Saturday, June 13, 2015

Fort Pickens Campground, Pensacola Beach, Florida

We made our third trip in Rosie, our 25 foot Airstream trailer, to Fort Pickens' campground during May 2015. Fort Pickens is inside the Gulf Islands National Seashore near Pensacola Beach, Florida, and is administered by the National Park Service. For this trip, we returned to Loop A in the park.

Entrance to Fort Pickens

One of the first things we noticed this time was the new bathhouse in the A loop. We noted in an earlier visit to this park that the old bathhouse was in need of serious repairs and we suspected that new forms of mold were being incubated in the shower areas. The new bathhouse was built to the side of the old one and the workers were finishing the sidewalk on our first day in the park. Since we were going to be there for two weeks, we looked forward to seeing the new bathhouse opened and the old one closed and eventually removed.

I'll talk more about the bathhouses later in this posting.

Two weeks is a perfect length for a visit to this park. The Gulf of Mexico beach area was calm during the first week and very active the second. The days were sunny during the first week followed by time periods of windy and rain the second. We would have been slightly disappointed in the weather if we were only there our second week.

The Gulf was calm during our first week at Fort Pickens

The surf was stronger during the second week

As true in any campground, location of your site is important. On our previous visit, we were in a small site and the bushes at the rear of the site were covered with poison ivy. As someone who is very susceptible to poison ivy, that was one of the worst sites in the park.

We were able on that visit to scout out some better sites and were fortunate enough to reserve one for this time. It was much nicer having one of the larger sites and one without vegetation that causes me to break out.

Rosie at Fort Pickens

Back to the bathhouse for a moment.

We noticed on the second day that the barrier tape was still around the new bathhouse and we to continued to use the old one. The new bathhouse had to be ready because the workers were using it and taking their showers in it. We were excited about switching over to it during our visit. More later . . .

If you enjoy watching birds, the Fort Pickens Campground will be a special place for you. Blue Birds, Blue Jays and Cardinals were just a few of the different types of birds that were in our camping area daily. But the stars of the show were the ospreys. We enjoyed watching osprey parents watch over their nest, which was about 100 feet from Rosie's door. It didn't appear that the babies had arrived while we were there, but the happy event wasn't too far off in the future.

Osprey nest near Rosie

Herons enjoying the Gulf
A crab somewhat annoyed that we were disturbing his beach

A Cardinal cleaning his feet

The Cardinal wanting to go inside Rosie

You want to bring your bikes to Fort Pickens. There are several trails and it is fun to ride your bike on the Florida Trail to the fort. The turtles always surfaced to see if you brought them a snack as you passed over the wooden bridge on that trail. Bikes do add to the fun at this park.

The Turtle Bridge along the walking and bike path to the fort

Back to the bathhouses for a moment.

We noticed that the construction workers packed up and left on the third day. Again, we were looking forward to abandoning the old bathhouse and using the new. We were able to ask one of the park rangers what was holding up the move. It turns out that the power company hadn't switched on the electrical service to the new one, but the ranger was confident the power truck would arrive any day and construction barrier tape around the new bathhouse would come down. More later . . .

We suspected that a couple of the sites around us were held as walk-in ones. It became part of our entertainment to see who would be camping in them every morning as the turnover was high.

While we were in the park, there were eight other Airstream trailers and an Airstream Interstate motor home. One of the Airstream trailers was a 50 year old camper. The current owners accounted for twenty-five of those years and they continue using their 1965 Airstream. For many brands of travel trailers, it would be a very rare thing to see someone camping in a 50 year old trailer. If you have been on the road for a year or two in your Airstream, you have seen several vintage Airstream trailers still in service.

Back to the bathhouse for a moment.

You would think that the power company could fit a visit to the park within the two week window we were there to connect the power to the new bathhouse. Obviously, we were wrong. The construction barriers remained around the new bathhouse as we packed up and headed home. Maybe the new bathhouse will be open the next time we visit the park.

Here is some specific information about this park:
  • There are five camping loops in Fort Pickens Campground. Loop A is separated from Loops B-E. Loops B-E are all lumped together in parking lot fashion. Most of the tents tend to be in the E loop.
  • We were amazed that some big rigs were able to get in sites that appeared too small. Calling these "tight fits" is very generous. You probably need to add a few feet to the length of your rig when you book your site to make sure you get one that will comfortably fit your rig. I think the maximum lengths given on the park's Web site are very optimistic.
  • There is very little shade in this park. Rosie's air conditioner was working at full capacity the entire time we were in the park.
  • This is a pet-friendly park. As is only right, you are expected to keep your pets on leash and to pick up after them.
  • Our site in Loop A had 20, 30 and 50 amp electrical service.
  • There are two dump stations in the park. One serves Loop A and the other serves Loops B-E. It was common to see lines waiting to use the dump stations as campers were leaving the campground.
  • There is no WiFi service in this park.
  • AT&T provided reasonable 4G LTE voice and data service over our camping loop. We did notice that service improved when we moved our phones closer to Rosie's rear window.
  • There is a camp store in the park at the entrance to Loops B-E. The park's laundromat is next to the camp store.
  • The new bathhouse in Loop A includes a laundry facility for that loop. Perhaps we will see the new laundry along with the bathhouse open the next time we visit the park.
  • If you need to shop for groceries, there is a Publix about six miles from the park. You will have to invest a dollar in tolls to cross the bridge to the shopping area.
  • We were able to watch ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC and PBS using Rosie's TV antenna. We were also able to see CW, MY-TV, Me-TV, GET and Grit digital channels.
Fort Pickens is a great park to visit and we plan to return in about six months. We will let you know then if the power company finally arrived and switched the power on to the new bathhouse.

The Fort

A walk along the Gulf's shore at Fort Pickens

Jeremy and Elizabeth join us at Fort Pickens

Annie, our 16 year-old Yorkie, at Fort Pickens

Annie loves camping in Rosie

Using the Eagle One amateur radio antenna at Fort Pickens

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