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Winter Wanderings Day #39-40, Gold Head Branch State Park, Keystone Heights, Gamble Rogers Memorial State Recreation Area, Flagler Beach, FL

We drove through Gold Head Branch State Park before leaving, to check out the Lakeview Campground for future visits. We did not like it, as well as, the Sandhill and Turkey Oak Campground loops, mainly, because it was at the end of the park, further from all the trails and ravine. We preferred the central location of the other two. After touring the campground, we parked at the end of the road at Big Lake Johnson to hike around. The wind was whipping and the temps, so low, we decided against hiking and set off on our way to Gamble Rogers. We really enjoyed Gold Head and look forward to returning.

We pulled into Flagler Beach at lunchtime. Yelp told us, Flagler Fish Company was tops, so that is where, we went. WOW! It was incredibly good! Can’t recommend it enough. You can pick your fresh seafood from the case and they will cook it up for you, any way you choose. We chose from the menu. Do not think you can go wrong, either way. We enjoyed the gazpacho, house chips, oysters on the half shell, fried seafood sampler, and a hot peanut butter and chocolate brownie, topped with ice cream and hot fudge. Hungry yet?!! Needless to say, we had half of this left over, including the brownie, so got our money’s worth, enjoying it again the following night. So yummy!

We had great camping karma, due to a last minute cancellation, landing a beachfront campsite for our first visit to Gamble Rogers. The ranger told us at check in, that the Gamble Jam was going on in the picnic area, so we went there before going to our campsite. We were so glad we did. There were a bunch of really cool folks, jamming and singing, despite the strong, gusty, cold wind. We sang lots of old classic rock favorites. What a wonderful welcome to the park. We talked to two super, northeastern couples afterward, giving them a bunch of Florida campground recommendations. One couple, Carl and Kathy, own the Xtreme Mobile Adventures Sportsmobile van. They travel with their dog, Hobo Joe to overland and outdoors expos and events. Their van was covered with sponsors, they do mobile advertising and live demos for at shows. Cool idea for funding travel.

We took a quick hike on the Joe Kenner Trail from the picnic area. It was a great little nature trail, through the twisty oaks and palms, just beautiful. There was an awesome upside down palm engraved like a totem pole. So cool! We, then, drove across A1A to our campsite #25 on a high dune, overlooking the ocean. We were in the van/small rv section, which we liked. The site only had a neighbor on one side, and some foliage between us, which was nice. I had checked BringFido.com and knew that Flagler Beach, just outside the park, on both ends, was the only dog friendly beach in the area. What I didn’t know, was that Gamble Rogers had a coded “dog gate” at the end of our campground row, that took us, right out to the dune walkover, onto dog friendly Flagler Beach, which was a fabulous surprise. We parked, hopped out, and went down to the beach. Being cold and blowy, and high tide with waves coming up, onto the steps of the boardwalk, we didn’t go but to the end of the boardwalk, took it all in, surprised by the red clay colored sand, then walked back to our van. We were in for the evening. What a great day!

The next day, Sunday, was significantly warmer, thank goodness. We woke, got dressed, and set out to the beach with the puppies. Nigel played ball as we walked along the beach. Pippa chased birds, and hunted on the dunes and under the boardwalks. The sand was deep and mushy, which was not easy to walk in. There was very little beach. The beach was steep with high dunes that reached up to A1A. It was different than any beach, we had been to. We walked on the beach until we reached a sign that said, “Volusia County, No Dogs Allowed on Beach” and a North Peninsula State Park Boundary sign, so we took the boardwalk up to the road, to see what the state park was about. We hiked on the A1A scenic bike path for a mile, along the saw palm park border, unable to see an entrance or trail into the park. We finally came to a power line easement with a gate, that had a walk around, so we did. It wasn’t long before the easement crossed a trail. We hopped on part of the Ormond Scenic Loop, onto the Smith Creek Landing Trail, then out of park, across High Bridge Rd, to High Bridge Park, just beneath the draw bridge over the Intercostal Waterway. In High Bridge Park was a cute little shop called, Salty Dawg Outfitters, that had bait and tackle, did kayak fishing tours, and charters. There were tons of fisherman, fishing from the shore, near the bridge and putting in at the launch. We crossed back under the road, returning through North Peninsula, all the way through the park to Flagler Beach, not having to walk on the highway bike path at all. By the time we returned to our Happy Camper, it was a 5mi roundtrip hike. It had warmed up, significantly, since we had set out in the morning, so we regretted our earlier wardrobe choice, both having worn pants. We promptly switched to shorts upon our return. Finally, some warm Florida weather. WooHoo!!!

In the afternoon, we hiked on the A1A sidewalk towards Flagler Beach. Just past High Tide Restaurant, we went down on the beach to walk, play ball, and hunt with the puppies for a bit. Afterward, we sat outside on High Tide’s dog friendly deck, overlooking the ocean. They even had a doggie menu with hot dog, chicken, and pupsicles! We got drinks and the conch/ crab combo fritters. My Piña Colada, came in a fun color changing , souvenir cup. Such a fun date. We had had a perfect Sunday Funday and a fabulous weekend! Yea Gamble Rogers!

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