The Davis Bayou Campground is our 10th RV park/campground since we arrived in Florida on January 6, 2017. We were in this National Park from February 19 to 26, 2017. It is part of the Gulf Islands National Seashore Park. We discovered it when we were in Fort Pickens, Pensacola (Part 6 of our winter travels), Florida. It is a continuation of the Gulf Islands Seashore! Since we had such a wonderful time in Fort Pickens, we thought we’d go farther west than we had originally planned and try it.
The Lure of the Islands in the Gulf of Mexico
What is it that entices people to the sea? Poet John Masefield wrote, “I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied.” Millions of visitors are drawn to the islands in the northern Gulf of Mexico for the white sandy beaches, the aquamarine waters, a boat ride, a camping spot, a tour of an old fort, or a place to fish.
I guess we are like millions of visitors! As said in an earlier post, we originally thought we would spend a month in the Alabama Gulf Coast area. Since we lost our contact there (they would have been there and knew the names of lesser well-known campgrounds where we could have stayed at a cheap monthly rate), we discovered it was nearly impossible to get a reservation at the “listed” RV campgrounds. So we discovered the next best thing, or did we?
This comes with the territory, but driving in tunnels and over bridges is never a fun thing for the driver of a recreational vehicle. Thankfully, Bill is finally comfortable driving our 40′ long and 32,000 pound motor home. But he is ever cautious. So first we had the LONG bridge over Mobile Bay, then a tunnel. We are so grateful the weather was on our side. Enjoy this five picture slide show of this drive….
Otherwise, it was an easy trip here, and as Bill said, he liked Mississippi, it’s nice and flat! But since we are on the coast, that means lots of water and bridges! We had such a beautiful day to travel. And the excitement is that we have no idea what is at the end of the road….
First, we stopped at the Mississippi Visitor’s Center to pick up a map of the state. WOW, what a great impression you are given of this state! It was the most beautiful visitor’s center we’ve been in!
We did touch and even hiked in Mississippi in May, 2015, the first time we visited Red Bay, Alabama. Granted, it was northern Mississippi, but nonetheless, it left a positive impression on us! While we prefer full hookups (water, electric and sewer) so I can keep up with our laundry (hiking in the woods creates extra laundry), Davis Bayou Campground met our other requirements of being in a forest, easy access in and out, ample hiking trails (so we thought) and the price was right! Since it is a National Park, like Fort Pickens, we were given a 1/2 price camping discount since we have a America the Beautiful (click on it for details) National Park Pass, which means the cost was only $11/night for us. Even at full price of $22/night, it’s a good deal for water and electric, nice bathrooms/showers and a dump station.
The Campground was definitely easy in and out. The welcome by the Campground Host was wonderful. While there was an entrance fee to get into Fort Pickens (actually quite high at $14), it is free to enter this park. Our site was spacious, flat and pretty easy to back into.
I took the above picture of our motor home on our way back from a walk. We arrived on Sunday. Monday was President’s Day holiday so it was full! We do love the forest atmosphere, but we were unable to get a satellite signal on our dome antennae. Bill had to put out our little satellite. It was a challenge getting the signal through the trees. But we still like forest campgrounds!
Great first impression. The road as we entered the park.
We arrived early enough to get in a two-mile walk since we noted it was two miles to the Visitor’s Center. But the maps weren’t clear, showing a two mile Davis Bayou Trail.
The trail actually is alongside the road for a mile or so from the campground. On a subsequent walk when we had more time, we discovered taking this trail actually takes you to the very nice Visitor’s Center! It was staffed with two volunteers and a ranger. They showed a 15 minute movie about the Barrier Islands. We never went to the “beach” except to admire it when we went to Biloxi. We also took advantage of the Ranger Talk about the “amazing alligators.” There is a resident alligator near the entrance of the campground. We waved to her every time we walked by!
The first time we walked on the road to the Visitor’s Center, we passed this “trail” entrance up. The sign didn’t say where this went! Certainly not to the Visitor’s Center, right? An earlier sign noted the trail went to the Civilian Conservation Corps site.
We had hoped to make up our hiking/walking mileage after not finding the great hiking we hoped in our last location, Azalea Acres, Robertsdale, Alabama. Sadly, the National Park Service’s ideas of trails and ours was a bit different. We did get creative and also walked in the nearby neighborhood to get in five miles a day. We looked for other nearby forests, but the Sandhill Crane Wildlife Management Area had less trails than here and was a bit of a drive.
We were not really disappointed in this park or location. We just had no expectations, so it’s hard to be disappointed. But it was not one of our favorites places. First of all, we were not really on a barrier island like Fort Pickens, the no-see-ums were pretty bad (but then we are in a bayou, so what do you expect) and the trail(s) advertised was a bit lacking. But we made up for it and did manage to get in a lot of miles – even if it was the same scenery most of the time. We used the All Trails app to find other local hiking areas, but all were a bit of a distance away.
We had to go and try the closest one, Desoto National Park, which was about a 40 mile drive. Usually, the directions on the All Trails app take us right to the trail head – except this time! This was the day we decided we wanted our 10-mile hike – but since it took us nearly 30 minutes to find the trailhead, we had to shorten our walk to just 7-miles! Oh well….
Thankfully, the trailhead was well-marked, even though the directions here put us on the opposite side of the forest. Note the beautiful blue skies as we end our time here. Can you see Bill in his orange shirt waiting patiently for me?
There was a bit of a map, but in essence it was pretty much just a long trail – so we could make it a there and back to whatever distance we wanted. See the National Park Trail marker? The trail was pretty well-maintained.
I liked this lily pond, like a mirror. Surprisingly, we weren’t bothered by bugs here. It was a bit cool when we started, but once the sun came out, we shed a layer!
We have alluded to the fact that Bill has had to change how he eats and exercises. We’ve started a post about it on my personal blog site – so hope to have it done soon. So for these few months in Florida, a lot of our time is figuring all this out! Initially, we had a goal of walking a minimum of two miles a day – maybe five days a week. Actually that is what my knees tell me I have to do. Bill just enjoys walking so he usually went with me. But now, he HAS to walk vigorously or get in longer miles for his own health! It’s a win-win situation for the both of us!
Back to our time here! We went downtown Ocean Springs to visit Five Seasons Whole Foods Market. It was such a sweet downtown and the owners of the market helped educate us some more about our new way of eating. We bought a bounty of new foods! They were having their Mardi Gras Parade that evening, so we enjoyed the colorful decorations as we drove in and out-of-town.
On our way to Desoto National Forest, we drove through Biloxi. It has been restored from Hurricane Katrina and looks pretty vibrant – but lots of casinos. We’re not lucky people, so we decided to not stop in and remind ourselves of our bad luck! 😬
We picked up a few brochures for sight-seeing at the Visitor’s Center. The Jefferson Davis Home and Library: Beauvoir (beautiful to view) captured our attention. It offers three things we really enjoy: historic homes, gardens and history, especially Civil War History. This was the last home of the only President of the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis and included his Presidential Library (rebuilt after Hurricane Katrina) and Museum:
Beauvoir House is set on a 52-acre estate which includes majestic oak trees and a newly- restored rose garden. Beauvoir is a National Historic Landmark, offering timeless charm and elegance for which the South is famous…..This grand location provides a romantic and unforgettable backdrop that will not soon be forgotten.
We cut our campground morning walk short, thinking we would walk the 52 acre grounds. We underestimated the weather and time. We were dressed for summer when we left around noon. And since we were again traveling on a Sunday, we planned to attend a Saturday night church service at the mega church in Ocean Springs. We enjoyed the tour (admission for the tour and to walk the grounds was $10.00 for seniors – we never mind paying to help preserve history) and watched two documentaries on the grounds. The view was amazing of the coastline, but alas, we were too cold to spend much time outside. And then the church service was earlier than we thought, so we didn’t spend nearly the time here we wanted.
Even though we were here only for a few hours, I can’t begin to summarize what we learned – nor do I want to try! We are both technically Yankees by birth, but our hearts are in the south. All I can say is after all the Civil War sites we have visited and studied, we still wonder how our nation could have fought each other – brother against brother, father against son, neighbor against neighbor, in such a brutal and bloody war for YEARS!
We came to know and love Jefferson Davis as he was a brilliant soldier, was a dedicated family man and was full of compassion. He learned about life through the school of hard knocks. Bill could identify with his immaturity as a teen and young man – he finally grew up after he suffered the loss of his beautiful young bride, Sarah Knox Taylor Davis, the daughter of Zachery Taylor (12th US President) – to malaria after just three months of marriage. Davis was second in command at Fort Crawford in Prairie duChien, Wisconsin. A career military Officer, General Taylor was opposed to their marriage as he didn’t want his daughter to spend a lifetime in harsh military frontier posts. Like her mother! What did Davis do? After courting her for two years, he resigned his commission so he could marry her and stay in his father-in-law’s good graces!
The rest of his life and history are pretty amazing. Did you know he was imprisoned for two years in Fort Monroe, Virginia as a “traitor.” Not far from my dad’s last post in the military (I’m a military brat), so I saw his prison cell, but didn’t really know the man. I’m so glad we made the time to visit this National Historic Site.
Since I can’t summarize what we learned, we will say we both have a new appreciation for the man. For brevity, I’ll only mention more about his family. He was blessed to eventually meet and marry Varina Anne Banks Howell in 1845. She was a remarkable woman who became the perfect First Lady and faithful wife to her husband (he was 35 when they married) until her death, 17 years after his death. Interesting, she said she was a “half-breed,” meaning politically as her family roots were in the north and south – she herself was apolitical. After seven childless years (Davis was actually away a lot, as a politician and for the two years he served in the military during the Mexican-American War) they had six children, four boys and two daughters. Their first son died of unknown causes at age two; second child was a daughter who was the only child to give them grandchildren (five); third child and second son, Jefferson Davis Jr. died of yellow fever at age 21; fourth child, another son, died at the age of five due to an accidental fall; fourth son died of diphtheria at age 11; second daughter and their last child, known as the “Daughter of the Confederacy” since she was born during the war (sadly, she never married as she fell in love with a man from a northern abolitionist family – their engagement caused a major problem politically so she broke her engagement and neither ever married). Such a tragic family history!
The final outing we took was to attend Mosaic Church, Ocean Springs, Mississippi. We have never been inclined to attend a Saturday evening church service, but it sure fit our schedule this week. We are so glad we went, as usual, the message was just what we needed to hear! In fact, I took great notes and have written it up for my other blog….and is to come. It was also a fitting message as we contemplated the remarkable life of Jefferson Davis!
Exhortation by Saint Paul to the Corinthians, but wise words for us today:
I appeal to you brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree and that there be no divisors among you, but that you be united in the same mind and same judgment. 1 Corinthians 1:10
Up next, we’re going back to Alabama as we begin our trek back to the east coast!