On Saturday morning, we left Buccaneer and headed east. We were excited to drive through historic Bay St. Louis and Pass Christian, MS, I had heard about from my parents. They were really beautiful! Sadly, neither had a dog friendly beach, so we kept going. We stopped at Buc-ees, Texas sized “convenience store” near Foley, AL on Ashe’s recommendation. It was crazy! Outdoors gear, toys, home decor, grills, smokers, boilers, fire pits, food, and more. The size of a TJ Maxx. If you see one, stop! En route to Pensacola, Bringfido.com located a dog beach for us, just 4.5mi before we arrived at Big Lagoon State Park. The “Bark Park” or River Rd Dog Park was right before the bridge that takes you from Perdido Key to Pensacola. The park was cute. It had a big dog and a small dog area. It was cold and very windy, so we had it all to ourselves. We opted for the big dog area, because it had agility equipment and covered picnic table, where the small dog area had nothing. After exploring and playing ball a bit, we went on through to the beachfront area. It was great! It had a small sandy beach and a wonderful, huge saw palm and brush area at the base of a tree for the dogs to hunt in. Our two loved it! Nigel played ball and hunted, because the hunting area was so sweet. Pippa was in heaven. Being so chilly, us parents did not make it long. After a while, we had to rally the troops and get back in the van. Being so close to the campground, we could return when the weather would be warmer, while we were staying nearby if needed. We would see.
We drove into Big Lagoon and were pleased from the get go. We wound through the pretty sand hills, all the way to the end of the park on the Big Lagoon. We parked and walked towards the observation tower. We were amazed by the beauty of it all. There were boardwalks over marshes, raised, covered picnic areas, overlooking the water, trails throughout, and the tower with great views of Grand and Big Lagoons, the marsh, beaches, lakes, and forest. We looked down into Big Lagoon from the tower to see two dolphins, swimming near one of the two kayakers. Wow! This park is a dream, especially with the promised weather ahead. Hallelujah! This was the perfect place to end this leg of our Winter Wanderings. It was chilly and windy, so we just did a short hike around, planning to explore a lot more over the next few days with warmer temps. The only drawback, being, like all Florida State Parks, no dogs allowed on the beaches. Other than that it was perfect!
After seeing the Big Lagoon area, we headed to the campground. We found our campsite, #28, which was semi-private and semi-shaded. We had one side of the van with no neighbor, trees, and plenty of foliage. We did have a neighbor on the other side with just a small hedgerow between us. It was fine. The sites in general looked to be large, wooded, and private, as Florida State Parks, typically are. We are big fans and love the Florida Parks.
As we were setting up, Wiley opened the back door of the van, to his surprise, Nigel fell out, looked at him, then took a freedom run. Wiley chased him, which is usually not a good idea, because then he runs faster in the opposite direction, away from you, but Wiley did not have a choice in an unfamiliar, gator filled area. As luck would have it, Nigel ran across the road from our campsite, onto a boardwalk, thankfully, not into the swamp below. Wiley followed him onto the boardwalk. After a few moments, not knowing where he was or where he was going, Nigel slowed down and looked at Wiley. Wiley said, “Good boy, Nigel. Good boy.” and shockingly, he stopped for Wiley to come get him, thank goodness. Disaster averted. Nigel did not become gator bait and lived to explore another day. Whew! It’s never a dull moment with Jack Russells, that’s for sure. We love their spirit and they make great travel and adventure buddies, but there are plenty of temporarily, stressful incidents to keep it interesting.
Wiley brought Nigel back to the van, where Nigel cuddled up with me, acting like he wanted forgiveness, which, of course, I gave. We were in for the evening, eating dinner, playing cards, then watching a movie. We had high hopes for the following day to hike, explore, and bask in the 66 degree weather. Whoop! Whoop!