Hello from Gulf Shores, Alabama! We were here last January and couldn’t stay away. Currently, we are staying at a state park at least through the end of January. We may not be able to make the girls leave!
When we left Michigan at the end of October, we headed to Van Wert, OH, on business for a couple of days. From there we headed to KY, where we stayed a couple of weeks in the Mammoth Cave area. We loved it but colder weather and frozen pipes pushed us further south. We spent a couple of days in Columbia, TN, where we got to visit with family.
We spent Thanksgiving near Guntersville, AL, in the Northeast corner and in the very southern part of the Appalachian Mountains. Mikayla went all out and made us another amazing Thanksgiving meal. On our second to the last morning there, we were awakened at sunrise by more gunfire than we’ve ever heard in our lives. It was the opening day of duck season. We spent most of our day spying on the duck hunters with our binoculars. Because we discovered that their guns were pointed at us, we decided that Barry and I would take care of all of our outside pack-up the next morning. It turned out that we didn’t need to worry. We got up that morning to find the ducks lined up all around the shore of our resort using us as human shields! We hardly heard a gunshot that morning and saw hunters slumped in their boats, looking rather discouraged!
After leaving NE Alabama, we headed down to Robertsdale, which is close to Mobile, for a week before heading to Gulf State Park in Gulf Shores where we’ve been since. It’s truly a beautiful and very wild place—wild as in an abundance of wildlife on land and in the water.
Gulf Shores is on a barrier island. The park is home to bobcat, deer, coyote, fox, wild boar, black bear, cougar, an abundance of interesting birds, alligator, lizards, and snakes. Alabama has 66 species of snakes and all of them can be found here. Fortunately, ONLY 6 species are venomous! The Gulf in this area is infested with several varieties of shark. We have seen octopus, manta rays, skates, sting rays, jellyfish, Portuguese Man of War, dolphins, and many, many strange fish. Once a week we walk the pier (the longest in the Gulf of Mexico) with the naturalists from the park. We see so much and love to watch the fishermen pull in their catch and then try to keep it away from the pelicans. The naturalists here also do nature walks every week that we try to attend.
The weather was unseasonably warm when we first arrived but has now turned to be cold and rainy. (Cold as in the 50s!) We had two days of major storms but fortunately, they went over us. Mobile got hit by tornadoes, but we just got some wind and rain. The locals tell us that Gulf Shores rarely has tornadoes—only hurricanes!
Our “neighbors” are friends that we met in Michigan last summer. They have been such a blessing to us and the girls. We love spending time with them and so appreciate their example and help in finding the best things to do here.
Jenna loves to take off and bike the many trails of this over 6 thousand acre park. It’s very wild but she ‘follows the herd’ of other bicyclists and has met a lot of really neat people—mostly retirees. She bikes about 20 miles each day and has seen more wildlife than any of us. Her hunt for a job has been very discouraging. The senior citizens down here take up most of the part time work. She had also planned on taking some courses at one of the area community colleges. Due to differences in Alabama homeschooling laws, we’ve found that we have to jump through some extra hoops before she can start school here.
Mikayla also bikes the trails but she loves the Gulf. She likes to walk along the shore and often drags the rest of us out at 10 pm to see how high the waves are. She has a lot of schoolwork this year but still finds time to do quite a bit of our cooking and baking. She hopes to get a gluten-free cooking website up very soon.
Eva does her schoolwork at night so she is free to hang out with the park naturalists. If Miss Kelly, Miss CJ, or Mr. Johnny are doing something interesting, she wants to be there. Recently, she helped replant some rare varieties of plants that had been destroyed by Hurricanes Ivan and Katrina. In the next couple of weeks, she and Barry will rebuild a bridge that was also destroyed by the hurricanes. (Gulf Shores took a direct hit from Ivan and then got the Eastern wall of Katrina.) She tries to go to the Nature Center every day to check on the various wildlife they have—snakes, lizards, frogs, an owl, turtles, baby alligators, and a cat that was rescued after Ivan. She even holds and helps feed the snakes. (I stand in the corner with the camera.) When she isn’t with the naturalists, she is on her rip stick, rollerblades, or bike. She is also learning how to skim board (surfing in the break) and is getting the hang of it. When she’s in the water, people often come up to her and ask how she can stand the cold water. She tells them, “It’s still warmer than Lake Michigan in July!” She is always the only person in the water except for surfers and they wear full wet suits!
Barry and I are doing well. I re-sprained my ankle just before Christmas. This time, I stayed off it from the beginning so it healed quite quickly. Barry is busy with our businesses. It gets pretty loud in here sometimes when he’s on the phone and we are having school! Since we will probably be down here quite a bit the next couple of years due to Jenna’s schooling, we have been looking for a good church in which to get involved. We found out about a couple of good prospects this week, though, so we are excited to continue our search. Other than that, we are busy with the girls activities, school, and trying to remind them to use Ma’am and Sir when talking to a true southerner. 🙂
If anyone had ever told us that we would fall in love with such a wild and humid place, we wouldn’t have believed them. We will be leaving before the summer heat comes, however, when the Rangers often get called to the campsites to remove Copperheads that are sunning on the cement pads!
We think of everyone often and hope all is well!
Barry, SuzAnne, Jenna, Mikayla, and Eva