Sunday morning we woke before the sun, so we decided to go to the bay beach to watch sunrise. We layered up to face the 40 degree temperatures, along with heavy, gusting wind. We arrived at the Bay beach, under heavy cloud cover, to a pretty disappointing sunrise. Oh, well, we tried. We hiked back to the Florida Trail, which we took into campground loops B-E to take a look. We had, originally, booked E9, so wanted to compare it to where we ended up, thanks to WanderingLabs. Well, it was plain to see why there were such strong opinions online, that Loop A was the most desirable. Campground B-E was, basically, a huge field with very few trees, more like an RV parking lot than a campground. Campsite E9 was in the middle of the field with no trees or brush, right on top of the next campsite, which was jammed full with two trucks and a travel trailer. We definitely would not have been happy in that spot. What a find https://reserve.wanderinglabs.com was. Thank you, Christine for recommending it!
We hiked back to Happy and chilled until lunch time. We looked on Yelp and chose to try Flounders Chowder House. We drove 20min into Pensacola Beach, early to beat the Sunday brunch crowd. The restaurant is an institution, having operated since 1979. We got right in and sat on the huge enclosed heated patio, overlooking the beach. We got a great table. We ordered the Shrimp Boat Platter and Fred Flounders Flash Fried Favorites. We had enough for a couple of more meals, for sure. It was, absolutely, delicious. Just perfect! We had a three tiered key lime pie for desert, which will last us a week. It was, literally, three pieces of key lime pie stacked on top of one another, two yellow with a green one between. I’d never seen anything like it. It was ridiculous, but delicious!
After lunch, on the way back to the campground, we braved the cold to take the puppies to the Pensacola Beach Dog Park at boardwalk 21.5, one of two in Pensacola Beach. There was only one other dog and owner there, due to the very chilly weather. The cold temps didn’t seem to phase the puppies. Nigel got right to running and fetching on the long leash with Wiley. I let Pippa’s leash go, like I normally do at the beach. The cold made her frisky. She was doing zoomies all over the beach, which was adorable. When she settled down, she got to the business of hunting. She dug several holes, all over the small area, between two signs, where dogs were permitted. Sadly, there would be no walk on the beach. The dog area was just a patch of beach at the end of the boardwalk. We were thankful, we, at least, had that, seeing how no dogs are allowed on the beach at the National Seashore. In Walton County, where we stayed over Thanksgiving, dogs aren’t allowed on any beaches, unless you have a resident permit and even then, only after 4:00pm. Dogs are not allowed on any Florida State Park beaches. So again, we appreciated that Pensacola Beach provided an area for dogs. Our puppies had a ball!
Before heading back to the campground, I wanted to go into Gulf Breeze to see what the Naval Live Oak Preserve part on Gulf Islands was about. We drove through both the bay side and gulf side to discover, it was really just a couple of picnic areas with trails to the water. We decided, we would rather go back to the National Seashore to do a real hike. Thankfully, on the way back, Wiley spotted an Ace Hardware with a big propane tank. With the cold nighttime temps in the 20’s and 30’s, expected over the next few nights, it was a welcomed find. Yea propane for heat!
As we drove back into Gulf Islands National Seashore, we swung by the camper registration to get my National Park Passport stamped. I was glad I remembered. We parked in our sweet campsite, then hit the trail with the puppies. We hiked on the Florida Trail away from the fort. After a bit, we came to Battery Langdon, the massive waterfront remains of a World War I-era gun battery built to defend Pensacola Bay. It was hidden beneath a huge hill of vegetation. We climbed the sandy path to the top, for some spectacular views, of the bay and the gulf. As the sun was going down, we rushed back to Happy to leave the puppies, to make sunset on the beach. By the time we got there, the sun had set, but it didn’t matter, because the sky got more beautiful and colorful as we watched. It was pink, yellow, and orange with fabulous cloud formations, making it so dramatic. It was icing on a great day. Returned to the van, so very grateful.