Nov 19, 2012

Getting wild in Lower Alabama

“LA” is actually a marketing tag for Gulf Shores and Orange Beach in Alabama. It is basically the area of beautiful beaches along the Gulf of Mexico. When John and I were there last month the weather was perfect and the expansive beach was awesome.  I could have spent all day on the beach but I didn’t want to miss the other things to see and do in the area.

The area along the Gulf Coast is very unique as I learned during a walking tour at the Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge. “Bon Secour” loosely translated means “Safe Harbor.” The area is diverse making it a great habitat for birds, the endangered sea turtle and a wide variety of plants.  It is one of Alabama’s Ten Natural Wonders. With Brittany as our guide we walked the Jeff Friend Trail which was only one mile long; it is wheelchair accessible. The Trail went through a maritime forest and by Little Lagoon with lotus blossoms. The purplish Beauty Berries were everywhere.  I love learning about traditional uses for plants and wonder what should or could we be using today.  Various parts of the Beauty Berry plant were used to treat malarial fevers, rheumatism, colic, itchy skin, and stomach aches.  And, that is just one plant. It seems that everything had a use at one time. Brittney said thousands of monarch butterfly use Bon Secour as a rest stop on their long migratory flight across the Gulf.  We saw a few early arrivals. 

There were so many things to see and do that one morning John went out with Sailaway Charters to learn about oystering, crabbing and shrimping. They even caught a few.  But, one of the other interesting phenomena he learned about was a Jubilee. A Jubilee is a natural occurring event that happens – usually about dawn during the summer – when flounders, eels and other fish swarm in large numbers to the shallow water of Mobile Bay making for easy catching and picking. That would be something to see, too. Locals have systems whereby they notify each other… “It’s a Jubilee.”  Similar events have been reported elsewhere but Mobile is the only place where it occurs on a regular basis.  It has been studied and most agree that the wind has to come from the east on a rising tide. It seems to have some connection with the mixing of the salt and fresh water. 

While John was out on the water I headed for the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo, dubbed “The Little Zoo that Could.” Have you heard the term “leaping lemurs”?  Well, I now know exactly what that means.  I had an up close and personal interaction with them at the zoo.  Oh, my, what fun! I was in the ruffled lemur’s play pen and they jumped, leaped and scampered all over me and everyone else.  Natalie, the caregiver, was expert with the pan to catch any droppings that occurred with amazing frequency.  They were beautiful and had the most delicate human-like hands.  That wasn’t my only animal encounter.  In another enclosure I met beautiful Serena, a white Bengal Tiger. At 8 weeks old she was curious and like all cats loved her tummy scratched. John and I also learned more about dolphins on the Cetacean Dolphin Cruise with Captain Bill Mitchell.  We even had time to enjoy the beach.