We were making preparations to leave our mooch-docking spot at our daughter’s. I had the camper hooked up to the truck and was making the final walk-around before pulling away when grammi came out with her eyes welled up. “What’s the matter?” I asked. “I’m about to cry” she replied. “Why are you going to cry?”. “Because I don’t know what to do”. As it turned out, our daughter told her that if she had thought of it earlier she would of packed a bag for Ivy and sent her with us. Then in a couple of days she would drive and pick her up from us. Grammi was torn and didn’t know what to say. We have talked about doing these kind of trips with our grandkids someday. I told grammi it was an opportunity. If she was up to it, it would be fun to have our granddaughter come with us. So with only twenty minutes before Amber had to leave for an appointment we packed a bag, moved a car seat to the truck, and just like that we were on the road with a four year old. Ivy would tell you she is four and a half and a big girl. Well… we’ll just have to see about that.
With no stops along the way the drive took about five hours. Ivy entertained herself by watching a movie about Big Bird running away from his newly adopted family and trying to find his way back to Sesame Street. I hope she doesn’t get any ideas while she’s camping with us.
Many of the towns we drove through had American Flag displays in preparation for Memorial Day. None were more impressive than Cross City. Bordering both sides of U.S. Highway 19 through the main part of town were American flags fixed atop white crosses. On the cross was a name and branch of service printed in black capital letters. Seeing a name on the crosses emphasized the ultimate sacrifice of many American soldiers and I felt a swell of emotions as we passed by. I am grateful for all who gave their life for our country.
Our route took us across the path of hurricane Michael. It was shocking to see so much devastation all these months later. There was still a good amount of debris littering the sides of the road. There were buildings without roofs. The sight that will stay with me is the hundreds of trees that were snap in two…like toothpicks. It looked like a giant buzz-saw went through the forest. It was an eye-opening reminder of the power of a hurricane and pray I never experience one.
We arrived at the campground at 2:30PM. We gained an hour when we crossed into the central time zone. Our address for the next four nights is site 14, Sand Pond Campground in the Pine Log State Forest. We’re just a twenty minute drive north of Panama City Beach. We have a waterfront site with a great view. There was only four other campers so the place was quiet. Ivy coaxed over the one lonesome duck on the pond with a slice of bread. The duck seemed tame and accustom to being feed as it walked right up to her looking for the handout. Ivy was thrilled.
The next day we took Ivy to the beach. Grammi’s sister lives just across the street from the beach in Panama City Beach. We went there and loaded a wagon with beach chairs, umbrella, cooler, towels and a toy shovel and pail. We pulled the wagon across the street through an alley to a beautiful white sand beach. It was a clear day and there was a brisk breeze coming into shore. The waves were crashing against the sand. Grammi found a spot for us to set up our chairs. I took extra care to make sure the umbrella’s were securely anchored in the sand. Ivy had a wonderful time. She dug holes in the sand, bounced around in the waves and even chilled out in the chair while eating a couple snacks that grammi brought along. Ivy was quite happy and very comfortable at the beach.
After about three hours we went back to grammi’s sister’s place. We rinsed the sand off us and then jumped into the swimming pool. Grammi and I tossed Ivy around in the pool. She laughed and screamed and begged for more. I think it was at this point that we realized we’re going to need a lot more energy to keep up with this kid all day. We were tiring out and felt it was time to get out of the water. Ivy protested! Her fussing turned into tears and soon escalated to her loudly wailing. Apparently, we weren’t the only ones getting tired. She was tired but didn’t know it yet. We went out to dinner with grammi’s sister when she got off work. After dinner and a big day of fun in the sun, we headed back to the camper. Ivy fell asleep on the ride back. I had to carry her inside and put her to bed just like I did with my own girls years ago.
The next morning we drove north to Vernon where we rented a canoe from Old Cypress Canoe Rental. For forty dollars they provided a canoe, paddles, and life jackets for an all day trip. They drove us up river to launch. They gave us a map and directions to a spring where we could swim and spend the day. We put Ivy in the middle of the canoe. She’s been canoeing before with her dad so she knew what to expect. The last thing we were told before shoving off was we may have to navigate around some fallen trees that were left by hurricane Michael. What? My first date with grammi was a canoe trip. I was doing my best trying to impress her with my paddling skills when we came to a fallen tree. We both leaned the same way at the same time trying to avoid a low branch. The canoe flipped over and all our stuff went floating away. We have always laughed about this while blaming each other for the mishap but today we don’t want to flip the canoe with Ivy inside. Sure enough though, not fifty feet from the launch site we found ourself on top of a tree that was two inches below the surface. A precarious situation as the boat became unstable and rocked back and forth. Fortunately, we where able to push ourselves off and avoid tipping over.
We found a spot on the spring to park the canoe. We slowly eased into the cold spring water for a swim. There was a rope tied to a tree branch where the brave and young could swing and drop into the water. There was a sand beach area with a boardwalk to a restroom. There were quite a few people swimming and playing in the spring. I talked with a guy that said he grew up coming to this place. He said he and his buddies could come out anytime and have the place all to themselves, but not anymore. The secret spot is no longer a secret. It was refreshing to be in the water on this hot day. Grammi brought a picnic and we ate right there in the water using the canoe as a table. Ivy didn’t stay in the water too long as her little body got cold and she started shivering. We spent a couple of hours there before paddling down stream to our take out spot.
Back at camp I built a fire. I had promised Ivy that one night we would make s’mores. After dinner I got out the marshmallow sticks we bought years ago from the camp store in Cades Cove. The coals were just right for roasting. Those gooey treats are so delightful and fun to make. How can one resist. I had two.
The next morning was time to pack up Ivy’s things for her trip back home. She has been so good. She didn’t show any signs of being homesick. It was so much fun to have her as it filled our heart with joy. We met her mother at the Gulf Specimen Aquarium in Panacea, Florida for one last adventure. We spent a couple of hours looking at the exhibits. Ivy especially like the touch tanks where she could touch a variety of sea life. Things like starfish, sea urchins, hermit crabs, sand dollars, jellyfish, clams and scallops. There was also some do not touch tanks.
They had things like nurse sharks, sea turtles, eels, and octopuses. It was educational fun. Afterward we had lunch before saying goodbye. We got big hugs from Ivy before watching them drive off. Camping with our granddaughter was special and will always be a cherished memory.