Friday, April 23, 2004

We had a blast in Alabama, and it was so wonderful to visit with old friends! It's amazing how easy it is to fall into comfort and conversation despite distance and passage of time when you're with real friends.

The kids had so much fun playing miniature golf and frollicking on the beach. They did all the beachy stuff: built sandcastles, buried each other in the sand, jumped waves. The boys even took naps, and the girls got their hair wrapped.

We were excited to find a letterbox hidden at Fort Morgan, which we added to our short list of found letterboxes. This was the first time we used our home-carved stamp, which you can see at our letterboxing page. Now that the weather's warmer, we're hoping to add some new finds to our list.

Fort Morgan was very cool. We toured the remains of this coastal defense fort, built after the War of 1812. The fort is shaped much like the Pentagon and was designed to control and defend Mobile Bay. The star shape enabled strong defenses on both land and water, offering several points to concentrate heavy artillery fire as an enemy fleet approached. By the time the Confederacy used both Fort Morgan and Fort Gaines in the Civil War, their defenses were sadly out of date. We learned that the Union Admiral D. G. Farragut was easily able to penetrate Confederate defenses despite artillery fire and mines, known as torpedoes, as he barked the famous order, "Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!"

We also took a ferry across the bay to Dauphin Island, where we saw Fort Gaines and visited the Estuarium, an aquarium designed around the marine life of the Gulf of Mexico and Mobile Bay. Run by the Dauphin Island Sea Labs, the Estuarium offers displays on river deltas, barrier islands, Mobile Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. It has several hands-on exhibits, including Please Touch Tanks that enable the kids to touch and hold marine life like hermit and horseshoe crabs, clams and snails and handle different skeletons, shells and egg casings.

All in all, we had a pretty terrific trip!

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