Today was… Eventful to say the least.
It started out perfectly normal, though! First we went on a hike in the Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge, then another hike at the Gulf State Park. Then I took a nap. When I woke up, the beach was being evacuated and now we’re all quarantined in our hotel rooms.
Here’s a little more on that:
Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge
If you’ve been reading this blog for awhile, then you know that my favorite way to get to know a place is by hiking. That, and the fact that I love spotting native plants and animals in the wild!
To start off our day of hiking in Gulf Shores, we decided on the Bon Secour Wildlife Refuge because it had “wildlife” right there in the title.
Bon Secour is a little bit out of the way, it’s at the westernmost end of Alabama’s Gulf Coast, and so it’ll take a half hour to get there by car. Despite the drive, there’s a nice visitor’s center with workers who can identify any wildlife you saw or recommend a good trail for you. When we visited, the girl working there recommended the Pine Beach trail for us because it is only 3 miles long and passes through 4 different types of ecosystems.
Once we got to the trailhead, we parked under an oak tree covered with Spanish moss and were off!
The first ecosystem we passed through was the pine forest. Lots of palmettos and short trees line the ground, while the tall, willowy pines rise several meters into the sky. There are a lot of trail markers identifying the different types of plants around you, which always makes a hike more engaging, plus it intrigues the biologist in me 🙂
The next ecosystem is the bog… I think that’s what it’s called. You can see the shallow, stagnant water on either side of you from the trail, and supposedly, it’s a popular place to spot alligators! We didn’t see any, but I do know that they’re good at hiding.
Between the bogs and the next ecosystem, the lagoon and lake, is a lookout tower with shade and benches overlooking the water, and we rested here both on the way down and on the way back. At this point in our hike, the sun came out from behind the clouds and added to the already humid Alabama heat, so it provided an “hallelujah!” moment both of the times we passed it!
The lagoon, Little Lagoon, was particularly full of birds as we walked along its shore, and we saw quite a few species I couldn’t identify. Does anyone know the name of a brown duck that’s white in the middle?
The lake is called Gator Lake, and although we looked realllllly closely, the only gator we managed to spot was a Blue Crab, and it wasn’t actually a gator either, it was a crab.
The final ecosystem that we hiked through was a sand dunes ecosystem. I was so excited to see this type of landscape because they’re so important to the biodiversity of Gulf Shores, and land development along the coastline has destroyed a lot of them. It’s beautiful too! The dunes rise and fall and random, and are dotted with patches of grass, thickets, and moss, as well as little holes that tease the imagination with what could possibly live in them. My guess is crabs or mice 😀
Let me tell you though, hiking on the sand dunes is HARD. Sand is not the ideal walking trail material, and I swear that the way there and the way back both felt like walking uphill.
You win, sand. Take your medal and go.
For more info on Bon Secour’s trails and hours of operation, click here!
Gulf State Park
By the time we’d piled back into the car and were driving back to our hotel, the sun had once again dipped behind the clouds, and we couldn’t resist the allure of another hike, especially since the Gulf State Park is conveniently located right on the main strip.
Gulf State park is right across the street from the fishing pier, and has a ton of scenic trails to hike both through the forest and over the brackish lakes that surround Gulf Shores. We hiked part of the Shelby Lake Loop trail. The main draw of the Shelby Lake Loop is it’s view of Shelby lake, but we found the real showstopper to be the Bald Eagle nest, which is easily visible from the built-in observation area.
While we were there, I saw the two baby eagles (eaglets, I think) waiting for their parents to bring back dinner! The built-in binoculars on the deck make them even easier to spot.
(no pic of eagles yet, will post it when I can!)
For more info on the Gulf State Park’s trails and hours of operation, click here!
A Nap, and then a Rude Awakening
After getting back, it was about 2pm and we were WIPED. We came back to the hotel and I passed out.
When I woke up, I was just in time to hear some undesirable news- all restaurants and most other businesses in Gulf Shores were closing down to limit the spread of the Coronavirus. Worried about food, my mom and I ran to the store and bought all the groceries we’d need for our remaining 2 days in Gulf Shores.
Then things got a little worse.
As we got back, we got word that the state of Alabama was closing public access to all of its beaches. All of ‘em. We watched from the balcony as police trucks, jeeps, and 4-wheelers combed the beach, lights and sirens blaring, while telling people to: “Evacuate the beach immediately!” through their megaphones. If anyone lingered in the ocean for too long, the police got out of their cars and confronted them directly. It was just… so unsettling.
Now, as I’m typing this, still watching from the balcony, a handyman is locking the gate that leads from the hotel pool to the beach, making sure we don’t try and sneak out. I realize now that we are being quarantined. Although I’m sad that we can’t go down to the water anymore, I’m grateful to have this beautiful view, and that I can still hear the red-flag level waves crash against the shore.
Covid-19, you also win this round.
I wonder what tomorrow will be like, but you know you’ll hear all about it here, so see you back on the ol’ blog soon. (hopefully 🙂 )
Love you guys,