Friday, April 24

FL: Amelia Island, Fort Clinch State Park

So my sister called me up in mid-February and told me she needed to get away. It had been an ultra stressful year for her, she's ended up in an empty nest & she just needed to relax for a bit. She wanted me to take her away from it all.

I began planning a trip within her financial and time limits, looking for a place in the sun.
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I know my sister well enough to know her minimum requirements. I knew, for example, that she'd insist on a clean toilet. OK, found a good one here.
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Next requirement:-
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A clean place with good housekeeping so she wouldn't have to work, she could just relax.

So I found this place that just needed a little tidying up each day. She looks happy, doesn't she? Relaxed?
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Next requirement: - - -
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Comfortable (and separate) beds.
Got 'em! No problem.
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I was so pleased with my choices! I even met my own simple requirement: Good Coffee, so I sat down and had me a cup.
Do you think I planned a good trip? I was so happy. -
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Seriously. . . we went on a four day trip to Fernandina Beach, Amelia Island, FL. It was absolutely perfect. I'll have several posts on it, but today's feature is Fort Clinch State Park. -

Here's the view of the fort from the Amelia River.

In 1842, the Fort was planned to guard the mouth of the St. Mary's River, to protect coastal and interior shipping and defend the deepwater port of Fernandina, Florida. Construction began in 1847.

The Fort progressed slowly. By 1860, it was still in various stages of completion. In 1861, the beginning of the Civil War, the Confederate militia quietly took control and in 1862, they were chased out by the Union forces. From 1869 - 1898, the Army maintained the Fort. In 1898, Fort Clinch came alive again in our war with Spain. Again, in the Second World War many years later, Fort Clinch was used again. She's like the fort everybody wanted & then didn't know what to do with. Like a great idea that slowly runs out of steam and dies.
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In 1935, the State of Florida bought the Fort and the Civilian Conservation Corps developed it into a park. Fort Clinch remains an excellent example of "Third System Fortification," a two-walled system. -- one brick, one earth. To me, Fort Clinch is remarkable due to the last remaining Union soldier on the premises, George Berninger.
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We found him rousing a fire to heat his coffee which I later stole (see above photo). He said no women drink coffee, it's a disgrace. I said, "I bet Mrs. Watson drank it!" (I had seen a sign that she was the washerwoman) He gasped, "No! She only drank tea. She was a tea tipper." I said, "Hmmm, the way I saw her toddlin', I'm sure it was more than tea she was tippin."
What fun we had jumping right into 1864 with him, I think we took him by surprise.

Then his gaze wandered over to my sister.
"She's eat up with geegahs!" He shouted. (I think geegahs must be jewelry, nailpolish, accessories) "She aint ugly, but she's painted! That tells me a lot about her. She musta come up from Lady Street. Aint no ladies on Lady Street."
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Then he got closer, "And she's poor, I can see that. Only lady with short hair'd be a lady who sold her hair for money. No skirt, no black dress, she poor, pitiful poor and et up with geegahs."
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"We got to fix this," he says, "follow me." He took us to another building, unlocked the door and ushered us in. It was Mrs. Watson's laundry room we had previously peeked in the windows. He dug out a bonnet and flopped it on her head. He took a few steps back, hand on chin, "Yep, that's much more respectable."
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Later George sat us down and wrote out an "exit pass" for us, complete with a password to get past the guards. Then an unexpected, elderly tour group of 50 approached and asked him for a tour. If you come across George, play along with him, he's a wealth of knowledge and presents it in a fun way. We asked him a lot of questions, which he answered wonderfully.
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At the other end of the park, you'll find Florida's longest fishing pier. Notice anything odd? The Atlantic Ocean on one side is choppy, wild. The Cumberland Sound on the other side is calm & peaceful.
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I thought that was the greatest thing since sliced bread. They put a jetty along the pier to calm the waters for the ships. The pier was full of activity both times we were there, lots of people fishing, swimming, looking for shells. We walked out to the end and back and found it to be good exercise for two old broads.
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Not too far from the pier lies the campground. I saw RVs along the sea, but I didn't drive through and inspect the tent camping facilities.
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Ft. Clinch is a great place to ride bikes or hike.
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The park offers several natural trails for hiking or biking.
We strolled down a short trail to a scenic lookout over Egan's Creek. The marshes around SC & GA coastlines are beautiful & peaceful, enticing me to ride a canoe through the trails of water. The park claims to be home to gopher tortoises, deer, raccoons, bobcats and tons of birds & reptiles, including alligators. I can vouch for the reptiles. While viewing this lighthouse across Egan's Creek, I almost stepped on a snake. My sister saw it first and screamed, alerting me and I began to antagonize it til it moved out of our path. It was harmless & eager to get out of our way.
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Fort Clinch State Park. Directions:
Take I-95 to Fernandina/Callahan exit 373. Proceed 16 miles east on hwy. A1A (follow the brown park signs). Turn right on Atlantic Avenue. Park is on the left within two miles.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

You two are NUTS!! What a fun time with that old geezer but.....
Lisa POOR?! Too many geegahs, was that the word? That part's right.

~Connie said...

Fun!! ... but I must insist that you quit calling yourself "an old broad" ... mainly, 'cuz I'm older than you!

Anonymous said...

Who wants to be next in line to go here. I will gladly be your tour guide. You dont know what you are missing until you can say that you have been here.

Lisa

driftwood said...

In reguard to the RSP of the day, I hope Tom does not have to changer his clothes in that tent. Not much privacy.

Puddin said...

Hi,
Jer just fixed me up with a sign in wow! Go me!

wayne berninger said...

The soldier at the fort is my Dad. He retired last summer. I thank you for posting this; it's a nice record of what he did out there for many years: bringing 1864 to life for visitors. You've captured it well, for posterity, and I thank you.

Poof said...

Wayne, I'm so glad you found this. I'll never forget how your dad livened up our trip. I was sorry to hear he retired, the park has lost a great man. Tell him me and the lady ate up with geegahs say Hello.... and Thanks!