Since my last blog post I've moved to the Florida panhandle, and so far I have nothing but love for this state! I was Googling things to do for fun in the area and noticed there's a plethora of state parks here. For Labor Day I asked the kids if they wanted to go hiking or go to the beach, and thankfully it was a unanimous "hiking, mommy!" (There's still plenty of tourists here and they all want the sunny beaches.) We chose Blackwater River State Park simply because it looked small on the map and it wasn't right on the coast, so we hoped there wouldn't be tons of tourists there.
Park entry only costs $4 per vehicle. Pretty cheap for a whole day of fun, if you ask me. There were kayak, tube, and canoe rentals available. We saw lots of campers and people fishing although I was surprised we didn't run into a single hiker on any of the trails. Blackwater has over 600 acres of land and lots of signs warning to not touch or attempt to feed alligators. I'll admit to being a little disappointed we didn't see any. There was a lot of beautiful trees and foliage, so I was surprised I saw almost no birds, bugs, or animals. Especially since everything was relatively undisturbed.
Being a Midwesterner I found it so strange to be walking through the woods surrounded by trees yet walking on a sandy path. The woods I've been in previously have all had dirt floors. It was a sure sign that I was in a southern state park! That and the palm trees. It was a pretty awesome first time experience for me. I found it so undisturbingly beautiful and calm in a way I had never experienced before.
^My sweet Salem doing her best bear impression. The kids were hoping to see a black bear too, which [thankfully] we did not haha.
So Blackwater River State park opened in 1968 with 360 acres and in 1981 the Florida Forest services gave it an additional 230 acres of land. Something I found interesting was that the park brochure boasted of hosting 20 caches for geocaching within the park. I did that back in the day and thought geocaching was a thing of the past! I think it's pretty cool that a state park would incorporate an activity like that- just one more thing to try and get more people outdoors and off their couches.
The one slightly disappointing part of the day was that the longest trail was inaccessible due to flooding. Parts of it was completely swamped and I just wasn't brave enough to attempt wading through it, especially with the alligator signs everywhere. But with that being said, we still did the shorter trails and spent a solid four hours hiking (at a leisurely pace, taking time to stop, eat lunch, and let the kids enjoy the playground). I'm guessing this isn't the norm though, keeping in mind that it's early hurricane season and the panhandle had just gotten a lot of rain.
"Rocks and waters, etc., are words of God, and so are men. We all flow from one fountain Soul. All are expressions of one Love." - John Muir, the father of our national parks system
There was a fun little park near one of the camping areas. It wasn't too spectacular but enough for the kids to burn off some energy and take a break from hiking. There were bathrooms and a couple picnic tables; it was quiet and empty, really the perfect setting for a picnic lunch with our little family. I was so surprised there weren't swarms of people at this gem of a place.
Something that surprised me was the lack of bugs. I came armed with bug spray, fully prepared to engage in war with mosquitos. But, there were none on the hike. I have no idea where all the bugs were. They certainly weren't in the woods. I don't know if it's a seasonal thing or perhaps the area in particular, but we just didn't get bit up. (Not a complaint though!)
The river was the one part of the park that was packed; it was filled with tubers and kayakers both in the water and along the shore. We didn't explore much of that area, mainly because the kids wanted to hike. I'll be honest, because I live so close to the actual ocean I don't really understand the fascination with river water activities. Also, I'm a little bit afraid of alligators (haha). I know most likely they would be hiding in the many acres of swamp and woods within the park that are restricted from public access, but still the thought frightened me. So tubing just wasn't my vibe.
We thoroughly enjoyed our day. Blackwater River State Park is an impressive little place. It offers a good variety of activities for the family or individuals, it's exceptionally well cared for, and it offers a place of quiet and tranquility away from all the tourists. I highly highly recommend it.
"Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt." - John Muir
So my time in Delaware is quickly coming to an end with just about 4 weeks here left. I thought it would be appropriate to post some photos of DE and write up a little blog on my thoughts about the year I've spent here. The obvious bonus for me, as a Midwesterner, has been the weather. It's been completely delightful. There's absolutely no humidity or wind. When I first arrived everyone said "Oh just wait for the fall and winter- it gets so windy!" So I waited and waited. I guess when you're used to lake effect wind, the occasional Atlantic breeze isn't noticeable. The temperatures were extremely mild, but I'll be honest, I also think it spoiled me. I found myself freezing during the cool early morning temps when I visited my family in Indiana in early June. The old Alisha would have been outside in a tshirt, not a sweatshirt.
Let's talk about "scrapple". HUGE RED FLAGS, PEOPLE! I tried to like it, but I just couldn't get past the fact that it's basically the grossest parts of meat you can imagine (head, heart, liver, etc.) compressed into a patty. But for some strange reason, it's like a symbol of Delaware...eaten with eggs and toast at every diner in the state.
This is a view from my absolute favorite part of the state, Bowers Beach. It's bay side, so there aren't big, beautiful, crashing waves like at Rehoboth Beach. It's pretty empty most of the time, I'm guessing because it's mostly only locals that go there. What I really like about it is that it's safe for my kids. I could go lay out in the sand and let them splash around in shallow water without having to worry that they'd get swept away by the undertow. Rehoboth Beach was only nice to experience once in a while; the boardwalk has great food and souvenirs but it gets pricey and is always extremely crowded. So Bowers was our go-to. There's free parking at Bowers and it's not a far walk. Plus there's The Bayview Tavern, an inexpensive little place that's great for ordering beach food to go. They have the absolute best greasy hot dogs and cheese fries; they will put everything in a nice to-go container which makes it easier to sit on the beach and eat.
When it comes to doing local things, Delaware is pretty disappointing. Now granted, I'm speaking from a mom's perspective mostly. There isn't a state zoo or children's play areas (besides one chic-fil-a and one small bouncy house place). I was really surprised even the mall didn't have any kind of playplace. There is one children's museum but it's all the way up in Wilmington, so it isn't something we went to very often.
The bonus for this state is that it's only a day drive away from a plethora of awesome places out of state. While we were here we visited Philly several times (Philly zoo, Legoland, historic Philly, and Sesame World), the New Jersey aquarium, and Assateague Island twice (where the wild ponies roam). Longwood Gardens in Pennsylvania was also a beautiful day trip. I regret not making it out to explore Baltimore, Washington D.C., or New York City, which are all relatively easy to explore from Delaware.
There are some neat nature areas locally that are lovely for hiking and observing wildlife; my favorites include Little Creek Wildlife Area, Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge, and Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge. Delaware has others that I wasn't able to explore (White Clay Creek State Park, Fenwick Island State Park, and Killens Pond State Park) but I've heard they provide excellent outdoor activities. There isn't rigorous hiking like you'd find in the Smoky Mountains or other rugged terrain, but it's still a fun place to enjoy nature. (Or just take photos!)
Delaware was a hard state to break in, I'll be honest. But there is a lot of hidden beauty within it if you're willing to search for it. Over the course of this last year I've learned to be flexible in many different situations, to take what life gives me and be content, and to turn many rough circumstances into something fun with my children. The truth is that sometimes the hardest seasons of life are the ones that have actually turned me into a stronger person in the long run. I'm so excited to be moving on to my next adventure in the Florida panhandle, but I'm quite thankful for the time I've had on the East Coast first. It's been swell, Delaware.
I've been so anxious for warm weather lately; the cold makes me so antsy! So I've been spending some time editing older photos I took of flowers and other pretty spring/summer sights. I decided to make a cheery blog post of the photos I've edited recently in hopes of another warm weather lover needing a dose of summer views. I miss gardening and seeing flowers everywhere! Although I really do have to add that this winter has been the mildest one I've ever experienced in my whole life. We've had 60 and 70 degree days this month, and on average it's been around 40-50 F (much much warmer than it usually is in Indiana). My hometown currently has piles of snow! I'm super happy to have escaped the snow this winter. So there's that. :)
"Just living is not enough...one must have sunshine, freedom, and a little flower."
- Hans Christian Andersen
"I will not be
picked for my
beauty and left
to die. I will
be wild, difficult
to find, and
- Erin Van Vuren
"What sunshine is to flowers, smiles are to humanity. These are but trifles, to be sure; but scattered along life's pathway, the good they do is inconceivable." - Joseph Addison
"Keep your face to the sun and you will never see the shadows."
- Helen Keller
Back in the fall we had family visiting, so we took a trip to the Philadelphia Zoo. Opening in 1874, it claims the title of America's first zoo. I'll admit, I'm a zoo freak. I love zoo trips and I love exotic animals. But I can also be extremely picky- if exhibits are dirty or small then I can quickly become unimpressed. I also come from Indiana where the Indianapolis Zoo had given me extremely high expectations.
The Philadelphia Zoo is extremely impressive, in my opinion. I have been to several zoos, and this one definitely didn't disappoint. At $23 per adult (plus additional for parking) this seemed a little pricy, but it was worth it. We spent an entire day at the zoo and barely got to see everything. This zoo is huge which is surprising considering it's in the middle of Philly.
The zoo averages 1.2 million visitors a year and houses about 1300 animals. I was amazed at the exhibit setups. One thing that really stood out was a big jungle-gym like cage that hung in the sky above where visitors walked. Animals could run through that freely; this gave them ample space rather than just confining them to their single exhibit spaces. I thought it was a really unique way for the animals to get exercise, extra space, and extra viewing angles for zoo guests.
Another cool feature (for nerds like myself) is that the Philly Zoo is heaven for Pokemon fans. The zoo has several Pokestops, 3 gyms, and is a bustling attraction for diverse species of Pokemon. The zoo website even has a tab encouraging guests to play Pokemon GO during their visit, which I personally think is awesome.
If you plan a trip in the warmer months you can take a ride on the ZooBalloon, a giant hot air balloon. This is a really unique feature that allows guests to have the ultimate viewing experience. We personally didn't do this on our visit, but I've never seen it offered at any other zoo I've been to either. So that definitely bumped up the awesome factor.
The Philly Zoo is also proud to house several endangered animals, my favorites including the Amur Leopard, Chinese Alligator, Panamanian golden frog, and Western lowland gorillas.
You can check out more info about the Philadelphia Zoo at their website- http://www.philadelphiazoo.org/. I highly recommend it; if you can't tell from other blog posts, I've quickly fallen in love with so much that this city has to offer, including this zoo. This zoo definitely ranks among the top of all the zoos I've visited. It makes for an excellent day trip if you have family or friends visiting.