With Debi taking classes most of the summer and me trying to get some research done, we decided to not take any big vacations and instead do a couple of weekend getaways. We had previously used Priceline.com to book nice hotels in Miami for cheap, so we figured we’d try the same website with different locations. We had hoped to go Naples, since we haven’t been there, but we couldn’t get a hotel down there for a reasonable price. I eventually switched my search to Orlando and we went to Orlando for the weekend in mid-July. We got a 4-star hotel, the Orlando Renaissance, right across from Sea World for about $70/night. It was a nice hotel and the location was perfect as we have season passes to Sea World and Busch Gardens. Apparently we didn’t take many photos (I’ll post one in a few days) of that trip.
But our second and final trip together (I’ve got a work trip in August) ended up being in Jacksonville. We’ve stopped in Jacksonville a couple of times to meet up with one of my Sociology buddies, but never really spent much time there. We got a good deal on a 3 1/2 star hotel (about $50/night), so we headed up Friday night. The trip can be done in about 3 1/2 hours, but due to rain and traffic, it took closer to 6 hours to get there.
Our first full day in Jacksonville started with a morning trip to Little Talbot Island State Park. We didn’t know much about it, but I knew there was a hiking trail that was about 4 miles, which is a good trail length for us. We got there a little after 9:00 and headed down the beach. Toren wanted to get out of the backpack and play on the beach. I left Toren and Debi at that point and trucked down the beach to see if I could find the spot where the trail into the foliage started. Luckily the rangers had driven a buggy right up to the trail entrance or I probably would not have found it so easily (I think they did it knowing we were going to hike it as we had told them as much when we pulled in). Finding the trailhead took me about a mile down the beach from Toren and Debi. Debi started to get worried as I was gone for about 30 minutes, but I eventually made it back, hoisted Toren on my back, and we headed back down the beach (so, in reality, I did about 6 miles, not 4).
Here’s a shot of the beach:
We saw a cool crab on the way:
And Debi took a few pictures of Toren and I just before we headed into the foliage:
We saw this turtle just as we left the beach:
Then the mosquitoes attacked. Debi spent the next 2 miles swatting mosquitoes off Toren and I while I booked it through the trees and tried to avoid the massive spiders. It was actually very beautiful, but we forgot bug spray and the mosquitoes were terrible!
Once we made it back out to the road they thinned out. We made it back to the car by about 11:00, which was good as the heat has been pretty crazy here lately (with the humidity it feels like 110 F). The beach was just filling up as we left.
Here’s a rough idea of the hike route (I didn’t use my tracking app on my phone to conserve battery in case we needed it):
On the way home we stopped by a road side peanut stand to buy some “boiled peanuts”. If you’ve never had them, you have to try them. They’re actually quite good. A friend of ours, who is a Florida native, talks about boiled peanuts as though they are like churros in Mexico or gelato in Italy. The ones we bought were good and we ate the whole bag for lunch.
We headed back to the hotel and all fell asleep for a nice nap. We woke up around 3:30 and went to the pool in the hotel. Here’s a video of Toren at the pool (from the next day, actually):
After the pool, we got cleaned up and went out for dinner to the Olive Garden where Toren did a good impression of a dinosaur eating trees with his broccoli:
That did it for our first day in Jacksonville.
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