Posts Tagged ‘sand dunes’

Paradise found at Florida park

February 2, 2014

I wrote this article, which ran on Feb. 2 in the Boston Globe, after a summer visit to St. Joseph Peninsula State Park in Florida’s Panhandle. It’s a super-special place and while it’s not really a secret, it kind of still is because it’s out-of-the-way location keeps the number of visitors down. Read on…

By Diane Daniel

The State Park includes 10 miles of untamed coast and 35-foot-high sand dunes

The state park includes 10 miles of untamed coast and 35-foot-high sand dunes

CAPE SAN BLAS, Fla. — Initially, Youngra Hardwick appeared eager to share her wisdom. She had succeeded where I’d failed by snagging a waterfront cabin at T. H. Stone Memorial St. Joseph Peninsula State Park, and I wanted in on the secret.

“There are some tricks to it. Every day different spots come open. So you have to get up really early in the morning.” Just as she was advising me about opening several internet browsers, she stopped.

“Wait! I don’t even want to talk to you about it,” she said. She was laughing, but she meant it.

View of St. Joseph Bay from the Maritime Hammock Trail

View of St. Joseph Bay from the Maritime Hammock Trail

Hardwick, who traveled here from Columbus, Ohio, with her husband and two daughters, first stumbled upon the park, in Florida’s Panhandle and about 105 miles southwest of Tallahassee, while searching online for budget-friendly coastal stays.

“I look for places that are remote and isolated, and this sounded like paradise,” she said. “I was right.”

Many visitors, it seems, treat their time at St. Joseph as if it involved password-protected admission. During my three-day stay, several people asked how I had discovered the park. Check online travel forums and you can find users jokingly trying to dissuade others from visiting.

The real treats are the eight furnished cabins with a view of St. Joseph Bay

The real treats are the eight furnished cabins with a view of St. Joseph Bay

It’s not surprising that folks want to keep this spot along Florida’s “Forgotten Coast” to themselves. St. Joseph’s natural amenities include an unheard of (at least in Florida) 10 miles of untamed coast and 35-foot-high sand dunes, along with maritime forests and wildlife. The park’s 119 tent and RV camping sites are fairly standard, but the beach is just a short walk away over the dunes. The real treats are the eight furnished “cabins,” which look more like resort condominiums minus the television. And who needs TV when your back yard looks out onto the wide expanse of St. Joseph Bay?

Luckily for the non cabin-dwellers, water views are everywhere in this 2,716-acre playground. It sits at the tip of narrow Cape San Blas and is flanked by the Gulf of Mexico and the bay, giving visitors the opportunity to see sunrises and sunsets — only a few yards apart in some spots. Although the park has been anointed a “best of” by “Dr. Beach” and is frequently mentioned in national publications, its out-of-the-way location keeps traffic relatively low.


Wedding guests get best gift: Namibia

October 21, 2008

What a great opportunity the Bergs had!  As “destination weddings” go, this one may take the prize. Roger took phenomenal photos, some of which are below.

“Where they Went” by Diane Daniel
Published Sept. 28, 2008, in the Boston Globe)

Roger and Marilyn Berg in the Namib Desert, Namibia

Roger and Marilyn Berg in the Namib Desert, Namibia

WHO: Roger and Marilyn Berg, 67 and 64, of Plymouth, Mass.

WHERE: Namibia.

WHEN: Three weeks in April.

WHY: For the wedding of their nephew, Steven Neri, formerly of Kingston, Mass., to a woman from Namibia. They traveled there with Steven’s parents, Alan and Ellie Neri, of Kingston.

LOCAL GUIDES: “Steven had been stationed in the Peace Corps for two years in northern Namibia near Angola,” Marilyn said. The Bergs decided to attend the wedding then travel with the Neris, including Steven and his wife, Magano. (The newlyweds now live in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.) “That made things easy for us because for them it was familiar country,” she said.

Sesriem Canyon in Namib Desert

Sesriem Canyon in Namib Desert

NICE RECEPTION: They stayed at a hotel in Ondangwa, the closest town to the wedding. “In Namibia there are 4,000 miles of paved road, 40,000 of unpaved roads. Magano’s family lives about 13 miles off any road,” Roger said. “We were picked up in a Land Cruiser. The way there was sandy but with some greenery and a lot of water holes. The village was a collection of homesteads and the father, a local leader, had gotten electricity and water and a cellphone tower, and he built a school for 700 children.”

Giraffes in Etosha National Park

Giraffes in Etosha National Park

TASTES LIKE…: The Americans were treated to several days of welcome and wedding rituals held at the family’s compound, including songs, chants, and traditional dances. “One day we went to a few different home sites and watched people catch chickens for the bride and groom,” Marilyn said. The wedding was held in a Lutheran church, “from when a bunch of Finnish Lutherans came here hundreds of years ago,” Roger said. The ceremony was in both the local language and English, Namibia’s official language. At the reception, Roger nibbled on dried caterpillar snacks, thinking they were something else. “I’ve since read they’re 60 percent protein,” he reported.

Zebra in Etosha park, Namibia

Zebras in Etosha National Park

NIGHT LIFE: After the wedding, the three couples spent more than a week traveling. They made several stops to watch wildlife, including Etosha National Park. “It’s one of the best places for wildlife in South Africa. We stayed there, at Okaukuejo Resort, and they had a flood-lit watering hole to see the animals at night,” Marilyn said. “We saw a family of rhinos, a herd of zebra, wildebeest, and five male lions. I felt like I was on a National Geographic photo shoot.”

Lion in Etosha park, Namibia

Lion in Etosha (as seen from inside car!)

SEEING RED: Also amazing were the red sand dunes of Sossusvlei, said to be the world’s largest, rising to 985 feet. “They were breathtaking,” Roger said. “We climbed one for a bit, but slogging through the sand isn’t my idea of fun.” They took a jeep tour through the barren Dead Vlei, a famous desert area scattered with ancient trees. “It was gorgeous,” Marilyn said. “They looked like skeletons.”