Hiking Along the Gulf Islands National Seashore

17 Nov


When Jonathan and I had just met, the one event that launched us from “just friends” to “future mother / father of my baby” was a three day, 22 mile backpacking trip along the High Sierra Trail in the Sequoia National Forest in California. We went into those woods all prettied up, looking our best, full of energy and secretly crushing on one another, and came out rugged, dirty, exhausted and madly in love.

I love hiking. And backbacking. And camping. So so so much. So does my handsome husband. It’s one of our many “things” we share, made even more special by our earliest memories forged together – trudging mile after excruciating mile over rocks, rivers and meadows, savoring campfire coffee while laying out under breathtaking starry night skies, talking about God and grace and cosplay and fantasy novels and everything in between. Sparks flew as we chopped firewood, dried out socks, purified alpine spring waters to fill our canteens, tended to blisters and hoisted 80 pound packs in the towering trees so the bears couldn’t reach them. We fell in love with our hiking boots on.

So now that baby Tessa is here with us, and I’m finally feeling up to being active again, I’ve decided to hike on one new hiking trail (or two) every week. I am a sucker for National Parks, and since we’re an easy 30 minute drive from the Gulf Islands National Shoreline, I’m making it a fun challenge to hike as much of the 80 miles of Florida District trails as I can while we’re stationed here in Pensacola.

I so want my little girl growing up feeling at ease and a fondness for nature and the outdoors. I don’t want her to be a stranger to the beauty of God’s creation, from the macro to the micro. And I figure, she’s never too young to start, eh? Wrapped up snug and warm on my chest with our ring sling, my baby girl has seen more of the world than most two month olds! It’s a habit I don’t want to break.

I started this little challenge just four weeks ago, and have had the joy of hiking with my tiny baby girl on the Trench Trail, the Woodland Nature Trail, the Brackenridge Trail and the Fishing Trail. That’s 5.9 miles down! Can I get a w00t w00t?!

These trails are far different from the giant redwood, majestic sequoia, waterfall lined, mountain vista views I’m used to. While part of me longs for the crisp alpine air of the John Muir meadows, I must say I am quickly growing fond of these new sights and smells on my outdoor treks.

The air is humid and salty, with the sound of ocean waves mingling with the sounds of tropic insects and palms fronds swaying in the gentle breezes. Exotic seashell fragments and stark white sands line the trails underfoot. Spanish moss and tropic vines hang from oak and hickory trees overhead, and every once in a while you can catch glimpses of brightly colored lizards and vibrant green tree frogs in the foliage. Everything is so tropic here (it is a stones throw from the Caribbean, after all) that I often find myself exclaiming asinine geeky things like, “That tree with the mushrooms on it looks like something out of Ferngully!” or “The moon over the waters looks like Pirates of the Caribbean!” or, most often, “OMG, this looks just like Jurassic Park. I keep expecting a dilophosaurus to jump out and spit at me!”

This park is chock full of history and mystery – more than 80 percent of the park is submerged lands teeming with marine life. It’s America’s largest National Seashore and one of the oldest “discovered” portions of America.

Europeans first visited the northern Gulf of Mexico in the early 1500s. Spain, in 1559, established a settlement in Florida on Pensacola Bay, but the place was abandoned soon afterward. Spaniards revived the settlement in 1698, surrendered it to the French in 1719, regained it by treaty in 1722, ceded it to the English in 1763, and repossessed it by force in 1781. The park is cluttered with historic forts, buildings, relics, and historic points of interest. I mean, how could it not be?!

The Gulf Islands are vibrant and fascinating in a very energetic way… far from the serenity and absorbing nature of the Sequoias. They’re two different beasts, and each appeals to my sense of adventure. (Though in my heart of hearts, I am a mountain girl through and through.)

I’m excited for the many more miles to hike before the Navy whisks us away to who-knows-where. And I’ll keep posting our adventures here on my blog. But in the meantime, here are some snapshots of the trails we’ve trekked thus far:

The Woodland Nature Trail by Fort Barrancas:


The Trench Trail by Fort Barrancas:



The Brackenridge Trail by Naval Live Oaks:



The Fishing Trail by Naval Live Oaks:





13 Responses to “Hiking Along the Gulf Islands National Seashore”

  1. CoCo November 18, 2013 at 12:18 am #

    I grew up hiking and camping. It was something my husband didn’t get to do as a child and I showed him all about it. If you get stationed here we will have to make baby trips out. 🙂 If you didn’t know Military gets free annual National and Federal Park passes. http://www.nps.gov/findapark/passes.htm With all of our traveling, if the weather permits, we camp instead of stay at hotels. We have a lot of fun! Our last trip was at Disney World a few months ago. Looks like you are having a blast! 🙂

    • gynjii November 19, 2013 at 6:20 pm #

      First, I am JEALOUS of your Disney World trip. We want to go soooo badly! And yeah, I had heard of the free annual National Park passes, but I hadn’t gone through the trouble of getting ours yet, haha. The Gulf Islands has two main locations that are free to access, and those are the ones that I’m hiking first. But we’ll definitely jump on that when we can! So what’s your favorite terrain for hiking? Mine is mountains, I’m pretty sure, lol.

      • CoCo November 21, 2013 at 8:55 pm #

        Mine is mountains. Since I am from Southern California we would just ride out bikes, motorcycles, or horses up somewhere and hike around. I loved going up to Big Bear and camping. When I moved to Tennessee we would go to the Smokey Mountains and out to Cherokee to hike. We have a hiking backpack to carry Owyn in so it makes it a lot of fun. We also like to mountain bike but haven’t gotten the chance since we moved here.

        Camping at Disney World is AMAZING! You should do it when you get the chance. A lot of people kept saying how crazy we were for taking Owyn. I don’t think dirt is going to hurt my kid. Lol.

      • gynjii November 22, 2013 at 3:16 pm #

        Motorcyle riding?! You’re hardcore, haha. My husband grew up vacationing in Big Bear in California! And the Smokey Mountains in Tennessee are on my bucket list! I want to go see the firefly mating season there, but I think we’ll be leaving Pensacola by then (the drive from didn’t seem like it would be TOO bad…) I am such a camping junky. I must say, I am a little apprehensive about how camping with a baby will work, but I’m eager to try! 😉

      • CoCo November 22, 2013 at 3:28 pm #

        Camping with a baby is like everything else with a baby, as long as you prepare and you know that things are going to be a little crazy the first time, you will do fine. We just plan on making more stops than normal but at the same time we have a super easy going kid. He loves to travel. When I drove down to Florida to see Rob in port for a few days he sat the whole 12 hours and didn’t cry. We only stopped for gas and bathroom breaks. Honestly, from reading about about how you care for your little one I think she would do fine. You guys seem like sensible parents. 🙂 It is the bottle washing that can be tedious though! Lol. Yes, the fireflies are beautiful in TN! It may be TMI but I remember making out in the car with my husband (boyfriend at the time) and the fireflies would be everywhere. It was really cool. If you can make a trip to see them near a lake that is the best because the reflect off of the light and it looks like a thousand tiny stars that you can touch.

  2. Adoption Love November 18, 2013 at 6:04 am #

    Here’s you “woot woot!”. Plus, Ferngully rocks.

    • gynjii November 19, 2013 at 6:21 pm #

      LOL, I know rite?! I hadn’t seen it in AGES and when I watched it not too long ago I was amazed that 1) It is about 99.9% environmental propaganda and 2) I still remembered all of the words to “My Name Is Batty”. lol!

  3. James November 25, 2013 at 12:02 am #

    I like that place and also your baby. It’s very cute

    • gynjii November 25, 2013 at 12:09 am #

      Thank you! I’m quite fond of both myself! 😉

      • James November 25, 2013 at 12:09 am #

        sounds good.

      • James November 25, 2013 at 12:10 am #

        Is that your vaccation.I think you enjoyed it.

      • gynjii November 25, 2013 at 12:32 am #

        Nope, this is all 30 minutes from my house!! Aren’t I lucky?! ^_^

      • James November 25, 2013 at 12:43 am #

        wow great. Enjoy !!!

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