Dear Diary, I am…at Ft. Pickens.

Well, not right at this moment, but I was back during my last semester at college. I went to school in Pensacola, Fl. Just a 20 minute drive from the beach—something I happily left Wisconsin and its subzero winters for. Pensacola Beach is nice. Often it is hard to remember things like taste and touch, but when I stepped into the water at Pensacola Beach for the first time, I distinctly remembered how much colder Lake Michigan was, and I called my family into the water saying that this was bath water. But Pensacola Beach, the glowing sand (just a little, not like in those pictures you sometimes see on Facebook), and jellyfish are not what I am here to reminisce.

My best friend and I decided to visit the lesser known areas of the panhandle. Our first stop was Fort Pickens. It’s a $15 entrance fee, but worth it. We first stopped at the beach just to dip our feet in the water. The water was a tropical blue. The color I thought I would only get to see if I went somewhere exotic, yet here I was in Florida, seeing it for $15. Next, we drove through these cool dead-looking trees to the fort. This fort was amazing. It was self-guided, and like little children we ran around, climbing the hills, 2015 Ft. Pickenscrawling in the tunnels, and posing by every canon. Ft. Pickens takes only a few hours of your time but leaves memories that last a life time. It really is a beautiful place—I know this because I saw a professional photographer there taking family pictures. The brick fort was longer than it was wide. You could walk through and see where the soldiers slept or were on guard. You could crawl in the tunnels—there were many—and you could climb the stairs to the top of the brick walls. Looking out you could see the old brick walls, the shrubbery, then white sand, and finally the clear blue water of the Gulf. I would have no problem going back there over and over again.

Next though, I had to take my friend to Navarre, about a 30 minute drive from Ft. Pickens. Culvers just opened their first franchise on the Florida panhandle, and I absolutely needed to take my Cali friend to taste some real Culvers cheese curds and custard. She loved it, so we are still friends. We went to the beach in Navarre. The water was so inviting that we changed into our swimsuits in the Navarre Floridaback of the pickup we were driving, each looking out for peeping toms while the other dressed in the cramped but covered bed of the truck. Standing in almost chest-deep water, we could see our feet straight down to the white sand. Everything about that beach was peaceful. The water was calm, the sand was white, the birds squawked from a few feet away, and the sun warmed our skin. It was the perfect place for just sitting, not even having to talk. We could just sit. The water crept up the shore and back into the ocean. The sand molded under our feet.  It was the perfect place to be.

After a couple hours, we drove back to school. It was like going back to work on a Monday after a three-day weekend. We had an amazing time, but it was time to get back to real life. We were just glad for the escape. And now, whenever we need a place to escape in our minds, one of our favorite places to go is the white sands and the clear blue water.

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