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  • Writer's pictureKathryn Graham

The Crow's Nest Casa de Playa- An Unforgettable Couple's Retreat

Someone once said that the ocean stirs the heart, inspires the imagination, and brings eternal joy to the soul. With my husband, Josh and I preparing for the upcoming wedding season and not having ever taken a vacation alone together without our children I thought it was past time to jump at the opportunity of taking a couple's retreat before the wedding season ramped up and we were swarmed with the day to day activities of the business we operate together, the kid's summer activities and all else that would be involved this summer. Really we needed to take some time and reset ourselves, take a break from the day to day and escape together for a time to rekindle all that is between us. Marriage is an obstacle course and as Pat Benetar once said, love is a battlefield. It's good for both sides to come together, recharge and prepare to take on the world together. So with my husband on the road with driving a haz-mat tanker I took it upon myself to arrange the biggest surprise he has had in awhile. After some research, I decided the Crow's Nest Casa de Playa would be our home away from home for two wonderful days.

We packed our SUV with our bags, kissed the kids goodbye and profusely thanked our wonderful parents for agreeing to watch our babies for two days while we escaped into the wilds. As soon as we were in the truck headed down the highway you could tell that both of us were so excited to be alone together and looking forward to our adventure. We were like two giddy school kids.

Josh and I decided to grab a bite to eat along the way to the Crow's Nest. To my surprise he told me to pull into a gas station called Town and Country that we were passing by. I was a little disappointed that this is where he had chosen to have lunch. But, I thought to myself it is kind of an Alabama tradition to eat chicken out of a gas station. So I wearily walked in and was pleasantly surprised to see crispy, crunchy goodness awaiting me on the other side of the glass. We ordered some tenders, fried okra, mac-n-cheese and potato logs. With a soda fountain in hand we sat down at a booth inside the gas station and ate our lunch watching the local truck drivers and construction workers milling in to get their lunch too. Call me crazy, but I was surprised and delighted to find that the food was fresh and great tasting.

Finishing our food we headed out and made our way to the Crow's Nest where we met the owners, Angie and Alex- a friendly and personable couple who were very welcoming to us. Alex showed us around the property.

The property was beautiful with white sand and lush trees that made you feel so secluded in your own personal corner of the world.

The beautiful back deck of the house provided a comfortable outside swing bed to veg out on and enjoy reading or napping in the sun. The hot tub and salt water pool were the perfect addition to our stay. And while the February weather made for the pool to be a little too nippy to swim in and enjoy it was still a beautiful and welcoming sight. The February weather certainly did not keep us from enjoying the warmth of the hot tub which we made sure to make great use of both days that we were there.

I had the dream of glamping ever since Josh took me on my very first camping trip a few years ago and every expectation of what I thought it would be like was met and then some. I could really tell that Angie and Alex put a lot of time and effort into making sure that the yurt had everything that you could possibly need.

The yurt offered the seclusion and privacy of having our own room and space with a queen sized bed so comfortable you felt like you were sleeping on a cloud with fresh, clean white sheets and bedding. Angie and Alex seemed to think of everything that you may need or wish for during your stay including shampoo and toiletries to board games and coffee.

The yurt had power to supply to a small heater and a fan if needed. I loved being outside in the yurt, sleeping under the stars, especially with the comfort of the fan blowing on me throughout the night.

Ohhh, the comforts of modern day luxury!!!

We also got to enjoy watching some Netflix and listening to Pandora on the television in the yurt. And if anyone knows me they will tell you I love my coffee. I am not me without my coffee and do not try to converse with me before I have had my coffee. I was a little worried that I would have to forgo my lovely cup of joe while I was on my vacay, but again Angie and Alex think of everything and made sure to place a lovely Keurig in the yurt with lots of coffee for our enjoyment. We even went out and got Bailey's and Malibu Rum from the Sassy Bass Gas Station and Restaurant to enjoy with it

Being locals born and raised on the Gulf Coast my entire life I have had ample opportunity to enjoy the area. Sadly, I never took the chance and explored what my home has to offer, but on this trip I was bound and determined for all that to change.

The area of Fort Morgan offers many different types of ecosystems to enjoy. The wetlands, marshes, estuaries, woods, dunes, and beaches teeming with all kinds of wildlife such as alligators, deer, and turtles provides wonderful opportunities to enjoy bird watching, hiking, biking, swimming and much, much more. There are several activities that couples and families can enjoy such as renting a Segway or a Golf Cart, taking tours with a knowledgeable guide, kayaking, or exploring out on your own.

Our first day down in Fort Morgan, Josh and I biked around the Fort and enjoyed the scenery of the old battlements. I hadn't been on a bike in nearly 15 years, but after some time riding I felt at ease enjoying the beauty of the area. The day that we went riding greeted us with a blanket of fog that set in heavily during the afternoon and remained for the duration of our stay, but we did not let it deter us.

At one point I felt like being a little adventurous and decided to ride my bike along the sea wall surrounding the fort, but after a few yards decided that with my lack of coordination and the height of the seawall it may be best for me to back track and forgo this part of my adventure. Josh got a good chuckle watching me straddle walk my bike back to more open territory.

After riding around the Fort we decided to head back to our little home away from home and enjoy the hot tub. We enjoyed making Pina Coladas on the deck and sitting in the warmth of the water not being interrupted by anyone or anything. Click here for an awesome Pina Colada Recipe. It was so wonderful to sit and relax with my husband for the first time in what seemed like forever. We sat in the hot tub with Josh enjoying his drink and me reading my latest novel of choice until our fingers were nice and pruny and we were both water logged feeling like wet noodles.

With our bellies rumbling again and desiring a little bit of dinner we decided to head back out and grab some dinner. With it being the winter months many of the places along Fort Morgan road close for the season so we drove back into Gulf Shores to a local oyster bar and pizzaria that has been in the area since 1985, Papa Rocco's where they advertise that they are the home of warm beer and lousy pizza. But don't let their tongue in cheek motto fool you. The food is scrumptious and the menu is chalk full of delicious choices.

My husband has a fascination with spaghetti so his choice was easy. I chose one of my favorites, a dozen of their Cajun baked oysters. Listening to the band play and the crowd of people in the restaurant yell out their song requests my husband and I enjoyed our meal talking over our plans of what we wanted to do the next day. I wanted to go kayaking, which is a service that Angie and Alex offer with their company, Goin' Coastal. Josh voiced his concerns that the lagoon might be too rough and the fog would probably make it a little less desirable. With that in mind we decided to see what the weather was like the next day before we settled on our plans. With full bellies we headed back to the yurt and drifted off to sleep in our comfy bed.

The next morning I awoke with a fresh cup of coffee brought to me by my darling husband. He looked like he was more refreshed and at ease than I had seen him in years. It made my heart happy to see him like that.

We decided to pull out the Gulf Shores-Opoly game and give it a shot. You can purchase your own here. We have a running joke in our family, when it comes to board games- do not play Josh. He will win every time. I should have known better and he sat there triumphantly beating me with every purchase of property that he made. He certainly is a strategist through and through.

I decided that I wanted to take a shower and headed out to the outdoor shower. The outdoor shower was amazing. I had never experienced such a thing and was pleasantly surprised to enjoy the hot water it had to offer.

After taking a shower and getting ready for the day we embarked on our adventures. Just as Josh had predicted the lagoon was way too rough for kayaking so we decided to go hiking. We hiked the Jeff Friend Trail which offers a 0.9 mile loop with a lake. We then enjoyed the hiking trail of Pine Beach Trail which is joined by Gator Lake Trail and Centennial Trail. Pine Beach Trail is 4 miles round trip and offers amazing views of Gator Lake, Little Lagoon and the Gulf of Mexico.

Along the trail Josh and I found many different game trails and sights that showed us that alligators were nearby. The saw grass reminded me of what the area could have looked like in prehistoric times and I felt so secluded with no signs of beach development around. The sounds of the automobiles on Highway 180 were washed out by the sounds of nature. And we got to enjoy talking with other naturists about the sights that they had seen as well.

Hiking five miles will certainly lead one to have a massive appetite. With our lungs full of fresh air and our bodies worn out from taking in the sights of nature we headed back to grab a bite to eat at a hole in the wall restaurant located behind a gas station on Fort Morgan Road. With all of the fresh seafood coming in off the boats, Alabama has some of the best seafood to offer and some of the best tasting food comes from the Mom and Pop restaurants off the beaten path of Gulf Shores and Fort Morgan.

The Hook and Cook Restaurant, which is not even on Google Maps offered fresh caught seafood, homemade gumbo, and amazing hushpuppies. Josh is a tuna steak connoisseur and was delighted to find it on the menu.I decided on enjoying a big cup of gumbo which the waitress was sure to let us know was made in house and the blackened snapper with fried okra. I am a southern girl through and through and if fried okra is on the menu I cannot help myself.

After filling our bellies we headed back to the yurt to sit in the hot tub and rest our aching muscles from the day's adventures. Being water logged and feeling like wet noodles Josh and I ended our day sitting by the campfire enjoying smores and toasted marshmallows with what was left of our Malibu Rum.

I knew that our adventures were coming to an end and it was bittersweet for it to be coming to a close, but I felt more recharged and inspired than I had in a long time. We finished the night around that campfire talking about our life plans and goals, dreaming about the days to come and setting out on our next adventure.

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