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Alabama Adventures: Longleaf Pine Treasure Forest

After hearing about Pinus palustris from several southern botanist friends, I had to see the trees for myself! I had the great pleasure of ...

16 May 2016

Alabama Adventures: Dauphin Island

After visiting Mobile Botanical Gardens and their Longleaf Pine Treasure Forest, we checked out the Sunset Capital of Alabama, Dauphin Island.

View of the east end of Dauphin Island, with the Gulf of Mexico and oil rigs in the distance.

Unfortunately, I didn't get any pictures the first day due to my phone and camera batteries dying (we hadn't checked in to our room at the Tillman's Corner Comfort Suites yet and I drained the batteries during the roadtrip and at MBG; our car charger could only do so much, so all of the photos you see are from the second visit!), but I do have the memories and experiences!

We set out down Rt. 193 from the mainland, crossing the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway via the 3-mile-long Dauphin Island Bridge; to the east, Mobile Bay, and to the west, the Mississippi Sound. As we drove high up on the bridge, pelicans soared by. What a sight to see!

Steve and I were excited to see the pristine white sand of West End Beach. There were many people, considering we were there on a holiday weekend in summer. I waded around in the water a bit, and walked along the beach (so many shells!), then sat in the sand with Steve, ending our first visit with an incredible view of a spectacular sunset. 

After we finally checked into the hotel we crashed! Steve and I had been going from the wee hours that morning, through a road trip and our day of activities, until late that night; we were exhausted.

In the morning we ate a filling breakfast in the hotel lobby and headed back to the island. I planned ahead and made sure to have full batteries on all picture-taking devices this time! As we drove through Dauphin Island, we saw a huge line for the Mobile Bay Ferry, and decided to scratch that off our list of plans for the day. Steve the History Geek wanted to see Fort Gaines.

The entrance to Fort Gaines

Steve The History Geek
The brick walls of Fort Gaines stood solemnly as we read several signs about the history and viewed a shipwreck section on display. 

We crossed a bridge to enter the pentagon-shaped structure, passing through the gift shop, and finally exiting out a door to the middle of the fort. Steve preferred to do the self-tour so we entered the tunnels first. Some areas were flooded, which made for a memorable experience, but the cool, dark tunnels provided a nice refuge from the bright, hot sun.

There was also a neat museum as well as a blacksmith shop with a demonstration. There was a damaged area of the wall where a shell hit that we saw, and we were able to look at Fort Morgan through a tower viewer on top of the wall.

History Geek Steve in his natural habitat: a historic site

Bridge leading to one of the original cannons
There was much more that we saw but I didn't take pictures of everything. After we left the fort, we stuck around the east end of the island.  That part of the island wasn't as nice as far as the beach went, but there were hardly any people save for the occasional fisherman. There were quite a few pelicans and gulls, as well as crabs. I even saw hermit crabs (which inspired me to rescue some from the pet store a few months later)! And best of all, there was an abundance of Uniola paniculata (seaoats)!!!

Uniola paniculata (seaoats)

Not quite a sunset, but beautiful nonetheless.
I wanted to check out the Longleaf Forest at MBG again, so we didn't stick around for another gorgeous island sunset.

As we drove back to mainland Mobile County and the bridge shrunk in the distance, I felt a bit sad to leave but grateful for such an incredible experience.