December 14, 2017
Topsail is a popular destination for many who come to visit the South Walton Beaches...whether for a day trip or an extended stay at the RV park or a cabin.
Florida purchased the 1,640 acres in 1992 and boasts it is the most intact coastal system in all of Florida with 14 identifiable ecosystems including five freshwater coastal dune lakes, longleaf pine forests, wetlands and 3.2 miles of unspoiled sandy white beaches.
There are over 10 miles of hiking/biking trails throughout the park. Motorized vehicles are not allowed outside the camping/cabin area making for a nice quiet outdoor experience. Joe and I enjoyed a nice 3.5 to 4.0 mile (roundtrip) hike/walk through a longleaf forest to Campbell Lake.
Topsail Hill SP is one of 510 sites listed on the Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trails webpage. Eyes and ears were wide open in hopes for bird sightings.
Our big excitement for the day was a pair of Florida Bald Eagles nesting in a tree top about a half mile away on the other side of Morris Lake. Way to far for a closeup picture...still a very special sighting for us!
Walking around the lake were lots of little interesting things to see...
This was a surprise find. It's a little late in the season for lilies. Did you know that when the lily closes up for good after a few days, the underwater stalks curl up and the lily becomes submerged. Inside the closed petals, the pollinated flower develops seeds and the petals turn into a pod to protect them.
This little guy was about the size of a quarter.
Something tiny burrowing under the sand made for interesting mounds above ground.
Not sure what these are...
The sparkle caught our eye.
On our way back to the day use parking area, we met an interesting gentleman who works for The Longleaf Alliance.
His name is Bob Wilken. He is a 36 year veteran of Wildlife Fire Management as well as related habitat restoration and protection.
His winter job finds him in the south restoring longleaf pine forests and his summer jobs finds him restoring prairie land near Mt. Rainier. He did such a great job explaining how controlled fires are beneficial to this particular type of pine tree and that burns are necessary to ensure a sustainable future for the longleaf pine and wiregrass forests.
Bob told us how "burning" at Topsail is tricky because they can not burn if winds are blowing north.
South blowing winds occasionally happen in the spring so most of the year, scrub oaks and other pines and small trees have to be removed manually. For more information check out The Longleaf Alliance.
We enjoyed our day at Topsail. Until next time...