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We start our tour of Madison County in the extreme northwestern part. Like close to the Georgia border. It’s the Concord Baptist Church. Not as hard to find as I thought it would be. Not the most impressive old church I’ve ever seen, but nice enough and well-maintained at least. (see Google map)

  • Concord Baptist Church (Northwest 140th Street, north of CR 150) (AGFHA)

If instead you chose to just head east from Monticello on US 90, you’ll pass through Greenville. The Bishop-Andrews Hotel is on US 90 to the right. It’s a B&B now.

You can drive south and see the downtown area. Some old buildings, mostly in sad shape. One of those Florida towns that look like it’s seen the last of its best days. Sad, since this was the home of Ray Charles. There’s a statue of him in the city park near the old hotel. Probably the part of town in the best condition. (see Google map)

Leaving behind the gloom of Greenville, you’ll travel some more mellow miles until you get to the seat of Madison County, Madison.

The downtown area is a historic district, but on the state level only. There are old houses and churches similar to the ones in Monticello, but it’s far from a carbon copy. The district is smaller, with fewer Spanish moss covered oak lined streets. There are also more new buildings along US 90 in Madison. Standouts here are the county courthouse, the Four Freedoms monument across from it, the Wardlaw-Smith House and the Dial-Goza House. (see Google map)

A straight shot east on SR 6 will get you to Madison Blue Springs State Park. From my one visit, it seems to be very popular. Lots of folks swimming and picnicking, and quite a few small boat trailers in the parking lot. (see Google map)

Next post, last but not least, Suwannee. See you on the road!

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I’ll be doing more posts about US 98, but here ends the Pacific Coast Highway-ness of it all. By the time you reach Panacea, you’ll have caught your last glimpse of the Gulf from US 98. After this, you’ll have to veer far off this main drag to see it again. I’ll be directing you to some of those veerages along the way.

We last left off in Carrabelle. Heading east from downtown, it won’t be long before civilization fades away and you’re back to forest (Tate’s Hell and Apalachicola National) and water. You’re also in the middle of the holiest part of the state.

As far as place names go, that is. Previously you went through Port St. Joe, built near the abandoned town of St. Joseph. There’s St. Joseph Peninsula and St. George Island and St. Vincent Island. Ahead are St. Teresa and St. Marks. Ever since I realized this, I’ve wondered about the circumstances that led to so many towns and geographical features here being named for saints. I’ve not found anything on the subject at all, oddly. I can’t have been the only one who noticed, can I?

About 10 miles from Carrabelle you’ll have to make a choice. North on US 319 or stay on US 98? I’ll cover both, but for now we’ll continue on US 98.

Turn right when you get to Alligator Drive and follow the signs to Bald Point State Park when you see them. It’s a bit of jaunt, but you’ll get there. Due to its location, it’s another of the less used parks. Doesn’t even have a ranger station. But it’s worth a look-see, since it has great views of the Gulf, nature trails through the scrub where you’re likely to see all sorts of wild creatures, and splendidly under-utilized beaches.

Back on US 98, and head for Panacea. But before you get there, you’ll cross one of the longer bridges in the state, the Ochlockonee Bay Bridge. It crosses the mouth of the Ochlockonee Bay, which is the end point for the Ochlockonee River. If you’re a bridge aficionado, consider stopping at each end so you can appreciate it more thoroughly. You can get better access to the underside from the south end, though. (see Google map)

You’ll be going through a significant portion of the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge, though you wouldn’t think so. It’s not Miami Beach, but it’s far from uninhabited. It reminds me of segments of SR 40 through the Ocala National. Little nuggets of humanity surrounded by thousands of acres of non-humanity.

Soon you’ll encounter US 319 re-merging with US 98. Take a left onto it, and in a while you’ll be in another of my favorite oddly named Florida towns, Sopchoppy. I don’t know the etymology, but I think it may be a corrupted Indian name. A lot of places in Florida are.

Two stops here. First in old downtown are some still standing commercial buildings from back in the day. You know they’re old, since they’re covered in ivy. Yeah, not a big draw, but they’re listed in AGFHA, so I’m including them. The other stop is a two-fer, both NRHPs. They’re the old Sopchoppy School and the old Sopchoppy High School Gymnasium across the street. I like the gym more, it’s very WPA. There was a railcar next to it the first time I visited, but it was gone when I returned a few years later. Maybe it’ll be back when you visit.

West of here is a bridge over the Sopchoppy River, but I’ve not seen it, so I don’t know if it’s worth the detour. Me, I’d head south on US 319. There’s bridge over the Ochlockonee River; nowhere as big as the one over the bay. But before you get there, you’ll find the entrance to the Ochlockonee River State Park. Like Bald Point, it doesn’t seem well-visited, though it does have a ranger. I think it’s popular for canoeing, and you can wander around in the woods at your leisure.

It’s only about 7 miles to the southern merge with US 98. The main reason I picked the other option was it’s the only way to get to Bald Point. You could always go there and backtrack and go to Sopchoppy from the south. Or do it in two trips, depending on how much time you want to spend at each spot. (see Google map)

Return whichever way you like to the northern US 319/US 98 merge and head north. There’s another split, and this is where the rest of the trip gets wiggedy-wiggedy-whack. All the interesting stuff is well north or well south of US 98.

North on US 319 and you’ll reach the Wakulla County seat, Crawfordville. You should see one of the brown Florida Heritage signs, which are your friends when you’re looking for the historical sights. On the corner of High Drive, you’ll see the new county courthouse. Take a left here and go about a block. On your left is the old Wakulla County Courthouse. To me, it looks like an old-fashioned one-room schoolhouse writ large. Home to the local historical society, if memory serves, which would be why it’s in such excellent condition. After this, you can check out the Crawfordville Elementary School, which looks to be still in use. If it ain’t broke, why build a new one? (see Google map)

  • Wakulla County Courthouse (3056 Crawfordville Highway)
  • Old Wakulla County Courthouse (Church Street) (NRHP)
  • Crawfordville Elementary School (south of Arran Rd (SR 386) at Towles Rd) (AGFHA)

From here, it’s some to-and-fro-ing to get to the next spot, but it’s a doozie. Wakulla Springs State Park, in the Wakulla State Forest.

Inhabited for centuries by various native tribes, the modern history starts when some rich dude building a resort here. It eventually got donated to the state and became a state park. Later it was designated a National Natural Landmark, probably for the springs. It’s one of the fanciest places to stay in the state park system, but there are occasional deals which make it a real bargain. There are boat tours, and you can see some of the places where Creature from the Black Lagoon and Tarzan the Ape Man filmed. Visit sometime so you can live like a king for a night or two on a squire’s budget. (see Google map)

North of here is another state park that’s popular with the reenactment set, Natural Bridge. Actually, considering how far north it is, I thought about including it when I get into Tallahassee. Though it’s kind of far from there, so either way you’re in for a drive. (see Google map)

Next you should get to the intersection of US 98 and SR 363. Head south on SR 363 and you’ll arrive in St. Marks, an old fishing community. There’s a few like it strewn along this part of the coast.

At the end of SR 363, turn right at Riverside Drive. You’ll pass by the site of Posey’s Oyster Bar, which had been a fixture here for decades. Sadly, hurricane damage in recent years proved too severe, so it got torn down.

A bit further is a small parking area, where you can leave your car and walk or bicycle up the St. Marks Trail. You’re at the southern end, the northern end is 20 miles away in Tallahassee.

A bit further west is the San Marcos de Apalache Historic State Park. There was an old fort here, since this was a strategic location at the junction of the St. Marks and Wakulla Rivers. The fort is gone, but there are remnants of some of the structures near where it used to be. Must have been important, since the place is a National Historic Landmark. (see Google map)

Return to US 98 and head east. Shortly you’ll make a right at Lighthouse Road and be going south again. You’ll soon arrive at one of the proper entrances to St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge. If you’re lucky, it’ll be one of the free entry days. Check online to see when those are, so you can save yourself a buck or five.

A little further on is a visitor center. After that, it’s a long and gently meandering drive. Well, about 5 or 6 miles. It just seems longer because it’s a 30 mph speed limit. You’ll go through what a wildlife refuge (in Florida, anyway) should look like. Large expanses of scrub and marsh, big stands of trees and lagoonlets. And at the end of the road, the Gulf and the St. Marks Light. It’s one of the non-climbable ones, unfortunately, as the view from the top must be amazing. Still, the ground level panorama ain’t too shabby. (see Google map)

From the lighthouse, it’s ten miles back to US 98. Next post, the long and lonely stretch. See you on the road!

Route length: 125 miles (if you go past Bald Point State Park, cross bridge, then go to Sopchoppy)

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At last, I got out on a roadtrip the weekend before last. I went on Sunday (the 6th). I prefer going out on Saturdays normally, as that gives me Sunday to start sorting through photos. However, that Saturday the weather was crappy, so there you go. I left about 6 in the AM, to get a good headstart. It was 36 degrees when I left around dawn. Cold for Florida, but I like it that way. It just invigorates me.

The first hour or so of the trip was in the car anyway, so I stayed quite toasty. I got to the first stop in my jaunt, High Springs, around 8 AM. Took some odds and ends photos around town, then headed north. I wasn’t intending on stopping at the bridge over the Santa Fe River, but I like taking river photos. As it was, I got some nice shots, including the first one above, which turned out way better than I thought.

Then it was off north, crossing old Bellamy Road, to O’Leno State Park, the site of my first SCA event back in ’78. What little I remember, the park hasn’t changed much. I walked along the Santa Fe River to where it goes underground. I planned to walk to where it comes up again, in River Rise Preserve State Park, but that’s 3 miles. Would have taken way too much time and might’ve worn me out some. So that’ll have to be another trip. Whilst there, the sky started getting dingy. It was on and off like that the rest of the day.

Went to Fort White to get some better pictures of a couple of places I’d visited previously, the Sikes House and Fort White Public School, both on the National Register of Historic Places.

After that, I started “springs hopping” and hit Ichetucknee Springs State Park, the north entrance. It was weird, there being no one there. But the tubing down the river stops in the winter. Part of my plan, actually, so I could get shots of the springs unobstructed. And the stepping stones therein, as the second picture shows. I then went to the south entrance. I was most peeved, since there was no ranger at either entrance, so I couldn’t get my park passport stamped, grrr.

Now I was on US 27, near which I’d be staying the next few hours. I stopped in Branford and got shots of the Suwannee River, which I wound up crossing in a few spots along the way. Then I went of US 27 a bit to hit Troy Springs State Park. Nice park, and there were people diving! It was still chilly, so better them than me.

Next was Mayo, and I got 3 buildings. Those being the current Lafayette County Courthouse (the third picture), the Old Lafayette County Courthouse, and the House of the Seven Gables (the Florida version).

Went up SR 51 and crossed the Hal W. Adams Bridge, then got to Peacock Springs State Park. More divers! Also, the narrowest, ruttiest, twistiest road in any state park I’ve ever seen. Potholes were huge. The springs were neat, though.

Back down to US 27. Almost forgot Lafayette Blue Springs State Park. Maybe I shoulda, since they were doing a bunch of construction, and there was no ranger, so there’s another stamp to re-try getting.

After that was the long stretch. It’s nearly an hour’s drive to the next town, Perry, with not much of anything between. Got shots of the two NRHP sites in the town (and the county, for that matter), the Old Perry Post Office and the Old Taylor County Jail. Also took photos of the Taylor County Courthouse, the last one above being an example. It’s not “historic”, per se, since it was built around the 1970s. I like it a lot though, it’s nicer looking than most modern courthouses.

Perry was the turnaround point, where I started heading southward towards home. First I stopped at the Forest Capital Museum State Park. Nice little place, and nice ranger. By now it was 4:30-ish, and I knew I wouldn’t get home until well after sundown. Another stretch of even more nothing is what US 19/98 is like going away from Perry, and it’s nearly another hour until you reach the next town, Cross City. Stopped at a Hardee’s there. I miss Hardee’s, there aren’t any in Gainesville or Ocala. I usually try hitting a Hardee’s for breakfast on my roadtrips, as they usually tide me over for quite a while. I was starving, though, as I hadn’t eaten all day. Crazy, huh? Still, worth the wait. The Portobello Mushroom burger, yum!

I found the county courthouse and got some shots of that. It looks like a big warehouse. One of the least courthouse-ey looking courthouses I ever did see. It was just about sunset, so that was the last thing of which I could get pictures. But I was in pretty familiar territory by that point. Chiefland, Williston, and then home around 8 PM.

Mileage: 306
Photos: over 340

Yes, I can take that many pictures in a day. Why I love my digital camera, ’cause I don’t have to worry about wasting film. And I’d say about half the pictures I take turn out decent enough to save, so I’m doing good.

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