Underwater Easter - April, 2012

Waiting for a special delivery at St. Andrew's Beach,  Panama City Beach, FL. (above)

See and hear the Gulf Coast
.
See 2011's "Spring Break"

Statistics:

Dates: From April 2 to April 7, 2012

 

Areas Explored: the Gulf Coast between Apalachicola & Barataria Bay

Transportation: 2009 Dodge Grand Caravan

New Frontiers: Discovered new and (more or less) safe places to go snorkeling. Very calm Nola.

 

Cast: Scott, Jessica, & Andrew

 

Trip Notes: Day 1: Starting in the afternoon, to Fair Oaks Farm, IN, and then south into Birmingham. Day 2: Across Alabama down a well-worn trail to Grayton Beach, FL. Found private camping in Panama City. Day 3: A stormy afternoon following a morning swimming in Wakulla Springs and exploring St. Marks area. Camped in St. Andrews Beach SP. Day 4: Spent the morning snorkeling the "Kiddie Pool" at St. Andrews in Panama City and then headed to Pensacola Beach before a night in Biloxi's I.P. Resort. Day 5: Morning sitting on the beach of Biloxi and then camped on the shores of Pontchartrain at Fountainbleau SP, LA. Had a nice evening in Nola. Day 6: Spent the morning in the French Quarter and then hiked Barataria Preserve before heading north to Jackson. Day 7: Drove along the Trace and then up into Memphis for lunch, hitting Southernmost Illinois before dark.

Sights and Sounds of the Gulf Coast

Some attempts at filming underwater wildlife in the clearest
waters we found along the Gulf Coast. (above or watch on Youtube)

Click to HEAR wildlife sounds recorded along our journey.
 Snorkel Notes

Wakulla Springs SP, FL
This was my 2nd snorkel in the shallow waters of this huge natural spring. The water coming out of the spring is a constant 69, in the winter attracting manatees and always mullets from a few miles downstream where the river meets the sea at St. Marks Bay. The water was very clear despite a slightly overcast sky and made for excellent photos. I mostly swam around the dropoff near where the weeds begin to predominate.

St. Andrews Beach SP, FL
A spit of land juts out at the mouth of St. Andrew Bay. One side is dominated by crashing waves. The other side (the "Kiddie Pool," as locals call it) is protected by an artificial jetty. The waters here are calm and full of life along the jetties. We saw urchins, tropical fish, octopi, and a gang of manatees even swam in very close to observe us. This was quite a surprise!  The water was not more than 7 feet deep.

Zigzagging drive through the Gulf Coast:

1. Birmingham to Panama City Beach

2. A trip around Apalachicola

3. West along the Gulf to Biloxi

4. Into Pontchartrain country

5. Over the hills into Mississippi 
 

Rolls of Film: Click on image to see caption, full-size image, or slideshow.

Andrew and Daddy at Grayton Beach SP.Andrew and Daddy at Grayton Beach SP. Setting up our post at Grayton Beach.Setting up our post at Grayton Beach. Let's try surfing. Let's try surfing. Andrew was more into the water than he ever was before.Andrew was more into the water than he ever was before. Sometimes we even went into it a little deeper.Sometimes we even went into it a little deeper. But there is a limit to how deep Andrew will go.But there is a limit to how deep Andrew will go. Watching Daddy float back on the boogie board.Watching Daddy float back on the boogie board. Mommy and Andrew cooling off in the Grayton shade.Mommy and Andrew cooling off in the Grayton shade. Beautiful Grayton Beach, home of sharks, tar balls, and sugar white sands.Beautiful Grayton Beach, home of sharks, tar balls, and sugar white sands. Sometimes Andrew would just run back and forth.Sometimes Andrew would just run back and forth. The Grayton shoreline looking east.The Grayton shoreline looking east. Underneath the surf at Grayton you can see the wave's effect on the sand.Underneath the surf at Grayton you can see the wave's effect on the sand. Our campsite at Panama City Beach's Raccoon River Campground.Our campsite at Panama City Beach's Raccoon River Campground. Rise and shine, Andrew! We're going to Tallahassee today.Rise and shine, Andrew! We're going to Tallahassee today. At Wakulla Springs SP's dock an anhinga dries off his wings.At Wakulla Springs SP's dock an anhinga dries off his wings. I love setting up our towels and gear at these boscoyos at Wakulla.I love setting up our towels and gear at these boscoyos at Wakulla. Striped mullet feeding near the dock at Wakulla.Striped mullet feeding near the dock at Wakulla. Raptors keep a watchful eye over the fish life in the springs.Raptors keep a watchful eye over the fish life in the springs. Underwater shot of a couple mullets in the spring channel.Underwater shot of a couple mullets in the spring channel. How Andrew looks to the fish.How Andrew looks to the fish. An osprey nest across the channel from the beach.An osprey nest across the channel from the beach. It is rare for us to find an osprey in a natural perch. usually they sit on man-made objects.It is rare for us to find an osprey in a natural perch. usually they sit on man-made objects. He thought about putting his head underwater, but quickly changed his mind.He thought about putting his head underwater, but quickly changed his mind. Across the channel from the Wakulla Springs.Across the channel from the Wakulla Springs. Snorkeling near a swimming moorhen at the dropoff.Snorkeling near a swimming moorhen at the dropoff. Mullets come up into the river from the ocean to eat.Mullets come up into the river from the ocean to eat. Showing Andrew what I am seeing underwater.Showing Andrew what I am seeing underwater. I recognized this area from the Creature from the Black Lagoon movie.I recognized this area from the Creature from the Black Lagoon movie. We are waiting for Andrew to wash off the sand and for the rain to pass a bit.We are waiting for Andrew to wash off the sand and for the rain to pass a bit. A caterpillar in the bushes at Wakulla.A caterpillar in the bushes at Wakulla. Near East River Pool in St. Marks NWR just south of Wakulla Springs.Near East River Pool in St. Marks NWR just south of Wakulla Springs. A striking bird looking out over the ponds near St. Marks.A striking bird looking out over the ponds near St. Marks. This carnivorous Florida Softshell Turtle was trying to cross the road between ponds.This carnivorous Florida Softshell Turtle was trying to cross the road between ponds. Egret fishing the St. Marks NWR ponds.Egret fishing the St. Marks NWR ponds. A horseshoe crab we found along St. Marks Bay.A horseshoe crab we found along St. Marks Bay. Andrew takes a look at the Andrew takes a look at the "monster." St. Marks Lighthouse was built in 1831 to protect the then important harbor.St. Marks Lighthouse was built in 1831 to protect the then important harbor. Near the lighthouse is a large tidepool full of crabs.Near the lighthouse is a large tidepool full of crabs. But there is no crabbing allowed in the wildlife refuge.But there is no crabbing allowed in the wildlife refuge. We look for wildlife on the crossroads: a spit of land separating a pond from the ocean.We look for wildlife on the crossroads: a spit of land separating a pond from the ocean. A cow bird showing off at St. Marks Bay.A cow bird showing off at St. Marks Bay. Another interesting bird on the wildlife refuge.Another interesting bird on the wildlife refuge. They don't make wild flowers like this at home. It lived among cacti.They don't make wild flowers like this at home. It lived among cacti. An oyster catcher working the shallow tidepools at St. Marks NWR.An oyster catcher working the shallow tidepools at St. Marks NWR. These ponds were home to alligators, gar, and snapping turtles.These ponds were home to alligators, gar, and snapping turtles. A decent sized gator guarded the pond near the lighthouse.A decent sized gator guarded the pond near the lighthouse. Wading the ponds for food.Wading the ponds for food. Another of St. Marks' stunning biologically-diverse ponds.Another of St. Marks' stunning biologically-diverse ponds. The lighthouse as a huge storm begins to come ashore.The lighthouse as a huge storm begins to come ashore. A swamp-loving rodent of St. Marks.A swamp-loving rodent of St. Marks. And a nesting cardinal.And a nesting cardinal. Andrew, as usual, was not in the mood to hike too far.Andrew, as usual, was not in the mood to hike too far. An egret taking a fishing break.An egret taking a fishing break. This St. Marks gator seems to think she is hiding in the duckweed.This St. Marks gator seems to think she is hiding in the duckweed. Our campsite at the more exclusive St. Andrews SP near Panama City Beach.Our campsite at the more exclusive St. Andrews SP near Panama City Beach. Today we are going snorkeling, Andrew! Wake up!Today we are going snorkeling, Andrew! Wake up! The Grand Lagoon of St. Andrews Bay was guarded by watchful cormorants.The Grand Lagoon of St. Andrews Bay was guarded by watchful cormorants. A loonish looking bird swimming around Grand Lagoon.A loonish looking bird swimming around Grand Lagoon. Another smart osprey in a natural perch.Another smart osprey in a natural perch. Andrew bringing Daddy his flippers.Andrew bringing Daddy his flippers. A breeding laughing gull on the beach at St. Andrews.A breeding laughing gull on the beach at St. Andrews. Obviously the water beside the St. Andrews jetty was not too deep.Obviously the water beside the St. Andrews jetty was not too deep. Seem if you can spot the sand-colored  flounder!Seem if you can spot the sand-colored flounder! A heron fishing along the jetty next to a parade of human fishermen.A heron fishing along the jetty next to a parade of human fishermen. These bait fish were everywhere along the sides of the jetty.These bait fish were everywhere along the sides of the jetty. Heron in flight over the beach.Heron in flight over the beach. Andrew spent a lot of time in the sand at the Kiddie Pool.Andrew spent a lot of time in the sand at the Kiddie Pool. A bunch of fish cowering in the shadow of the jetty wall.A bunch of fish cowering in the shadow of the jetty wall. Andrew was always watching out for jellyfish.Andrew was always watching out for jellyfish. Fish along the jettys base.Fish along the jettys base. A hermit crab was scooting along the sand past a dead octopus.A hermit crab was scooting along the sand past a dead octopus. A huge naval ship enters St. Andrews Harbor.A huge naval ship enters St. Andrews Harbor. Voila! Finished in the knick of time. Storm's brewin'.Voila! Finished in the knick of time. Storm's brewin'. Fragile urchins in the deeper water along the jetty.Fragile urchins in the deeper water along the jetty. Hiking in the rain at St. Andrews Beach, a name our boy loved.Hiking in the rain at St. Andrews Beach, a name our boy loved. The shoreline around this pond were alive with a bird rookery.The shoreline around this pond were alive with a bird rookery. A gator in the rain at St. Andrews Beach SP.A gator in the rain at St. Andrews Beach SP. Andrew on Santa Rosa Beach near Pensacola.Andrew on Santa Rosa Beach near Pensacola. We had to strip after a dunk in the windswept ocean.We had to strip after a dunk in the windswept ocean. Trees near Pensacola Beach, FL.Trees near Pensacola Beach, FL. A barge entering Pensacola Bay at Fort Pickens.A barge entering Pensacola Bay at Fort Pickens. The old WW2 bastion at Fort Pickens.The old WW2 bastion at Fort Pickens. Another shot of 20th century military ruins at Fort Pickens.Another shot of 20th century military ruins at Fort Pickens. We spent the night at the IP Casino in Biloxi for a deep discount.We spent the night at the IP Casino in Biloxi for a deep discount. The Biloxi Lighthouse keeping an eye over the Mississippi River-stained water.The Biloxi Lighthouse keeping an eye over the Mississippi River-stained water. Swimming at Biloxi beach was not as much fun as building sand castles.Swimming at Biloxi beach was not as much fun as building sand castles. Great Blue Heronz 'n' the hood.Great Blue Heronz 'n' the hood. Our flooded campsite at Fountainbleau SP in Louisiana.Our flooded campsite at Fountainbleau SP in Louisiana. Andrew and Mommy went to the swings and slides while Daddy put up the tent and rescued a lost tot.Andrew and Mommy went to the swings and slides while Daddy put up the tent and rescued a lost tot. Classic woodpecker at Fountainbleau.Classic woodpecker at Fountainbleau. A thrush-like bird in Louisiana land that was once a cane farm.A thrush-like bird in Louisiana land that was once a cane farm. The glorious live oak. This one is in Mandeville, LA.The glorious live oak. This one is in Mandeville, LA. After getting to New Orleans, we stopped for food at one of our favorites.After getting to New Orleans, we stopped for food at one of our favorites. St. Louis Cathedral in Nola.St. Louis Cathedral in Nola. Andrew and Daddy walk down Pere Antoine Alley beside the cathedral.Andrew and Daddy walk down Pere Antoine Alley beside the cathedral. Jesus is reminding the revellers on Bourbon Street to be careful.Jesus is reminding the revellers on Bourbon Street to be careful. The George Rodrigue studio in the French Quarter.The George Rodrigue studio in the French Quarter. Jazz always aminates from this restaurant along Decatur.Jazz always aminates from this restaurant along Decatur. Joan of Arc guarding the streets of New Orleans.Joan of Arc guarding the streets of New Orleans. New Orleans party available.New Orleans party available. Close-up. Bright lights! Big city! Goin' to my head!Close-up. Bright lights! Big city! Goin' to my head! Jackson Square deep into a very calm night for New Orleans.Jackson Square deep into a very calm night for New Orleans. Andrew draing on his Andrew draing on his "laptop." A live oak in Metairie Cemetery.A live oak in Metairie Cemetery. The streets of the dead in Metairie Cemetery.The streets of the dead in Metairie Cemetery. My favorite driving street in Nola is Canal Street.My favorite driving street in Nola is Canal Street. We actually found parking near the French Market.We actually found parking near the French Market. We shopped for some time at the French Market.We shopped for some time at the French Market. Spanish colonial buildings at the corner of Barraks & French Market.Spanish colonial buildings at the corner of Barraks & French Market. Back to the swamp: Barataria National Preserve, a few miles south of Nola on the West Bank.Back to the swamp: Barataria National Preserve, a few miles south of Nola on the West Bank. While fishing, we found this decomposing turtle carcass.While fishing, we found this decomposing turtle carcass. The Twin Canals in barataria were weedy.The Twin Canals in barataria were weedy. The Twin Canal waters had a reddish tint.The Twin Canal waters had a reddish tint. A racerunner near our fishing hole.A racerunner near our fishing hole. This guy went for a ride along our windshield.This guy went for a ride along our windshield. An anole showing off its flap.An anole showing off its flap. The anole keeps a close eye on the photographer, Jessica.The anole keeps a close eye on the photographer, Jessica. This anole was in the process of changing colors.This anole was in the process of changing colors. Another beautiful woodpecker. This guy was in Louisiana.Another beautiful woodpecker. This guy was in Louisiana. Watch where you sit in Barataria.Watch where you sit in Barataria. A tanager or oriole surveys the Barataria swamp.A tanager or oriole surveys the Barataria swamp. Andrew is looking for the rabbit he saw, but instead found a lizard.Andrew is looking for the rabbit he saw, but instead found a lizard. A panting gator beside Bayou Coquille.A panting gator beside Bayou Coquille. Another gator swimming through the thick duckweed of the bayou.Another gator swimming through the thick duckweed of the bayou. Anole high fashion.Anole high fashion. Everytime we see the waters near Bayou Coquille they look different.Everytime we see the waters near Bayou Coquille they look different. This large green snake was one of many we spotted on our hike.This large green snake was one of many we spotted on our hike. Watch where you step in the Barataria brush.Watch where you step in the Barataria brush. A dragonfly settin' for a spell.A dragonfly settin' for a spell. Boscoyos and weeds in the Barataria swamp.Boscoyos and weeds in the Barataria swamp. Palm fronds worship the beauty of Bayou Coquille.Palm fronds worship the beauty of Bayou Coquille. We saw a few marsh rabbits under the pathways on our hike.We saw a few marsh rabbits under the pathways on our hike. Almost back to the car about four miles later.Almost back to the car about four miles later. The Ross Barnett Reservoir northeast of Jackson, MS.The Ross Barnett Reservoir northeast of Jackson, MS. North of the Reservoir, we hiked along a new favorite spot along the Natchez Trace.North of the Reservoir, we hiked along a new favorite spot along the Natchez Trace. A huge caterpillar at the Cypress Swamp along the Trace.A huge caterpillar at the Cypress Swamp along the Trace. Frogs in the swamp water at the Trace.Frogs in the swamp water at the Trace. Our short hike around the ponds of Cypress Swamp on the Trace.Our short hike around the ponds of Cypress Swamp on the Trace. Cypress stands in a Natchez Trace pond.Cypress stands in a Natchez Trace pond. Andrew's walkin' in Memphis, six feet offa Beale.Andrew's walkin' in Memphis, six feet offa Beale. The northernmost cypress stand in Section 8 Woods near Karnak, Illinois.The northernmost American  cypress stand in Section 8 Woods near Karnak, Illinois. The sun sets on our trip a tad south of Salem, Illinois.The sun sets on our trip a tad south of Salem, Illinois.
 

Photos copyright 2012 by S. Plencner or J. Bezold All other content copyright 2012 by S. Plencner