We ended part one having dinner in Apalachicola……
Now that we are full of great fresh sea food we continue our trip, that oyster stew was the best. We can go a number of routes. The beach route is pretty but short on the sandy beaches most people associate with Florida.
If we take an imaginary trip up the Apalachicola River, we would see many different types of scenery - from the low marshes where those oysters came from, swamps, low hardwood forest, shady ravines, to high bluffs. In fact, this is the most bio-diverse, productive and economically important aquatic region of the United States. The whole river basin is great for hunting, fishing, boating, canoeing, hiking, camping, picnicking and bird watching. The great thing is large portions of it are protected by state and federal governments and private groups. Keep your eyes open and you might find fossils or Native American artifacts in the river banks. The river meanders 112 miles up to the Florida/Georgia state line where we will find the first of the 16 dams. Along the river you will see the tupelo trees. The best Tupelo honey comes from the trees found in this area and to a lesser degree from nearby watersheds. In a good year, the honey can bring in close to $1,000,000. One sweet honey, in more than one way.
From time to time remember to look to the skies over head as you may see the Swallow-tail and Mississippi kites and many other hawks. If you have never seen a Swallow-tailed kite you have missed seeing a bird of great beauty. Imagine a bird with long slim wings, a long forked tail and colored white and black. They fly so beautifully as they hawk for insects over head. I am happy to report that they seem to be increasing in numbers. It is one of the birds I usually see when I am driving. I use to have a bumper sticker that said "Warning Birdwatcher".
My mom says one of these days I will end up in the ditch. I have backed over one mail box and knocked down one fence post but so far those are the only accidents I have had as I drive along bird watching and flower spotting. Oh, she says that I have nearly caused a couple of accidents when I was on my knees with my butt sticking up in the air, camera stuck to my face, taking a picture of a TINY, TINY flower. She says that she, at these times, tries to slide low in her seat so no one will see her.
Along here you will also find the rare Torreya taxifolia tree. The common names are nutmeg yew or gopher wood - its nearest relative is found in California. Some claim it was the wood used to build Noah's ark. It is an endangered tree found mostly in Torreya State park and the southernmost part of Georgia. Torreya State park is located on a high bluff along the river. Here, high on the steep bluff, is a beautiful plantation house and if you walk the path down the bluff and along the river you may see or at least hear the tail slap of a beaver. Just remember, you have to walk back up the bluff. The hardwood trees along the path produce the finest fall colors to be found in Florida. Maybe this was the site of the Garden of Eden.
As we follow the river north we will come to Chattahoochee, Florida, a small town with less than 4,000 people at the last census. North of here is a dam that formed Lake Seminole, a 37,500 acre lake. The Chattahoochee and Flint rivers flow into the lake from the north. The river Chattahoochee continues north over 500 miles with 15 more dams. It forms the border between Georgia and Alabama. There is a true water war going on over the use of the water that flows down this river. Florida, Georgia and Alabama have been butting heads over this water for many, many years. Here we will leave this river with one last fact. On the East side of the river is one hour later than the West. So reset your watches to Central time.
Now I have been through the town of Chattahoochee a number of times. We joke that we have to sneak through the city. You see, a large State mental hospital is here, and nearby is one of the state prisons. These are the employers of many of the people around these parts. I have relatives that live around here. About half work either at the mental hospital or the prison, the other half should be in one or the other.
Going west on Highway 90 (if you every have a lot of free time, please travel this road as back in its day it was a great route and the only route) you will come to the turn off for Grand Ridge. Do not blink as you might miss it. Back when I went there the first time, there was a general store and a tiny city hall. It has gotten a little larger since then as Interstate 10 goes by just a little south of here. Now it has around 800 people and at the Interstate access there is even a hotel. In the town there is a gas station and a combined city hall/fire station/ police station and all together they are not much bigger than one of our corner gas/food stores. Let’s stop our trip here and I promise you the best breakfast you ever had, a true southern farm breakfast.
Map of general area we traveled.
Links to gather
Torreya State Park