DeSoto National Memorial is one of my favorite parks so far. The trail was pretty short, but gorgeous. It was a nice day out, which helped, but most of the trail was near the river so you could see the beautiful water, feel the breeze, and look at the surrounding scenery- we spent about an hour touring the grounds.
There is no admission fee. For a few months, the Memorial offers ranger-led kayak tours, and a living history camp. They also offer guided walking tours but were not doing it the day that we came. We were disappointed, but honestly, after walking the trail, we didn't need it. It's always nice to get historical information but the trail was short and sweet, and had plaques along the way for us to read about it instead.
In 1539, Hernando de Soto and his men landed at this spot in Bradenton, FL, where the indigenous people had been living, and they guarded their land fervently. De Soto and his men then explored some more of Florida, Georgia, Alabama, then Louisiana, where he died.
After I stamped my passport book, Chris and I ended up speaking with one of the park rangers who told us some stories about amazing wildlife he's seen here- like alligators, and eagles with prey in their mouths, circling overhead.
Overall, I visited 3 national parks in December before the centennial anniversary of the park system ended. The national parks did so many awesome things with this anniversary that I wish I knew about all of them before the last month of the year...
I still haven't been able to venture out to see others yet, but I WILL reach my goal of visiting all 413 of them!
Have you been to this national memorial before? It's dog friendly, and they even do an annual event for dogs in March!
Recently, one of my friends and her wife embarked on a yearlong journey to travel America in their fifth wheel camper (follow their travels here!) This really got me thinking... how incredible would it be if Chris and I were able to do something similar? (Or if anyone could do this while blogging or earning money in a non-traditional manner with just an internet connection?)
I don't think we could swing a year like they can, but maybe a month, or even a few months!? The biggest factors we're contending with (and probably most people who are working) is being able to take a year off, or even a few months- we would have to quit or take a leave of absence. While I may be able to swing a year of absence as far as being able to return to a job, Chris would probably need to quit his job, and being able to return after a few months to a year, or finding another one will be a tough hurdle to get over. Also, is it likely that we'd be able to save enough money to travel for so long while also leaving a cushion if anything were to happen?
Instead, Chris mentioned that we could strive toward retiring around 50 if we save right and invest properly (which would be hard in and of itself- those are lofty goals when we don't know what challenges life could bring). However, as far as aspirations go, it's definitely a good one to work toward. We will still pursue vacations while working, but those would be our longterm goals.
I still want to do something big travel-wise before having kids at least (still a while away!). We would most likely travel to somewhere in the realm of Ireland/France/Italy. I've been watching a lot of British historical fiction shows (The Crown, Victoria, Downton Abbey) so naturally, I would love to visit England as well!
Right now, though, we're saving up big time for our wedding and honeymoon- which we all know are lofty expenses. On more than one occasion, Chris and I have thought about eloping. However, deep down we both still want a really nice, traditional wedding and are equal parts anxious and excited about the planning and expenses that go along with it. (excited about the day but anxious about everything else...)
I can't wait to do a blog post in the future about our honeymoon plans. We know where we want to go, but are unsure about really anything else while we're there (including how long we'll stay, what exact cities we'll visit, etc).
I would love to know what your travel goals are? Are you saving up for anything big?
Hurricane Matthew came through a few months before we visited Fort Matanzas in December 2016, which caused quite a bit of damage to this park- both beach boardwalks, and the ferry dock at the visitor's center. Unfortunately, because we weren't able to actually get over to the monument, I only have these two pictures.
Also, because of time constraints, we couldn't walk around the national park grounds that were available to us, so no pictures from that either. However, I would definitely recommend going to the park once the ferry service is reopened so you can get to see the entire park grounds. (The ferry service is completely free, and there is no charge for admission!) If you visit and decide to walk around the grounds via their nature trail, make sure you bring bug repellant... I got bit like 10 times just standing around for 5 minutes.
The fort was built to guard St. Augustine's southern river approach, constructed roughly around 1765 and it was neat to see Castillo de San Marcos and then come over to the other side of St. Augustine and learn a bit about this monument as well, since they worked in tandem.
While we were there, we got 2 stamps for our passport book, spoke with the Park Rangers for a bit, and watched their 10 minute video about the park. My biggest takeaway was that 'Matanzas' means slaughters in Spanish. After bringing that up to the Park Ranger, she told me that they have a ton of businesses and things named after it... like Matanzas High School.
Have you ever been to the monument or hiked the trail? What did you think of it?
We arrived in St. Augustine close to noon on a Saturday in December 2016, and our first stop was the visitor's center after parking in the "Historic Downtown Parking Facility." It's $12 per day, so after we figured out what our sightseeing game plan was, we left it there and walked everywhere until we wanted to head over to the hotel at the very end of the night. We were pretty relaxed and flexible on plans, so after parking, we wanted to stop in the visitor’s center and see what our options were. The man we spoke with was very knowledgeable and answered all our questions honestly.
For lunch that day, we chose Harry's Seafood Bar & Grille, which we both thought was pretty great. I got the Jambalaya, and Chris ordered the Blackened Red Fish (I loved his dish better than mine- so delicious). It was a really nice day outside, so we sat in their beautiful patio area.
Afterward, we checked out the Castillo de San Marcos (I wrote a post about it here). It was amazing! We were there when they did one of their cannon and gun reenactments and that was the coolest part of the visit. If you take the time to go through all the ‘rooms,’ you learn a lot and it’s all very interesting. Their gift shop was where I became obsessed with trying to visit all 413 National Park entities with the National Park Passport Program!
We spent a little portion of time walking along St. George street, where we found the Oldest Wooden Schoolhouse. Since I’m a teacher, we both thought it’d be fun to check it out. It wasn’t the best thing we did in St. Augustine, and the ground were pretty small, but it was interesting.
By this time, it was getting close to dinner, so we walked to the hotel, which was about a mile down the road from historic St. Augustine. We took a shower, got dressed up, and headed to The Raintree for dinner, where we each had a Beef Wellington. I know it’s supposed to be served rare-medium, but the medium I got was way more on the rare side for my taste, so I didn’t enjoy it as much, but they have wonderful food!
Ripley’s Red Train tour of the Nights of Lights was our next stop, and it was CROWDED. We probably waited in line for 45 minutes or more. Honestly, I don’t think it was worth the time and effort for $11 per adult since Nights of Lights is so easily walkable. However, it was nice while we were on it- and Ripley’s has a few fun things to do while you’re waiting (though we didn’t do any of them since we didn’t want to lose our spot in line).
Café de Hidalgo was our nightcap (hello gelato!). We had a gelato (and I can’t remember the flavor, but it was amazing) and a café con leche.
We were pretty taxed at this point, so we picked up our car from the parking garage and drove to our hotel. One of the nice things about walking around everywhere previously was that we avoided most of the heavy traffic around the historic district due to the lights and peak hours.
We tried to get an early start the next morning (a Sunday, around 7:30 am), but everything was closed until 9 or 10, so we ate a quick breakfast at the hotel, packed up, and headed out around 8:30 to visit Fort Matanzas (post about that coming soon!).
Unfortunately, due to Hurricane Matthew a few months prior, the actual Fort was closed (which you have to take a ferry to). However, we could walk around the acreage that you have to enter through to get to the ferry shuttle, which still belongs to the park service. We took pictures of the Fort from the dock and watched a video about the Fort. We wanted to hike around their site but I wasn’t properly dressed, there were thousands of mosquitos, and there were places we still wanted to visit.
The Colonial Quarter was next, and we had a great time, mostly because our tour guide, Ellie, was fantastic and reminded me of one of my best friends. There was a lot to learn and I was honestly really intrigued by the information shared on our tour and by the things that were demonstrated (flint lock pistol and blacksmithing) definitely worth a stop in!
After our small hotel breakfast, we really wanted a nice lunch, so we went to the Cafe Alcazar, located in the Lightner museum, where the biggest indoor pool used to be. It had a very cool vibe, and the food was great (fruit an cheese platter, and sandwiches)- I would eat there again!
One of Chris’ biggest requests was to check out the St. Augustine Distillery, so there we went… and we had a blast! We took the free tour to see what they do behind the scenes. Again, we had a fantastic tour guide who was extremely knowledgeable and made killer drinks for everyone to sample. This tour was a highlight of our trip!
We knew we needed to leave soon, so we spent about an hour browsing shops along St. George street where we found a couple great Christmas gifts, and stopped in the Hyppo ice pops place- Chris had the Cucumber Lemon Mint pop and I had the Watermelon Hibiscus pop- both were on point! (p.s. you can order some online)
Overall, it was an amazing time! I wish we had one more day, because we wanted to do the Lightner museum and the Spanish Military Hospital museum (and another day would've given us some more time to browse shops along St. George street).
Have you been to St. Augustine? What was your favorite part of your trip?
I absolutely love this national monument. I've been here a few times before (while growing up, and about 5 years prior) but this trip was the best one. Chris and I walked through every inch of the fort and read and watched all the information available- it's fascinating. The massive fort was built to protect the city of St. Augustine, sitting alongside the gorgeous Matanzas river. The original construction started in 1672, finishing in 1695.
There are all sorts of rooms to go into once inside the fort, including a very tiny storage room that you have to literally crawl to get inside. It's lit, but still dark, damp, and creepy. You can almost feel the weight of the heavy coquina construction above you. My favorite part was the live demonstration they did with the cannon and period-guns. They do the reinactment a few times a day (on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays) with a few park volunteers in super hot, wool costumes, and a park ranger who gives great background information.
Admission is $10 per adult (anyone over 16), but the reciept is good for a few days, so you can come back another day if you missed anything. We were there for about 2 hours total. I would definitely recommend visiting the fort while you're in St. Augustine. It's right next to the beautiful, clear-blue water.
The gift shop inside is where I found out about the passport program and was instantly excited by the idea of it. I bought a collector's edition passport, stamped about 6 stamps in my book from this location alone because they had some fun, extra stamps (usually parks only have one- two for 2016 because it's the centenial year) and then had the dream of visiting all 413 entities of the National Park system.
Blog posts from 2014-2015 were transferred from my original blog on blogger, Oshiro Design, to my updated website, oshirodesigns.com