Happy New Year!

Monday, January 1, 2018

We didn’t see the new year arrive, but evidently there were some others making an early night of it too. Shortly after we were snug in our warm bed around 10:00 there was a nice little volley of fireworks over on the beach that we could easily enjoy out our bedroom window. It was enough for us.

Ice stalagmiteIt was cold this morning. Really cold for Gulf Shores. The rangers here at the state park had asked everyone to please disconnect from the water system and leave the water dripping last night. Not a problem. We weren’t planning to leave our hose out in 26 degree weather. It was really surprising to us the number of people who seemed totally surprised to learn the weather was going to get really cold. Evidently some didn’t believe it because there were a number of broken pipes today. We felt sorry for the guys having to be out in the cold repairing them. We had this cool looking stalagmite icicle this morning at our dripping faucet.

Gulf sunriseWe had a really pretty sunrise this morning. The sun was shining brightly and it looked so deceptively nice outside when in reality it was cold and windy. Around 10:00, the people who were in our site for the next four days pulled out of the park and we moved right down the road to site 31, from 16. This was the shortest driving day we have ever done. Less than a tenth of a mile. Wow, we were exhausted from all that driving. Anyway, we got settled into our new site and relaxed the rest of the morning.

The Alabama state parks have a program named “First Day Hike”. The first day of the new year, a ranger from each participating park leads a hike of their park. It is usually a pretty easy hike that highlights a feature of the park. We try to go to different parks to do the hike each year. The hike here at Gulf State Park this year was on Eagle Loop Trail that passes within viewing distance of an eagle nest. There is a pair of eagles on the nest so we of course wanted to make the hike. We wondered if it would be canceled due to the weather because others across the state were canceled, but not here. We put on multiple layers of clothing and went to the trail head. There was actually about 30 hardy souls at the trail head at 2:00. The park staff had a red tail hawk, a great horned owl and a barred owl for us to see and photograph while we waited for everyone to arrive. Really beautiful birds. The hawk is new to the park – less than 2 weeks at the nature center – and appears very curious when in reality his eyes aren’t focusing due to damage from West Nile virus. His depth perception is about 2 inches off when they try to feed him. He sadly will not be able to be released back into the wild. The staff had also built us a fire which we hated to leave when it was time to hike. But hike we did. Kelly, the park naturalist, lead the hike and shared information on various plants in the park as we walked. By law you can not be closer than 333 feet to an eagle nest or bother them in any way. Our first view of the nest we were quite a distance away but later in the hike we were closer and could see the white head of an eagle hunkered down in the nest. Beautiful bird. We also walked out to lake Shelby, the feeding ground of the eagles and learned more about the birds in the area and critters in and around the lake. We were told that the female eagle is on the nest about 80 percent of the time and the male relieves her for about 20 percent of the time. After the eggs are hatched, they share the work of feeding the little ones more equally. It was a good first day hike with a surprisingly large group given a temperature of 36 and wind chill in the teens.

After returning to FRED, it took us a while to feel warm again so we stayed in the rest of the day. It’s nice just looking out the windows at the water. Hope you had a safe and happy New Year’s Day.

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