.  It is, quite frankly, the only kennel the dogs have ever enjoyed (as opposed to endured), although they are always glad to come home.  I think it’s because they get to play with the other dogs that are there, which means Tyra gets a break from everyone, Darwin can play to his heart’s content, and Mandy only has to play with someone when she feels like. 
It took us about 3 hours to get to the condo we were staying at (I rented it from an acquaintance).  The condo was well-appointed and comfortable.  Kayla was particularly fascinated with the narrow metal spiral staircase that led up to the loft.

Kayla on the spiral staircase

 She wanted (or at least pretended like she wanted) to try jumping off the top step, but both Mark and I quickly nixed that idea. 

Perdido is only 8 miles from Orange Beach and Gulf Shores to the west, and only about 15 miles from the heart of Pensacola, although from where we stayed it was only 8 miles to the Naval Aviation Museum, which is high upon our list of things we want to do when we go back. 

Some of you may remember from last spring and summer that this area was affected by the BP oil spill.  If fear of oil or tar balls on the beaches along the Gulf is keeping you away, let me show you what the beach we were playing at (one of the Perdido State Park beaches in Florida) looked like:

View of Perdido State Park Beach

Here’s another view:

Headed out to set up camp

 This view shows our own little “beach camp” that we staked out for the day:

Our Beach "Camp"

Here’s a view from the beach towards the water.  The dark stuff is dried sea weed.

View toward the water

Interestingly enough, we did see some BP personnel drive by behind us while we were there.  There were about eight people with two trucks between them, each with a mounted trash can on the back.  They sat in the truck for about 20 minutes, then eventually two of them sauntered down to the waterfront, walked around for a few minutes, then walked back.  I couldn’t help but think that what BP really needs to be doing at this point is figuring out how to get the tons and tons of oil that settled onto the Gulf of Mexico seabed cleaned up instead of patrolling beaches, but BP didn’t ask my opinion, either. 

Mark and Kayla played with the football while I watched, which is always fun to see.  Kayla can throw and catch, but it takes her a little while to warm up and stop being afraid of the ball before she catches it.  Here are some pictures of her while playing football with Mark:

A precarious catch!


Deciding whether to throw or kick

Getting ready!

Of course, the most obvious reason you go to the beach is to play in the water. Mark and Kayla played longer than I did, but I went in a couple of times too.  The water was cold, but not frigid.  What’s the difference?  Cold is where you go in and after a while it doesn’t bother you too badly; frigid is when you go in the water and everything just turns numb.  Frigid is usually experienced only by parents who have children, who seem to be immune from any water temperature from cold to frigid and who assure them, “Really, it’s not too bad!” or Canadians, who seem to be used to it, or Californians, because the water almost always seems to be frigid off the coast of California unless it is an El Nino year (I lived in the San Diego area when I was a child).  I knew how much my husband loved my daughter when he spent an hour in the water with her one day with the water temperature at frigid.  Mark does not like cold – at all!

Headed out to play and swim


Caught by a wave


Trying the Back Stroke


Hugging Daddy


Getting ready for the next wave!

We got there about 11, and it was almost 3 when we left.  Even though Kayla told us it was “across the law” (she meant “against the law”) to leave, she had reached the point where she was shivering and needed to rest, not to mention her parents!

We had sat down once between the two rounds of playing in the waves, and while we were sitting there, we saw one pelican dive for fish several times, and three dolphin go wandering by, probably investigating the same school of fish the pelican was interested in.  That had all three of us excited! 

Tune in tomorrow when I attempt to explain about Lambert’s and throwed rolls (an experience not to be missed!)  Have a great day everyone!