Black Friday usually means hitting the malls and emptying bank accounts, and while I’ve done these things in the past, I have in recent years started to hate the chaos associated with holiday shopping. So this year, instead of standing in checkout lines or elbowing people for the must-have deal, we took a leisurely trip to St. Augustine for the day.
Our first stop was Fort. Matanzas National Monument. I had never been to this tiny yet significant outpost that kept St. Augustine firmly gripped in the hands of the Spanish. Upon arrival, we had to sign up for a boat trip as this fort is across the inlet on Rattlesnake Island and is only accessible with a park ranger serving as guide. We had about 15 minutes to burn before boarding the boat, so I spent some time fooling around with my camera on the beach.
The boat ride was quick, but riding over the cool waters made the 55 degree day downright frigid. Within ten minutes we were disembarking and following the ranger to the base of the fort. She went on to explain that once the fort was manned, always with five men and one officer, that the fort in St. Augustine, located only 14 miles to the north, was never attacked from this direction. That probably had a little something to do with the cannons that could fire up to three miles.
After the ranger’s introduction and brief history, we spent the next 25 minutes exploring the outside foundation, peeking into the two rooms, and climbing narrow ladder to the roof of the fort where a Spanish flag still flies. Inside the tiny rooms were the impossibly small beds. A table was situated in front of a fire place. Cramped quarters to say the least.
Then our time was up and it was back on the boat for the chilling ride back to the other side of the inlet. Before leaving I made sure to get my National Park Passport Book stamped in the visitor center. While the visit was short, being transported back in history for a few minutes was so much more meaningful than fighting hordes of holiday shoppers. In fact this might become one of our new Thanksgiving traditions. The best part…no fighting for a parking space.