Have you ever wanted to sell everything you own and just "take off?" Travel the country's back roads, paddle down a meandering stream, experience breath-taking mountain views, walk among 100-year old trees, and just marvel at America's beauty? That is the dream that my partner, Betsy, and I decided to make a reality. This blog describes our adventure. The food we eat, people we meet, sights we see, and the enjoyment we find in traveling.

Monday, December 9, 2013

A Longleaf Stroll

There are so many reasons we love camping at Grayton Beach State Park, one of which is the plethora of hiking trails right at our doorstep.  The state park abuts a state forest so the amount of undeveloped public land is plentiful and has been an awesome place for the three of us to explore.  Miles and miles of trails and fire breaks mean we can walk for hours and often never see anyone else.  Spirit's in heaven!

I usually have time to enjoy one cup of coffee in the early morning before the nagging of a two-year old lab eager to start her day comes calling.  Spirit does not recognize the need one has for a leisurely morning lounging around with coffee and catching up on the news that happened overnight.  Nope, she is anxious to head out the door and begin her day (which means we are involved by default).  Heading to the trail head puts a little swagger in her step and a steady wag in the tail. Not that I am the Dog Whisperer, but I think she relishes these early morning walks.

Interpretive panels are a great
way for visitors to learn about the forest.
The trails wind through thousands of acres of longleaf pine forests – one of the most endangered ecosystems in the country.  An astounding 97% of the longleaf pine communities in the United States have disappeared.  What once dominated the southern landscape and consumed a vast 90 million acres is now confined to small pockets sparsely dotting its former range.

Decline of this once prominent ecosystem has been slow and steady, yet certainly a sad testament to our destruction and neglect for one of the most unique American forests.  Diseases brought by European explorers took an early toll.  Later, habitat fragmentation from roads and railroads, timber harvesting for ship building and home construction, collecting of resin, and clearing for agriculture were no match for the forests, as was the critical fire suppression that the trees depend on for forest health and reproductive survival.

Bear tracks next to ours
The longleaf pine ecosystem is made up of much more than just feathery towering pines, in fact the flora and fauna are some of the most highly diverse assortments of the world.  Well over 125 endangered and threatened species rely on this habitat for survival.  Our walks are not exactly filled with endangered species popping out in front of us providing entertainment on the “Wild Kingdom” scale but an occasional black bear track and burst of scurrying white-tailed deer excites Betsy and I . . .  and the little black one – who is usually the motive for the scurrying deer!

Having worked in longleaf pine ecosystems for years, I have grown to appreciate this habitat and find it one of my favorites to hike in.  Today, foresters and land managers recognize the importance of longleaf pine and are working to restore the ecosystem through replanting, prescribed fire, and habitat enhancement.  Groups such as the Longleaf Alliance are actively promoting research, education, and management of the longleaf pine as are state and federal agencies across the southeast.  While there is very little old growth longleaf pine left it is great to see a resurgence and appreciation for this ecosystem.

and one a little further along
A young longleaf in the "grass stage"

Lucky for us, that will ensure plenty of more walks in this unique southeastern forest.


  1. It's nice that you've found great place to stay with wonderful hiking trails. I've learned something new from you today, I'm always in awe of nature and saddened by man's thoughtlessness destroying so much of it through ignorance and greed.

    I'm glad to hear that there are people who are working hard to restore one of nature's masterpieces. Hopefully awareness spreads faster than these trees grow to protect this wonderful beauty.

  2. Looks like a great place to visit. You got my attention with the trails.

  3. Hi Betsy or Nancy, I saw your comment on my post and wanted to thank you and see who is RVAGOGO. You are in one of my favorite places for sure and I share your love of the seriously under appreciated long leaf pine habitat. But I'm wondering how you can stay there for approximately 14 weeks even with the moving back and forth. When we came to our current state park, among the things given to us was a notice form the Florida DEP saying that campers can stay only up to 8 weeks in any 6 month period in any one park. If you have a secret, I'd love to know what it is. Sherry www.directionofourdreams.blogspot.com and RVDreamlife@gmail.com


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