Our trip home took us across Escambia, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa, Walton, Holmes, Washington, Jackson, Gadsen, Leon, and Jefferson counties (and that was simply along Interstate 10). Then, we headed south following U.S. 19 to avoid traffic nonsense on I-75 so we hit up Taylor, Dixie, Levy, Citrus, Hernando, and Pasco counties before arriving in our home county of Pinellas. 17 Florida counties (out of 67) on our return trip for a wild 8+ hour car ride. We are happy to be home.
We did some adventuring along the way with a visit to Falling Waters State Park in the Panhandle (Washington Co.) to see the tallest waterfall in Florida. Yes, you read that right – a waterfall exists in Florida. It is 73-feet tall and descends into a sinkhole in true Florida style. There are multiple sinkholes to see along a nice boardwalk trail, and wikipedia tells me that they were used as hideouts by Native Americans fighting against Andrew Jackson during the Seminole Wars.
My kids loved trying to throw rocks and leaves into the sinkholes when Keith and I weren’t looking (don’t they know that we are always watching?), running down the boardwalks, and fighting to be the leader of the hike. The other highlight was getting to see a fox squirrel build its nest, and simply being out of the car and not at a rest area/gas station along the highway.
While we were looking for lunch, we got alerts that a tornado warning had been issued for our county and given the previous weeks’ situation with tornadoes and the fact that there is literally no where to go to hide from tornadoes in Florida, I low-key panicked. Luckily, they were spotted about 45 minutes west of us so we quickly ate and got back on the road, refusing to stop for the kids until we were out of the panhandle. I don’t think any tornadoes touched down in the area where we were, but it was still scary. The rest of the car ride home was uneventful. We ate dinner in Crystal River and brought food to Keith’s parents (who were staying in a hotel there for the night), and then finished the long trek home.
Overall, it was a fantastic trip, and I would go back to Gulf Shores again (even though it’s the same Gulf of Mexico we have here in Pinellas). It’s nice to enjoy a change of scenery that is reminiscent of home.