Exploring a Seaside Fort

Hello there! It’s Jada Gruwell, reporting on my first week at the Gulf Breeze National Seashore.

And what a first week it’s been!

There are several sites across the barrier islands that are park land, but the first one I visited as part of my internship was Naval Live Oaks. I was able to hike the Brackenridge Nature Trail, a gorgeous boardwalk trail that turns into a hike! The trail has beach access and a elevated viewing platform, perfect for gazing out onto the sound.

On the trail, all I could hear was the symphony of insects chirping and the sounds of bird calls. It really immersed me in the park and its environment.

Breathtaking view overlooking the Santa Rosa Sound
A replica cannon located inside of Fort Pickens

It wasn’t long until I got a good look at Fort Pickens itself. Of course, this wasn’t my first time seeing the fort—I’ve been several times before, and its beauty and history was a big factor in why I wanted this internship the first day.

But this time, I was lucky enough to have a guide who was very knowledgeable on the history surrounding the fort and the other military installations located on the Fort Pickens area. It was like seeing it for the first time all over again!

Still during my first day, my supervisor, another ranger, and I transported a real cannon to the middle of the fort. This cannon was scheduled for a live (sans ball) firing that very same weekend. It was amazing to get out and into the field on my very first day!

The rest of the week was similarly busy, with plenty of time inside and out getting familiar with the park and the programs it offers. I’m excited to start diving into research and shadowing starting next week, in preparation for the programs I’ll be running this summer!

A pair of salamanders spotted during kayak training
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