Last month, I had the opportunity to visit my brother in Georgia, where he is stationed at Fort Benning in Columbus. Departing New Hampshire on a Wednesday, I planned on arriving in Georgia the following day. As such, I had no plans to stop at any attractions as I headed south, instead saving those sightseeing opportunities for my return trip. As the Army is wont to do, however, my brother was placed on a last-minute detail, giving me an extra, unplanned day of travel. Being that I was already in Georgia, and that I’d never seen or swum in the Gulf of Mexico, I set out on Thursday to extend my journey southward. In a manner similar to that which began my obsession with federally-protected areas, as I headed south on US-431 through Alabama, I stumbled upon Eufaula National Wildlife Refuge.
Eufaula NWR, straddling the Georgia-Alabama line, was established primarily to provide “habitat for wintering waterfowl and other migratory and residential species” according to the informational pamphlet provided by the Fish & Wildlife Service. As a result, its 11,000+ acres are visited by nearly 300 varieties of birds. During my visit, though, I only came across two species: the Great Blue Heron and the Snowy Egret (see below). Perhaps my visit came too early in the migratory season of the birds that frequent the refuge. The refuge road does, however, follow Lake Eufaula for some distance, providing decent views across the lake and, at the right time, ample opportunity to observe wintering waterfowl. Following my trip around Eufaula’s loop road, I continued south on US-431 towards Panama City, Florida.
Upon arriving in Panama City, I found myself amidst the Thunder City Motorcycle Rally, necessitating a quick exit from the area. This brought me, again entirely by accident, to the Gulf Islands National Seashore and its Opal Beach. The faintly-blue water and soft, white sand proved too enticing, and given that the temperature still hovered in the mid-80s around 6pm, I had to go for a swim. As the sun began to set, the drive along J. Earle Bowden Way proved the perfect end to the first leg of my trip.
Look for part two of my excursion in November.