Leah and I awoke to an overcast day. The forecast promised more of the same, which was fine with me as long as it didn’t rain. We spent the morning searching for a new destination to stretch our legs–maybe find a bike trail, or at the very least, a walking trail not too far from home.
After a late breakfast, we headed south toward Flagler Beach, a salty seaside community with orange sand from crushed coquina…
midway between St. Augustine and Daytona. We were in search of Betty Steflik Memorial Preserve, a cache of 217 acres of marsh and mangroves tucked beneath the Highway 100 causeway,
and bordering the Matanzas River.
A mile or so of boardwalking through the salt marsh was pleasant though unremarkable. However, it offered me time to play with my newly acquired 1.7X tele conversion lens (see Zoom!).
Anticipating a loop around the preserve, we were surprised that the trail dropped us at a different parking lot annexed to the town’s public works complex that was surrounded by dilapidated residential trailers planted only blocks from the beach.
And so we continued our tour of all things industrial and commercial, until we returned to the preserve entrance.
Feeling underwhelmed by our walk-around, I opted for the slow road home, following A1A North on a prayer that the seaside scenery might somehow improve on a somewhat lackluster afternoon.
We passed through nothing of consequence: nondescript shops and eateries, assorted bungalows, big machines for county road repairs, and mainstream subdivisions along the way. But when we reached Palm Coast, the road opened up to a dense maritime hammock of hardwood trees to our left, and I felt compelled to u-turn for a closer look.
We turned into Washington Oaks Garden State Park,
and heard from the gate attendant that the azalea blooms had just reached their peak, and that was enough to pique my interest.
As we completed a self-guided tour of the grounds…
I felt relieved, knowing that our Sunday excursion had been rescued.
The formal gardens were beautifully unusual,
and precisely manicured.
We left the area under partly sunny skies…
knowing that we would return another day to devote more time to the miles of trails through the hammock.
And weather permitting, we will cross the highway to follow the coquina rock formations that line the Atlantic side when the tide is nigh.