What would you say if we told you we found a rare bird in our travels? Okay, it wasn’t actually a bird but it certainly was a rare siting for us. There was an airshow in Brunswick, GA which just happened to be near where we play pickleball. So we not only played pickleball, avoided the viewing crowds (about 38,000 people), and saw an amazing Blue Angels airshow. There were about 12-16 people playing pickleball but every time the planes flew overhead, the games came to a complete stop for everyone to watch the show. At times we had to cover our ears because of the loud noise. This airshow has been the highlight of our trip. We don’t think we can top this. I was even happy with the pictures I took.
We visited Jekyll Island last year on our way to Florida but there is always something different to see so we opted to go back to this island. It is not a large island (7 miles long by 1.5 miles wide and has 8 miles of beaches. We went to Driftwood Beach which was a really unique looking beach to walk on and it is described as “beautiful driftwood and trees that resemble a tree graveyard.” Looking down the beach all you can see is dead trees.
As we walked along, we were able to imagine different animals in the driftwood.
We revisited St. Simon’s Island since Sharon had never been there before. The beach has a great shape which unfortunately doesn’t show in the pictures. But is is not a straight beach like we are used to.
Another location to check off our list is Fort King George State Historic Site. This site is less than 10 miles from us in Darien. It dates back to the Guale Indians in the 1500s and in 1721 Colonel John Barnwell brought a group of scouts and slaves to build Fort King George. In 1736 Oglethorpe brought over 177 Scottish highlanders to settle the town of Darien. As with other forts there was a blockhouse, officers’ barracks, guardhouse, blacksmith shop and more. The grounds were nice to walk around and view the buildings as well as wildlife.
Other than walking and bike riding our biggest activity is playing pickleball. There is a group that plays on Tuesday evenings in Darien and one in Brunswick about 25 minutes away. We have enjoyed meeting people down here and even talked with someone who had a cousin in Plympton, MA. It’s certainly a small world. Our friend, Sharon who was visiting in Florida came up to enjoy our house and play pickleball as well.
This wildlife refuge is a great place for nesting and wildlife habitat. We have visited this place twice and have not been disappointed. The down side is pets aren’t allowed so Shelby gets to stay home on these visits. The wood storks nest in a large colony on a pond and are quite fascinating to see.
Every trip I like to see something I haven’t seen before. This trip I wanted to see an armadillo. As I was busy taking pictures of turtles and alligators, John saw an armadillo on the other side. He didn’t really want to turn around for us, but I can at least cross that off my list. The one thing left on this trip I want to find is a painted bunting. From the pictures I have seen, these are very colorful birds so with any luck we will find one later.
Driving through this refuge is nice and very peaceful. This is not a crowded place and the fields, wetlands and hardwood/pine forest are great. There are 2,824 acres.
We had a nice visit with Pat Connell and Art Quinn who visited for a couple days. We got to try out a local restaurant Skippers Fish Camp in Darien. The food was great. We had fried shrimp and scallops and thoroughly enjoyed them. We decided not to try the alligator tail. Wasn’t something we felt the need to taste.
There was an 11 foot stuffed alligator on the wall of the restaurant. He certainly was big. One of the neighbors told us they had an 8.5 foot alligator taken out of the pond near their house. They now have another one that is 9 feet long. Glad we’re not near a pond.
On our daily walk we found what we think are fiddler crabs. Tough to get a good picture of them but when we walk by they scurry towards the land. Funny to watch.
Our neighbors invited us to dinner last night along with two other couples. They are from Pennsylvania and leaving on Saturday. We had a great evening with them and certainly appreciated being invited over.
And last but not least, here is Shelby in one of his typical poses.
Visiting the islands on the coast of Georgia is great fun. Each island has its own uniqueness. We visited St. Simon’s Island on a beautiful sunny day. It is a 17.7 square mile island and is a busy seaside resort as well as residential community. The owner of the house we are staying at lives on St. Simon’s. He says it is way too crowded for his liking. We spent a few hours on the island visiting the St. Simon’s Lighthouse and the beach on one end of the island and Fort Frederica on the other end. We found the architecture quite beautiful.
We watched dolphins playing in the water off the pier while birds flew over our heads.
Fort Frederica is a military town on the Colonial Georgia frontier. This fort has ruins from the 1700s. There were many foundations depicting where the families lived including the pub owner, cook, candlemaker, the barracks, church and more. Interestingly, there were 84 lots and the house lots were about 60×90 feet. I think I would need a little bigger house than that.
We have been having nice weather and as long as you can stand the biting flies things are great. I think these are even worse than black flies because they are smaller and there are 10 times more of them. But around here you just put on bug spray and continue on with your activities.
Sapelo Island is a state-protected barrier island that you can only access by ferry. We took a 4-hour tour over to the island on a beautiful Saturday morning. The ferry is only about 30 minutes. The population of this island is less than 70, many of whom are descendants of slaves who worked on Sapelo plantations. You aren’t able to bring cars or bikes over but you can rent golf carts and bikes once you get there. We took the bus tour which was perfect. The hurricane in October did quite a job with taking down trees. It left devastation thoughout the island that they are still trying to recover from. Our neighbor felt that because Sapelo Island took the brunt of the hurricane, it prevented the island we are staying on (Seabreeze Island) from getting hit.
I was able to add another lighthouse to my list of lighthouse viewings. The Sapelo Island Light Station was built in 1820. We were able to climb up the 77 stairs to the top of the lighthouse for a nice view.
We went by the Reynolds Mansion previously own by tobacco heir Richard Reynolds. We weren’t able to get out and tour the mansion as the tours are only on Wednesdays. Last stop was the beach. It was a nice clean beach with lots of shells on it–which, of course, we needed to take a few samples home.
This was a short tour but just enough time to see the island and enjoy its rich history.
Each night looking from our deck we get different colored sunsets. We never know what they will look like but each one is special and we enjoy them all.
After two and a half days driving, we arrived in Darien, Georgia on Monday, February 27th. I have decided we have a love-hate relationship with our GPS. GPS’s can be great but they can also cause you to go in directions you didn’t want to go. We mistakenly listened to the GPS and took the George Washington Bridge in New York. That was a big mistake. Took us over an hour plus in very heavy traffic. At least 3-4 other times, the GPS told us to get off the highway at a certain exit. Now luckily I also have a map in front of me and know it is not the direction we should be going. So ignoring these directions, we notice that while the GPS wanted us to get off the highway it also chose to bring us right back on the highway 100 feet down the road. What’s up with that?
The weather for our first week has been quite hot (85) and humid (93% humidity). But by today (Friday) it has cooled down to 60s with low humidity and is quite pleasant. (Especially when we watch the weather in Maine.)
The house we have rented for the month of March is just beautiful. There are three outdoor decks so for happy hour we go from deck to deck depending on the wind and the sun. It doesn’t get any better than that. We’re certainly getting our exercise as there are stairs going into the house, off the deck and up to the bedroom. Here’s some pictures of the house.
There is a widow’s walk at the very top that you can also go up to sit. (See first picture of view from Widow’s Walk.) The biting flies (midges or no-see-ums) are quite prevalent especially up there, so we don’t stay very long.
We have done a little sightseeing and stopped in to see The Smallest Church in America in Darien. It was built in 1949 but burned in 2015 and was rebuilt. It holds about 12 people inside and is 190 SF.
Today we went for a hike at Crooked River State Park. It was a very clean park and the trails were very nice although as we found in Florida, there is not much elevation gain on hikes in Georgia. We wonder what people that hike in Florida and Georgia think when they try hiking in Maine.
It is the time of year when we get to start camping again. Cold weather merges to cool and then to warm weather, bugs come out in force (not so good) and hiking is at its best. Our first camping trip of the year was a two-night stay at Recompence Campground in Freeport, Maine. The weather was a little rainy but with the company of the Barkers and Daileys we had a good first trip out.
The second camping trip of the season took us to Lamoine State Park. This is a great 55-acre park away from the crowds of Mount Desert Island yet close enough to do day hikes while returning to the campground at night.
We found a nice hike called Beech Mountain Trail and Firetower. At 839 feet this has many great views on the way up overlooking Echo Lake and the southwestern part of Mount Desert Island. The firetower is now closed but you can walk up a few stairs to see some views. Of course even if you don’t walk up the stairs, the view is incredible.
This trail is only 1.2 miles roundtrip but certainly has a lot of “bang for the buck”.
Back at our campsite, we celebrated John’s birthday with friends Marian and Genie. A nice appetizer to start things off and then a steak on the grill and some Grand Marnier to finish off the evening.
This was the first time we had a view of the water while camping at Lamoine. These sites are usually all filled up. We enjoyed our time and the weather was absolutely perfect.
Well our time here is coming to a close. This will be my last post on our trip to Florida. We have enjoyed the two months we spent living at The Villages and visiting surrounding areas. As with all places you visit, you always learn something. Listed below is what we learned:
Overheard in The Villages:
He said: “I am under the Frog Plan here in The Villages.”
She said: “What is the Frog Plan?”
He said: “I’m here until I croak.”
Pelicans, cranes, cardinals, ospreys, bald eagles, alligators and “people over 60” are very commonplace.
Shelby takes a while but can adapt to new locations and especially learn to play with other dogs in the dog park.
Ticks are just as plentiful in Florida as in Maine. (I got about 6 tick bites and John got none. The ticks are so tiny and look just like my freckles so it is difficult to always find them.)
The Villages is like living “Under the Dome.” Everything is perfect in this planned community. Everyday is like Groundhog Day. Or as they say in Seinfeld, we are in Del Boca Vista Phase II. (John)
If you are bored here it is your own fault. There are so many activities to choose from. But you have to want to join.
We got to photograph Thelma and Louise. Okay it was really Sharon Slavin and Sharon Krawczyk but don’t tell them they’re not Thelma and Louise.
There are 630 holes of golf here so if you are a golfer this is the place for you. The 9-hole courses are all free and you pay a small fee for the 18-hole courses. (We are not golfers.)
If you find a hill or steep area, you are not in Florida. We will have a hard time trying to hike in Maine after the flatness of this area.
Half Moon Wlldlife Recreation Area
According to the billboards, “It is always a beautiful day in The Villages.”
Having 70-80 degree temperatures sure beats getting snow in March and April.
We did not find anyone we talked to here that did not like living in The Villages.
So you are probably wondering if we are ready to move here?
John:No! I’m too young to be here and it’s too busy.
Cheryl: I’d love it. Having so many choices of activities is right up my alley.
Hope you have enjoyed our posts over the last two months.
The past few days we had the opportunity to visit friends who have recently moved to Florida.
It hasn’t rained much during our stay in Florida. When it has rained, it has been a few drops here or there. So in making plans for dinner we opted for a restaurant in The Villages called Lighthouse Point. It is right on the water and you can sit outside and have a nice dinner. Naturally the night we picked to have dinner with Steven and Patti McNally it poured more than we have seen in two months. So we ended up eating inside but it was a nice dinner and we enjoyed spending time with friends. A few days later we also went to see their new home and had a tour of the SummerGlen Retirement Community. After seeing their beautiful home, we’re ready to move right in!
Our next visit was with Gail and Frank Catani. They also have a very elegant home with a beautiful lanai and pool. We had a nice lunch while enjoying the view and the company. Shelby enjoyed chasing a thermometer that had an alligator at the top. Luckily he didn’t jump in as he doesn’t like to swim. Again after this visit, we were ready to move right in. I’m guessing they weren’t looking for boarders in their home, however.