Sweet home Alabama

After leaving Slidell, we had a night in Biloxi, Mississippi.  Biloxi was a nice coastal town but essentially a casino town, and we stayed at a casino RV park.  This park and surrounding area had no redeeming features and we stayed only one night to break up our journey.

The day we arrived in Alabama it was raining and as we approached Gulf Shores it was torrential with surface flooding on the roads, this made it hard to find the State Park we were heading for.  We arrived at Gulf State Park, registered and found our spot.  There are about 500 RV parking spaces here, and the park is about 20,000 acres in size.

We got the coach set up and I parked the car in front of the coach, got out and nearly stood on a snake, it gave me such a fright!

It was dead but didn’t look it-it was quite large and thick, about a metre long.  I decided I was not going to be a baby about snakes and I was going to get used to seeing it laying there and to expect others.  More of a concern to me were all the ‘do not feed or aggravate the alligators’ signs.  I suppose I wasn’t expecting alligators to be right in the RV park!

The Gulf State Park is pretty much a swamp, as it has been all along the southern shoreline we have seen and travelled over since Galveston.  The land is flat and the water travels far inland by canals, lakes, swamps and bayou’s.

This park is not just about scary creatures, there are more butterflies here than I have ever seen, great birdlife including huge herons and cranes, plus frogs, rabbits and deer-all that we have seen, and turtles and tortoises that we have not seen yet.

The park is crisscrossed with hiking/cycle ways that are often elevated over the swamp by a boardwalk.  We have been cycling most days.

We’ve been here 3 days now and like it so much we have decided to stay a few more.  The park has a fabulous swimming pool area plus a nature centre and store-not bad for $35 a night!  When we went to the office to extend our stay, S showed them a photo of the snake in our park.  They said it was a Water Moccasin.  This made me feel less confident in my new snake bravery.  Water Moccasins will attack if threatened and their bite has hemotoxins that cause haemorrhaging which can be fatal.  There are also rattlesnakes here-both species being pit vipers-nasty.

Outside of the park, which is a 20 min cycle ride is the beach which is beautiful with squeaky white sand which is actually quartz crystals that originate in the Appalachian Mountains, washed down through the river systems.

The water is clearer here than we’ve seen previously even though we are still on the Gulf of Mexico.  This is one of the few beaches where Loggerhead and Kemp’s Ridley Turtles come ashore between May and October to lay their eggs, and when the babies hatch, they successfully make it back to the water, their hatching success has increased by 85% according to monitoring by volunteers.  In other areas round the world, the turtles eggs get eaten by predators, taken by people, or the light pollution confuses the babies and they head away from the sea, not into it.

The beach has lots of sea birds nesting on it and pelicans flying overhead, very few people, very nice.

In some areas along Gulf Shores and further east to Orange Beach the beach area has been beautifully developed with nice café’s, pedestrian areas, parks and palm trees.  There are lots of hotels along here too but it doesn’t feel spoilt by tourism.

We decided to get our car serviced at nearby Foley and given that it was near a shopping centre, I dropped the car off yesterday and went shopping, which we haven’t done very much off.  I bought a few bargains which was most enjoyable.

Typically its around 95 deg here each day.  Big thunderhead clouds form each afternoon which sometimes contain lighting and thunder but nothing amounts from them.  The pool is a very refreshing place to relax in.

Today we cycled through the state park to an area called ‘The Wharf’.  This is the marina area which has been developed into a shopping centre, full of boutiques etc.  A very nice area but we went only for the cycle ride.  You can work up quite a sweat exercising in this heat, so once back we cooled off in the pool.