At the north west end of Florida’s forgotten cost is the 20 mile long St. Joseph Penniscla. From Port St. Joe, travel south then turn right on to a 5 mile cause way at Cape Sand Blast that takes you to the penniscla that turns sharply 90* back north. Where the causeway meets the penniscla, it is only a few yards wide. Just enough room for two lanes of traffic. With the sea threating to make an island out of the pennisclea, the DOT has added huge boulders at the turn and at high tied the waves crash into them. You wont find any high rise condos here like at other beaches. There is not even a hotel. Maybe around 100 homes, one gas station with a store and one icecream shop that serves sandwiches. No restrants, No Bars, No nothing. Just the way we like it. The state park takes up half of the Penniscla. The first three miles house a public beach, a boat ramp into the bay and a campground. The last seven miles are left to nature with one primitive sand road down the center. Closed to auto traffic. The park boast of the tallest sand dunes in the state.

Growing up we would visit Panama City Beach Florida every year. I didn’t know there were other beach for a long  time or that there were roads that could take you there. PCB was the default beach for most people in north Georgia. It was the closest and was cheap. Back then it was local mom and pop, small two story hotels with maybe a small pool. My favorite place to stay was the Page Motel. It was an old two store cheap place but it was right on the beach. We would walk from the living room out the sliding glass door and be on the beach. This was before anyone was building dunes, installing fencing to catch sand or building board walks. The unit had a kitchen, living room and two bed rooms. A lot of times two families would share one unit. Adults would get the beds and kids on the floor. We didn’t care.

The Page is where my younger cousin “only drowned once”. We were swimming in the pool and Jody was around three or four. We had been diving, swimming under water, through in a coin and dive down and get it. Remember there was no pool toys back then. If they were we did not have them. So we made our own. One thing we did have that you wont find at any hotel pool today is a diving board. After a good time swimming we went back in the room and dad asked if we had fun swimming. That is when Jody said he “only drowned once”, meaning he had only went under water once. We all got a big kick out of that.

PCB had a water slide, not a water park with hundreds of different slides and pools and stuff like it has now at Ship Werck Island. This was just maybe two slides. One tall one and one not so tall. The teenagers got to do those, I may have done it once. PCB also had a amusement park called The Miracle Strip. It was more on the lines of a carnival. It did have a wooden roller coaster, a faris wheel, bumper cars, swings, old timie cars, a train, haunted house a lot of the rides you see at carnival and the mid way games too. The ride that got my attention was the one I now know as the himalayon, it is where you are sitting in cars on this big disk and it spins around and around very, very fast going up and down while playing loud rock n roll muice. Well this one was housed in a big iglue with a huge abonable snowman standing over the entry. Very intemadaing for young boy. The other cool thing PBC had was Alvens Island. This was a beach wear, gift, t-shirt supper store inside a volcano. The interior looked like a cave. They had a alligator pit, and you entered through a great white sharks mouth. A must see and still there today.

One trip to PBC was with a large group, as always. In our  ford LTD on the way down was dad driving, mom in the passager set, Tammy my sister in the rear and her friend and cousin Kinda on the other side. Also in the car was my friend and cousin Chris in between them and I was riding on the arm rest between mom and dad, called the hump. Chris was a year or two older than me and we were between the ages of 5 and 7. Chris was a talker and about half way down on our 6 hour plus drive, Kinda offered him five dollars to not say another word till we got to the beach. Well Chris would stay quite for a while and then he would say something. He would want the money and would promise not to talk so Kenda offered him four dollars. This went on until he was down to his last dollar. He stayed quite for a long, long time, until at last he said “you can keep you money, I wished I had talked way before now”. It was on this same trip that we were all at the Miracle Strip, Chris and I were riding on the train. Two teenage girls sitting behind us said hey Chris remember me. Well of course not. We had never seen them before in our lives. They told us that they were his kindergarten teacher. To a 6 year old they looked old enough. They were having fun with him. We knew we did not know them but how did they know Chris’s name? Well by the time the trail pulled in to the station they told us they had read his name off the back of his air brushed shirt and made up the story.

The only time I ever road in a hellocopter was at PCB. This trip it was just me, mom and dad. Dad and I took a hellocopter tour down the beach in one that has the big glass bubble around the cockpit and no doors. Yea that is the one. Being little I was between the pilot and dad. We were half way down the beach, flying along, everything going good when the pilot asked me if I wanted to go on the roller coaster . I remember very distantly saying NO. He didn’t take no for a answer, We went on a roller coaster ride. Strait down to the ocean, strait up to the sky, back to the ocean, back to the sky. We did that three or four more times. Mean while back at the helipad where mom is waiting, a little boy runs up and says that “they went down”. I am surprised mom didn’t have a hart attack right then. She thought it was us. In fact it was the paraselers being pulled by a boat. I am sure it was normal operations for them. But mom didn’t know that at the time.

We had a lot of fun over the years at BPC. I knew it like I lived there my whole live.   More and more condos were built. All the little hotels sold out. We started staying in high rises where it took a lot of effort to get to the beach. You have to walk to the elevator, wait forever on it to get to your floor, it then stops on every floor on the way down, then you have to walk through the pool area to the board walk and finally get to the beach 10 or 15 minutes latter. It soon became the spring break capitol of the world. When Wyatt and Sarah were very young we were staying at a hotel that allowed a church group play loud muisce till midnight in the pool area that our room over looked. None off us could sleep. I complained several times to the front desk but got no satisfaction. That is when we decided we would not be going back to PBC on vacation. However we have going to ship Werck Island and other places there while staying at St. Joseph.

Going to St. Joseph adds another 45 minutes to the PCB trip but it is well worth it. From PCB you go south east down the coast. Most of the trip is the 17 miles through the Kendale Air Force Base. Then the beach community of Mexico Beach. There are a few small hotels and beach homes. Next is Port St. Joe. More of a fishing town because it is on the bay created by St. Joseph Pennicial. A few hotels and small restraint. There is one fast food restraint and grocery store. These is were we do out shopping when staying at the park. Further south down the coast is Apalatchacola, Apalatchacola bay and St. George Island. All the water from Atlanta ends up in Apalatchacola bay via the Chataloochee river, Atlanta’s river.

We have camped at St. Joseph at least four times. The kids have grownup going there and know it well. When they were younger it was easy to keep them entertained with the beach and ocean. As they have gotten older they want more things to do. Wendy and I are beach bums and love to site and just watch the waves role in. We would build sand casels, throw a football or baseball, play with frisbys, fly kits, feed the sea birds, catch crabs and play in the waves. The lay out of the beach is first the privet homes before the park, then the public beach, then the beach for the first campground and finally the beach for the second campground over a three mile span. This makes the beach not  crowded at all. It’s hard to count more than 80 people in eye sight. So there is plenty of room to spread out. The first campground is open with no trees and is just a little closer to the beach. The other campground is very wooded and has a boardwalk leading to the beach. We have stayed in both areas. I think I like the wooded lots better, they offer a little more privatsy. The campgrounds have very nice bathhouses with hot water for showers. We have a shower in the camper but it is easier to go to the bathhouse. Taking showers for a week in the camper with four people would fill the grey water tanks on the camper. Some Campgrounds have swear connections at each site and there is not a problem with taking a lot of showers.

The first year we were there Wyatt and I took the kayak out into the bay. We tried fishing but ended up collecting shells, clams, crabs and scalps. The bay is around waist deep for a long way out and full of sea weed. This was the first time we had caught live craps and scalps.

Wendy’s mother, Hellen spent some time with us on one trip. Another trip Wyatt took his buddy Jona and Sarah took her friend Mikenzy with her for the week. They were between the ages of 12 and 15. As a side note we had a flat on the trip down and the under pinning of the camper started to come off. If you have read more of my post you know these things happen to me. I used straps to hold the underpinning in place. Once at the campground I went back to town and bought a drill and some self-tapping screws. I reattached the underpinning and it is still holding today. Wendy drove the Thaho with the girls and the guys were in the truck pulling the camper. The six of us had a lot of fun. The kids had their bikes and were able to come and go on their own. We spent a lot of time on the beach and in the ocean. We got them mask and snorkels. They explored the bay side of the park. We caught all kinds of sea creatures. We did do a few day trips and one was to a spring that is a state park. It was about an hour or so south east. A very nice place. Once was a private hotel on the site.  1930 . The park runs the hotel now. I was hoping to ride the glass bottom boats like they have at Silver Springs.  But the water quality was poor and the boats were not running.  Here comes the side note. I have been to Silver Springs three or four times. All but once was when I was young.  I remember going with mom, dad, Emily, Turrl and Brandon.  We went on lots of trips together.  We stayed in a hotel outside the park and I remember swimming in the pool.   once with Wendy,  Wyatt and Sarah.  Sarah was just a baby.  That was a fun trip. Silver springs was our first stop. We did it all. The glass bottom boats the petting zoo and gardens. It is a very nice park. We then went to another spring called Juniper Spring. A state park. It had a nice big pool to swim in where the water springs up. The water is very cold. We walked a little was down the creek that was formed by the spring.  This is where Wyatt got into “quick sand” it was where more water was bubbling up and the sand looked as if it was bolling. He sunk down a little.  This same trip we to Bush Gardens. Back to the Spring at St joe. This water was cold too. There is a real big swimming area where the water spring up and create a river. Like Silver Springs.  They have two docks you can swim out to and jump off that are just a foot or two out of the water. All the kids hang out there. Then there is this three story tower that you can jump off. Me and the boys did it at least once. We all took the jungle boat ride and got to see a lot of wildlife up and down the river.  We ate dinner at the hotel in there super nice dinning room. The kids had fun.

Cramping on the beach. I brought my backpack with all my gear with plans to hike the seven miles to the tip of the island.  I headed out in the late afternoon first on my bike. I rode it to the last board walk on the beach and left it there. I hiked on the hard packed sand of the surf just out of reach of the waves. I had only sandals on. I didn’t know it at the time but that was a big mistake.  I passed a few beach goers who were packing up to go in for the night.  The futhur I went the more man made trash there was. Little pieces of plastic,  ropes,  flotation equipment and you name it.  It started to get dark and I had not made it to the tip. I need to find a place to hang my Enos Hamrick. It took a little doing but I found a spot on top of a sand dune that had some small pine trees with a view of the sea. I did have to scavage some rope from the beach to rig up my tarp. I made a small fire and had a frieze dried dinner.  I was really hoping to see a sea turtles come to shore and lay her eggs. They had been nesting all up and down the beach.  Volunteers checked the beach each morning and documented each new nest. They dig up the eggs and count them.  Then the eggs are buried and the nest is marked with a wire mesh to keep predators out and wood stacks to mark the corners.  The date is written on the stacks. There are dossens of nest that I pass. I checked the beach during the night but not turtles.  I did see a dune fox though.  The moon was full and the sea was calm. I made a lot of good photos. The next morning after packing up I explored the sand dunes. From the ocean to the tree line of tall Pines, the dunes extend inland about 300 yards.  It is a very different landscape that I had experienced before. I didn’t make it to the tip,  I came across a four wheeler trail and thinking this would be a good way to cross over to the other side of the pennisclea, I took it. I made it to the bay side by following the trail.  There is no way to walk in the woods here. The undergrowth is way to thick.  A lot of small palms. The bay side wasn’t that fun of a walk. The “beach” was only a few feet wide and on a steep slop.  I walked several miles and decided if I could I would take the next trail to the interor.  The bay side was not a straight line like the ocean side, it had a bump out into the bay. This would have added to the total distant I would have traveled so I wanted to avoid it.  My chance came and I took it.  I would regret wearing sandes to hike in on sand. At first the road out was hard packed but the last mile or so was very loss dry sand. My ankles rolled with each step.  It was about noon. There was no fresh water to filter so I packed all my water in with me. I was about out and it was getting hot. I made it back to my bike for a successful trip.

The kids had seen a vollyball net on the drive in. It was nearly on the mainland a out 10 miles from the camp. With out a since of distance,  they headed out on their bikes to play. They got to the icream shop before stopping.  Lucky that they had a few dollars they were able to buy some drinks.  Even more luckily they were spotted by Wendy on her way back from the laundry mat in town.  She stopped at the store and bough them icream and drinks.  Then gave them a ride back.

Lots of fun at St. Joseph Penniscla.  I am afraid that it to is starting to get developed.

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