High bluffs and scenic views! Torreya State Park~

Four months after the 2020 pandemic “shut down”, we visited Torreya State Park. Located about 65miles from home, this park is accessible off Interstate-10 and FL state route 12, both of which we had driven multiple weekends on our way to track meets and tennis tournaments mostly in Tallahassee. I had been told the park had trails of varying difficulty and high bluffs for scenic views of the Apalachicola River. With no tennis tournaments or track meets happening due to the “lock down”, one Saturday morning, we decided to go for hike at Torreya state park with our family friends, the Dunlaps. Park entranceBesties ready to goHiking crew of 14! Torreya state park is approximately 13,700 acres big located north of S.R. 12 overlooking the Apalachicola River, 13 miles north of Bristol in Northwest Florida. The park is named after an extremely rare species of the Torreya tree which grows only on the bluffs over the Apalachicola river. The park was developed by the Civilian Conservation Corp in 1930s. It is a National natural landmark and historic site with the Gregory House which was built in 1849 overlooking the river. During the period of the Civil War about 200 Confederate soldiers called these high bluffs home for about two years. At the time of our visit, the Gregory House was closed but as of May 6, 2021, it is open to daily tours at 10am on weekdays and 10am and 2pm on weekends and state holidays. It is limited to 8 persons at a time and physical distancing is required between households. For more about the historical significance of the Gregory House click here. The Gregory House The park is open from 8am to sunset and the entrance fee is $3 per vehicle. It is very popular for camping, kayaking, birdwatching, and picnicking. There are campgrounds for tents and RVs but also yurt camping and cabins are available on site. After hurricane Michael, the landscape of the park has changed. There are fallen tree trunks and felled wood along the…

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A walk in Conservation Park

This year, spring break was anything but ordinary. Without any concrete travel plans, we defaulted to a "staycation" where we visited different sites and establishments in our hometown. With Panama City Beach being a top beach destination, we have always found a lot of options to recreate and entertain closer to home. I was therefore not surprised to find TripAdvisor named Panama City Beach as the No.2 “Emerging Destination” in the world as its Travelers Choice 2021 Best of the Best Awards. Naturally, most tourists come for the emerald-green water on the sugar white sand beaches but not to be forgotten are nearby state parks which provide a wonderful break for an early or late afternoon walk or bike ride away from the crowds. One of my favorite of these is the Panama City Beach Conservation Park. This park is perfect for cyclists, nature lovers, bird watchers and trail seekers with over 24miles of trails on 2900acres. With 12 different trails as short as 0.6miles and as long as 11miles, it provides a family friendly option to accommodate physical activity for all ages including furry family members 😊. Located off Panama City Beach Parkway also known as Back Beach Road, is easily accessible to tourists and locals. There is no entrance fee at the park and there is ample parking on arrival at the visitor’s center. The visitors center is located at the southeast corner of the park and has public restroom facilities, garbage disposal and drinking water station. It does not have attendants, but the park rangers and staff are available and often seen maintaining the grounds. There are maps available at drop boxes and a larger map on the wall with pictures which tell the history of the park. Conservation Park was established by the city of Panama City Beach in cooperation with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. Made up of mostly pine tree and cypress domes, it was founded with the dual purpose of protecting and balancing the natural resources while providing outdoor recreational opportunities. In…

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closer to home: Amicalola falls state park

Dawsonville, Georgia Sometimes you need to get out and take a hike. This has been truer since the dawn of the pandemic when physical distancing is advised and travel is restricted. This was the sentiment when the kids are out of school for the holidays and staying indoors all day every day is not recommended. Even though it is winter and there may be colder and rainy days in the Southern USA, there could not have been a better day during the holidays to take a hike in the North Georgia mountains, the day after Christmas, Boxing day. We drove up with the kids to Dahlonega, Georgia for a four-day break. On the days leading up to our trip, our five-year-old son kept praying for snow, asking “Mama, will there be snow in the mountains?”, “I hope we get snow for Christmas.”.  Living in Florida, the kids do not have memories of snowy winters unless we travel north which we have done a few times. Baby's first snow/Making "snowsicles "! It was Christmas eve when the first flurries graced the outdoor deck in the backyard of the VRBO cottage we rented for the break. The kids excitedly ran out to feel the flurries which were more like big wet dewdrops which melted on contact with their warm hands and faces. However, come Christmas morning, those dewdrops had consolidated into about a half inch of snow. Just enough snow to see the edges of the dark brown fallen leaves of the poplar trees on the ground peeking through, just enough to dust the pavements and some parts of the street with frost and cold enough to turn icy. It was Christmas morning when we stepped outside and took those “white Christmas” photos for the day got warmer and most of the snow melted with the afternoon sun. The next day, we were not returning gifts as is suggested by “Boxing day”, we were heading out for a hike at the nearest state park, a 20minute drive from our Dahlonega cottage. We…

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