On a road trip absolutely FULL of amazing adventures, this couple of days was probably my favorite. The weather was probably a huge factor in that it was the only day where the sun was out it wasn't too chilly (side note - year of the polar vortex was probably NOT the prime time for a trip trying to escape the crappy weather - it was uncharacteristically cold everywhere we went, even Florida). It was nice to enjoy the beach in appropriate beach weather, haha. The water was still kinda cold, but that was easy to get over once I discovered all the pretty things to see under the waves. This day spawned a new obsession - hunting for seashells! I found the prettiest one of the whole trip (above - a pear whelk), and one of the few unbroken finds of my haul.
I spent the day at Pensacola Beach, and towards late afternoon I headed east a few miles and parked the van by the dunes on Santa Rosa Island, where bay was visible to one side, and the gulf to the other. I hung out in the van that night, played lots of Clue Express with the bf, and soaked up the amazing beachy atmosphere. There weren't any signs prohibiting overnight parking (that we saw) so we stayed the night, and I woke up to a beautiful sunrise that turned everything a gorgeous mix of pink, purple, and blue. Walking on the beach and watching the sun rise that morning was a truly spiritual experience. I don't know if I've ever seen anything as lovely. This was the night/morning that really sealed the deal for me, van road trip wise. I got to enjoy this spectacular area, sleep overnight practically right on the beach, and wake up to this view all without seeing another soul, and it cost nothing. Van life, people, is where it's at.
The sun eventually hid behind the clouds and it became significantly chillier than it had been the previous day. I decided to forgo completely suiting up to snorkel, but I ended up getting pretty wet as I collected shells along the shore anyways. The best finds from this beach were an unbroken giant cockle, a fighting conch, and a perfect teeny tiny whelk. Little did I know that, even though it was colder, these would be the best days for swimming and shelling. I thought it would remain pretty much the same throughout my time in Florida, at least, but dang, it was cloudy and low fifties for most of it. Hopefully next year I'll catch some more actual sunny beach days! (I'm already planning on coming back to this area and maybe down to Sanibel Island where I hear the shelling is top notch!)
pictures 2, 8, & 9 by Shepley