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Alligator Point Diaries

First entry | List of all entries | Summer 2002 update | Summer 2003 update | Alligator Point links | Reader comments

Is the area from Apalachicola to St. Marks special to you as well? E-mail me your comments and observations (even your pictures!) so I can add to my new reader comment page

If you're not in the state of Florida, you've likely never heard of Alligator Point, and that's to be expected. What is unusual is that most people in Florida haven't heard of it, either.

Alligator Point, a long, narrow spit of land that juts into the Gulf of Mexico, is part of what tourism promoters and real estate developers are now calling "The Forgotten Coast" of Florida, in the less-populated northern part of the state. The Forgotten Coast area, which is south of Tallahassee, stretches from St. Marks on the east to Port St. Joe on the west, and includes several small communities in poor, mostly rural counties. The biggest town on this stretch of the coast is Apalachicola, an old fishing village of fewer than 5,000 people.

The coastline here is much as it was created, dotted here and there with modest second homes, many built on concrete or wood pilings to provide some protection from the hurricanes that threaten from time to time. Some of the best bird-watching in the country can be found around here, along with some of the best fishing. Many of the locals don't think of fishing as recreational, though: For them, it's a living, and a hard one at that. Sport fishing? That's for the tourists.

In another 20 years, the picture here will be very different. Tourism is a growth industry here, and so, too, is growth itself. Empty stretches of beach are now filling up with new houses, bigger and more elaborate than the small, rustic cottages that came before. To see what will be visit St. George Island, a once-pristine barrier island that now has an increasing number of large houses and condominiums crowding its sand dunes.

I was drawn here for the coast as it was, for beaches that are empty of people but full of everything else. I had been visiting friends in the North Florida/South Georgia region for years, and finally there came a time when I knew I had to stay a winter here, and see what it was like.

So I packed up my laptop computer and came to a little beach house on Alligator Point, driving across the country from Sacramento in four days and with three very bored and restless dogs. My stay here embraced the tail-end of fall, the whole of winter, the beginning of spring, from October 2000 to the end of March 2001. After a lifetime spent in a single place, I explored the new, learning the names of the birds, fish and animals here, and scanning the Gulf for the dolphins who show up every few days. And since I don't know how to experience anything without writing about it, I wrote about my time on Alligator Point.

In time, I came to feel that this area was my second home, not just Alligator Point but also the moss-hung streets of Apalachicola, the quintessential Southern town of Thomasville, Georgia, and the eclectic blending of cultures -- Southern, political and academic -- that is Tallahassee.

At the urging of a friend, I kept a diary of my stay here, and sent out each entry via e-mail to friends with a digital picture attached. All the entries were archived on this Web site, and now as I read them back home in Northern California, I find myself yearning to fall asleep again to the sound of waves again, and aching for a warm Sunday afternoon spent reading on the wide front porch of the house in Thomasville. I want to slurp down raw oysters on the deck at Boss Oyster in Apalachicola, and see the candy-cane striped awnings of the historic State Capitol again.

The first diary entry was December 1. You'll find two-three entries for every week until the end of March. You can start by clicking the link to the first entry, or by going to the page that lists and links to all the entries. Each entry has a link to the one that came before and the one following, as well as to the list of them all.

I hope you enjoy the words and pictures, and if you want to drop me a line about them, please do. I've gotten lots of e-mail over the last couple of years and now regret that I didn't save it for others to enjoy. So now, I'm starting to, on my new reader comments page.

(back home in Sacramento, California)

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