Today we returned to Florida.
We are in the Pensacola area to visit with family during the holidays.
Tonight's sunset was peaceful and pretty.
One of our favorite Corps of Engineers campgrounds is on the Tombigbee River in Alabama. Each day tugs push large sets of barges up and down the river and this time of year river cruisers pass by headed for Florida.
Each night we get a pretty view of the far bank as the sunset makes the changing colors really stand out.
We did take a short hike on the park trails. Combined the trails are about 2 miles.
We are members of a group called Harvest Hosts. This gives us access to stay overnight at farms, breweries, wineries, museums, and even bowling alleys. This was the first time we have stayed at a Tea Farm. I did not even know there were tea farms in the country.
The owner took us on a tour of the farm. We got the most detailed description of how tea is grown, harvested, and processed. There was so much to learn like tea is actually member of the camelia family of plants. If the plants are not trimmed, they will grow into a tree instead of the bush size needed for harvesting the leaves.
I asked if they had any problems with deer eating the plants. He said no that the leaves are very bitter because of the caffeine content. The farm has no pest problems because of the same thing. There are pests in other countries that do damage plants but they do not exist here. Bees do like the flowers and they have hives on site. The honey has a different flavor than regular wildflower honey.
Next, we toured the production building they call the "Tea Shack". They use several methods in the preparation of the different types of tea they produce. Black, Green, White, and Oolong tea are sold by the farm. I had no idea how much time and effort are required to make good tea. He was very descriptive of their process and the way commercial tea leaves are processed. They have some creative names like Mississippi Mud, Black Magnolia, Mississippi Pine Needles, Mississippi Belle Oolong, ...
At the end of our tour, we purchased several bags of tea. The owner told us of a tradition of bringing morning tea to his visitors. As promised, he brought us a tray with tea at 9am the next day.
We enjoyed our stay and the hospitality of the owners.
We have stayed at the Riverview campground several times. It is on the river side of the levey which gives great views of the activity on the river. Our side of the river is Vidalia, Louisiana and the other side is Natchez, Mississippi.
We enjoyed our time here. We rode our bikes along the river. Watched barges go up and down and saw two paddle wheeler river cruise ships.
We also enjoyed several pretty sunsets.
A nearby restaurant had very good seafood. It was so good that we came back a couple of days later to buy some boiled shrimp to take home for a meal.
Relaxing was most of what we did at this State park. The lake was pretty but we did not get sunset pictures. We were able to do a 4 mile hike one of the park's trails.
On the trail, we walked up on three does who seemed more interested in what they saw from the other direction. We never did discover what they were so interested in up the trail.
There were lots of downed trees from a storm that had passed through earlier in the year but one older log stood out as it was covered in moss.
Today, we stopped at a the Magnolia RV park which we have visited in the past. The new owners have gone above and beyond with their upgrades. The Wi-Fi is the best we have ever experienced. I spoke with the owner and she said that they thought about putting up poles and boosters for the park but found the cost was higher than expected. She knew that cable was already at each site and asked the company if that would make a difference. They came back with a plan that allowed EACH site to have a Wi-Fi modem. She said the maintenance was zero and the speed was fantastic. I agree we had our own modem and speeds of 108mps download and 10 upload.
Mule Kick is a local pizza joint with a large selection of craft beers. Generally they cater to college students from the University just up the road. As usual, we slipped in during the mid afternoon to avoid the crowds.
The temperature dropped quite a bit last night so that will make for a chilly morning at the mine. It is weird calling it a mine or a crater. Neither seems to fit. Field would be the best description but who would pay money to visit the Diamond Field State Park ... a lot of people I would guess. The word Diamond tends to get people excited.
We layered up and headed for the park.
The crater is a completely eroded ancient volcano. Lava and other material was ejected bringing with it the diamonds from a source many miles below the surface. Over the years, the crater completely dispersed. Today, we can not even see any evidence that a crater ever existed.
The first diamond was found in the "crater" in 1906. The land was known to be a possible source of diamonds since at least the 1870s but none were found.
For years after the initial discovery, the property was a commercial diamond operation and many diamonds were found. The largest diamond found in the US was a 40.23-carat pink named "Uncle Sam" found at the crater. Most of the mining operations failed. The land changed hands several times until the State purchased it and created the State Park in the early 1970s.
Crater of Diamonds State Park is the only diamond mine open to the public and there is no charge for material removed including diamonds.
Just inside the entrance is an example of what had been found in the park.
The diamond was found in 1990 and weighed 3.03 carats. After being cut it was 1.09 carats. In 1997 it was valued at $36,000. No telling what it is worth today.
An average of one diamond per day is reported to the park. Almost all are under 1 carat but as many as once a week a larger diamond is found. The largest diamond found this year was over 4 carats.
It is known that many of the "professional" diamond miners do not report. Hum, I wonder why someone would not report a large diamond to a state park? Maybe to keep the IRS from finding out. Just guessing.
The park does have some signs showing so much information.
Like I said earlier the park is just looks like a plowed field.
The park has two wash stations. They are large bins full of water under a shade cover. Last night was pretty chilly so the water was cold.
The way we were taught to sift involves some splashing so getting damp is guaranteed. Good thing we wore older clothes and shoes. After working through several buckets of dirt, we ended up getting the sifting correct. Our goal is to get the heaviest material concentrated in the center.
After several hours of digging, hauling buckets, and sifting we ended up with a few pretty stones but no diamonds. We did have fun.
We are a couple who have started on a new adventure...