Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Beach Climbing In Florida? Pt. I (Washington Oaks)


Washington Oaks State Park
By Joshua Jimenez

When most people think of Florida, the first thoughts are images of white sandy beaches with palm trees, or the theme parks, which are usually why anyone comes to the sunshine state. Being Florida climbers though, the last thing you could ever imagine is climbing outdoors. Although this article won't be about rock climbing outdoors per say, it will be about rocks that have the potential to be climbed.

In this two part article I will go over two different parks.

The first part being my new favorite beach, and a little known park, called Washington Oaks State Park. Located just north of Ormond Beach, the drive is minimal to this lovely garden and beach front park. The A1A splits the park in the middle. On the west side sits the garden part of the park with trails and pathways taking you through the deep history of the park. And speaking of the history, the park is actually named after a relative of President George Washington. Here you will have a nice view of the inlet and plenty of room to lounge around with any snacks you care to bring. Right next to it is the opportunity to visit the old house of Louise Powis Clark and Owen D. Young’s old house, where they lived before their death in the early 1960s. Eventually, you will continue on through a rose garden and then onto the koi ponds. This part of the park is filled with history dating back way before any of us had even thought of climbing. Then, after you finish up with the gardens and your picnic, it’s time to hit the beach. To get there you literally drive out of the gardens and cross the road.

And this is where the rock climbing aspect comes into play.

When you tell people that you're a rock climber from Florida, most of the time the feedback is that they want to know where you could possibly climb in Florida. But this is no ordinary place. As soon as you walk onto the beach, you'll notice to the north an impressive stretch of Florida's take on rocks. These formations are composed of what is known as coquina rocks, which is just compressed shells and sand that has been formed over millions of years. This formation of rocks stretches from St. Augustine where it is popularly known as the same rock that was used to build the Castillo de San Marcos in St. Augustine. And it goes all the way down to a celestial body in the form of a beach known as Jupiter Beach.

Washington Oaks State Park

As I said in the beginning of this article, this won't be about rock climbing but more so about rock hopping. Just walking around on these rocks will be enough of an adventure. This formation in this particular area stretches for the better part of [better part and some are redundant] 3 miles. From my personal experience I was not able to find anything worthy of deeming "climb able". Most of the rocks at Washington Oaks don't stand taller than 5 feet. You could, with some imagination, come up with crazy mantle moves or even really low and awkward traverses.

Again, this is not about rock climbing in Florida, but a chance to explore a beach that seems so out of the ordinary, it’s worth being called a place to climb outdoors.

This park is for those who wish to sit back, relax, and soak up the sun on some real Florida rocks. Or for those who like long walks on the rocky outcrops that is Washington Oaks. When I visited, I did my best to try and find something worthwhile to climb; I was able to find a tunnel small enough for maybe some of the younger kids to crawl through, but any normal average-sized adult could not climb out of. In the process I was able to make up a game, which I'll explain at the end. I walked the length of the beach until the bottom of my feet were raw and torn up from walking on those rocks, and I still hadn't reached the end. What I found to be the most enjoyable was how relatively empty the beach was. It is an odd thing to say, but just watching water hit rocks as I walked as far as I could was an ideal Florida moment.

Washington Oaks State Park

As for the challenge, over time people have carved and written things into the rocks all over the beach. There are 5 that really caught my attention and the challenge is this: If anyone can take a photograph of all 5 said carvings in any all within a given trip to Washington Oaks, I shall reward them with a climbing themed prize.

The hints are these:
1. A popular name half washed away
2. Initials by a fallen free
3. Two names carved right next to each other both starting with the letter T.
4. Two names etched next to each other with a date
5. A face of sorts

Here stands the challenge.

A few things about the park before you plan your visit: Washington Oaks Gardens State Park is located at 6400 North Oceanshore Boulevard, Palm Coast (two miles south of Marineland, off A1A). The gardens and the beach side do cost money to get into. Admission is $5.00 per vehicle like any other state park. A quick tip: when you do look up the address for the park, get off an exit early to avoid paying the toll on the Hammock Dunes Bridge. It'll be worth the extra scenic drive along the A1A north bound towards the park.For the second part of the article we shall go to a more popular and widely discussed outdoor climbing area called Jupiter Beach.

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3 comments:

  1. You should check out Blowing Rocks State Park in Jupiter if you want something that's climbable. There are tons of blow hole caves to boulder on. But be sure to get there at low tide.

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    1. "For the second part of the article we shall go to a more popular and widely discussed outdoor climbing area called Jupiter Beach. "

      :-)

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  2. thanks for share..

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