Thursday, November 30, 2006

Reed Bingham State Park near Adel, Georgia

This park moved up to the top of the list when I found out that they are draining their lake on December 9. It will stay low through the end of January. So it was pretty much a matter of going now or putting it off for quite awhile. I decided to go now.

This park is only about an hour away from where I live, but I had never been there before. I find that the webpages for Georgia state parks are less informative than those for Florida parks. Also, they do not allow you to reserve a specific site—you can reserve a campsite and when you get there just hope all the good ones aren’t taken. Of course this is not much of a concern in the middle of the week this time of year. I read a review of this campground written by an RVer, who mentioned that the campground had been recently improved and now had gravel sites. I called the office last week (which is when I found out about the planned lake-draining) and was told that tenters were allowed to set up off the gravel, and that they had several sites ideal for tenting.

I got there around noon, as usual. There are actually two campground areas. There were a few RVs set up, almost all of them in the open middle section. I looked at all the available sites and found several that looked good. I settled on #11, which I think is the best tent site in the campground.

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As you can see, there is a rectangular gravel area for an RV, and the square area to the left is also mostly pea-gravel. However, the rest of it is pine-straw-covered dirt. I decided to also take a picture of the tent area. Very nice and woodsy. The sites on either side are drive-throughs and so are set much closer to the road than this one.

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While the view from the site is of the open center area, #11 extends far enough into the woods that it allows a certain amount of privacy from those in the center.

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It was overcast for essentially the entire time I was there, except for the mornings. Both mornings started out with blue sky and a few clouds, but by 10:00 the gray clouds were back. It rained both nights, which delighted me since I was warm and dry in my tent and the pattering sound of drops on the rainfly was wonderful. This is the first time it’s rained on this tent and I found that I could leave all the windows open and stay dry. (Probably not the case if there’s wind, though.) I was glad that my tent is large enough to accommodate a chair as well as the bed, so I could read in the early evening while it rained.

The daily threat of rain put a bit of a damper on my paddling outings, but did not change my hiking plans. They have really great hiking trails at this park. I chose the longest one, 2.5 miles, for my first hike. All of the pictures from this trip, both here and on the paddling blog, are a bit darker (let’s say more dramatic) than usual due to the lack of sunshine.

The longest trail leaves from a parking area at the end of the park road. Shorter trails branch off of this one. I often refer to park trails as being “well maintained,” by which I mean there are no fallen trees, no trash, low areas that might fill with water are either covered with a walkway or a go-around is provided, etc. The beginning of this trail takes “well maintained” a bit far, given that it is gravel.

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That goes on for awhile. I had hoped to perhaps see some deer, but walking on gravel is very noisy so I just enjoyed the scenery.

And then after awhile it becomes a boardwalk that is raised off the ground.

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This boardwalk goes over marshy, swampy areas that at this time were only partially filled with water. Given all the warnings posted around the park about gators in the lake and river, including a picture of a resident 15-footer, I expected to see at least one in what looked like a perfect environment for them. No such luck. However, the boardwalk is very scenic, particularly now with some fall color remaining.

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So then later the boardwalk ends and the trail becomes a normal dirt path that runs right next to the river (a few feet away), with no fence or other obstruction between the trail and the water, in which resides the 15-foot gator.

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That goes on for a way. I was glad when it veered off into the woods. I have no worries being in a kayak on the same water as a gator; I’m not as comfortable on foot.

These trails are extremely well-marked, but I came to an intersection that had no colored arrow or sign of any kind. I took the path to the right. Next time I’ll take the other path. The one I was on turned into another boardwalk. Another feature of these trails is the regular spacing of benches along the way. I thought this one was particularly nice:

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Eventually I returned to the parking lot. This park has a lot of gopher tortoises. On my way back to the campground I passed a large section that has many, many dens or holes or whatever they are called that these tortoises dig. On the left I saw a tortoise just outside the entrance of one, but by the time I stopped the car, parked, and got out, it had retreated back inside. Later I came back on foot and walked slowly alongside the area with many holes dug out—the wildlife people had marked them all with different colored flags (some sort of monitoring project). I spent a lot of time walking slowly back and forth but never saw even one tortoise, except that one I spotted from the car. Later I walked the half-mile “Gopher Tortoise Trail,” which is very nice but revealed no gopher tortoises to me. In fact, the only wildlife I spotted on land in the park was the armadillo that visited my campsite after dark one night.

The paddling at this park was excellent, as described in the Paddle Tales blog. I recommend this park as a camping destination. There are hot showers, flushing toilets, and a washer and dryer available. There are bikes for rent, as well as canoes. While I would not choose to come here in summer, it offers a lot of activities—there is a swimming beach and a miniature golf course. This is a popular water-skiing lake and so the paddling would be bad in summer. I also suspect that the bugs would be a major problem—I had mosquitoes coming around after dark even at the end of November. It’s a good off-season spot, though. There is a large catfish restaurant immediately outside of the park gates. The town of Adel is about 6 miles away and has various things to offer, including a few outlet stores, if you enjoy mixing shopping and camping.

The next trip is planned for two weeks from now; another new place. Stand by.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Manatee Springs State Park near Chiefland, Florida

Ah, the first new post in this blog for quite awhile! I did go camping at Three Rivers again earlier this month, but it was so similar to all the previous trips that I did not blog it. I have several new campgrounds in mind to visit this camping season so this blog will finally have some new posts!

Trips to campgrounds for the first time are not my favorite outings. There are a lot of unknowns. This campground has over 90 campsites in two loops (I think there is also a primitive campground and a youth campground). I had reserved site 91. I asked when I checked in at about 2:00 if I could look around and if I prefer another site, change. The woman at the entrance said yes and told me some sites that were available for my two nights.

I did not like site 91. It was in Hickory Loop. I decided to explore Magnolia Loop, across the road. Most of the sites are there, and they have some tent-only sites (with power and water). I wasn’t too far into the campground when I spotted a large group of deer just milling around in the wooded center part.

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I spent some time photographing them—they were curiously unafraid. Then some dogs nearby spotted them and started barking. I discovered that the only residents in this area at that time were two tenters across from each other. One of them was an older guy with the two dogs. I have several barking dogs of my own at home and so I didn’t want to be anywhere near barking dogs on this particular trip. But I wanted to be in this loop because of the deer. So I chose site #44, as far from them as possible, and set up camp.

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At about 3 pm, as I was finishing, the older guy walked by with his two dogs. Well, actually, he staggered by, pretty clearly inebriated. This wasn’t encouraging, but the tent was up and he was staying all the way across the campground. And I figured I could take him if he bothered me… So I finished setting up camp and had a late lunch. At 4 pm I decided to walk over to explore the spring area. As I was passing by the dumpster near the entrance to Magnolia Loop, I saw this older guy throwing a six-pack’s worth of empty glass beer bottles in the dumpster one by one. Hmmmmm…it was only 4:00. And he was with someone else, who was an unknown as far as age and demeanor but could very well also be drinking at this level at this time of day. My husband and I have an agreement that we will do our best to stay alive and well in order to fulfill our plans for the future together, and I didn’t think he would be real happy knowing that I was sharing this entire campground with these two. I went back to Hickory Loop and selected site #82. A ranger was driving by so I explained the situation and asked him to radio the entrance (which is some distance from the campgrounds) to see if #82 was available. It was. So….back to #44 to take everything down and toss it in the car. It took three trips to get it all moved and it was 5:20 before I was set up again—only to find that site #82 had no power in the outlets! I always check that first thing, but this was not a typical situation. The rangers all leave at 5:30 and lock the gate, so I hurried back to the entrance and told the woman there about the problem; she said she would send someone. This was not a huge deal—I carry a 100-ft extension cord that would easily reach the outlet in site #83, and I knew this. No one was in site #83. Site #82 was wonderful. However, I later decided that #83 is a little better, and #84 better still—but none beyond that as the bath house floodlights shine brightly into them. The nice thing about #82—and I recommend any of those three—is that there are large empty spaces (brush, trees, etc.) on either side. However, it is directly across from the campground host site. While there is less space between #83 and #84, it is across from grassy parking spaces and not other sites. Also, it is a little better distance from the bath house—not far, but not right next to it, either. At any rate, I was extremely happy in site #82. I was the only tenter in the campground but there were several RVs set up.

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Ok, so anyway, that’s how my first day went.

That night I had raccoon visitors while I sat by the campfire. One of them came over to me and actually walked right under the footrest part of the chaise-type folding chair I was sitting in. It then stood next to me on my left, as if it were going to jump in my lap like a cat. This might not be great, so I said “Hi…” to it, in case it didn’t realize I was animate. It wasn’t particularly startled but did wander away. More on them later.

I could hear the dogs from Magnolia Loop barking in the distance through the night.

The next day I took a walk to Manatee Springs. There is a boardwalk that circles half of the spring area and then continues alongside the “spring run,” a channel that leads to the Suwannee River. The water was, of course, a bright turquoise, made even more vivid by the reflection of the bright blue sky.

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I walked along the boardwalk, which juts out over the water at intervals.

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On the other side is an expanse of cypress knees. The boardwalk is very well-maintained and ends at a large dock on the river.

When I got back to the campsite, the deer were in Hickory Loop. The story from the ranger is that the campers have been feeding the deer and so they have become somewhat tame and that’s why they hang around. While I agree completely that this is not a good thing—how many people carry appropriate deer food (as opposed to potato chips, etc.) with them on camping trips?—I can’t help but enjoy being so close to them.

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This one is looking at me but its ears are listening to something behind it…

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I went out paddling for a few hours. As always, that story and accompanying photos are on the Paddle Tales blog.

When I got back I decided to go for a walk along their somewhat short nature trail. It’s short but it is very nice. I usually go on these hikes hoping to see deer and raccoons. However, the deer and raccoons were in the campground. This is the only wild animal I saw on this hike.

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(It’s an armadillo. These are extremely common in the southeast states.)

Behind site #82 is a strange depression with water in it. I asked the ranger about it. There are water-filled caves under the park. Apparently divers will start someplace—probably the spring—and swim through these caves. He said there were three holes like this where they would come up, and then follow the caves to the next hole. I didn’t see any divers, but it was very clear that there were springs under there as the surface water was moving in a way that indicated upwelling water.

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So the next night I was ready for the raccoons. I had the flashlight and the camera next to me. I sat by the campfire. Sure enough, here they come again.

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One of them explores under the table while two others check out what’s on top.

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And then, at about the same time, the raccoon and I both realized that there was a trash bag on the picnic table bench. Whoops!

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It grabbed it and dragged it away while I went after it to retrieve it. I won, and after picking up the trash that had scattered, put it in the car. And went back to the campfire.

I knew it would be back.

Where’s that trash bag?

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This one thought there might be something good in the kayak.

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(It looks like I have strung it with Christmas lights but that’s just the reflective deck lines showing up under the flash.)

I spent some time that last day wandering through Magnolia Loop checking out campsites. After all, the old guy and his dogs and his beer are not always going to be there. Here are some notes I jotted down about good tent sites. These may not be great for RVs, I wasn’t looking with those in mind. Site #2 is private and roomy. However, it is far from the bath house. In fact, all of the best sites seemed to be far from the bath house in Magnolia Loop (which is actually two loops, an inner and outer). Sites 26-38 are for tents only, all with water and power. #26 was good, as were #29 and #34. Site #36 had a raised tent pad, as did #37. (Others may have as well, but I was only noting the ones with enough greenery on either side to afford privacy.) #83 and #84 remain my recommendations for Hickory Loop. Also, the trail leading to the spring is between sites #93 and #94 in Hickory Loop, so those sites will get more people wandering by. All of the sites at this campground are dirt and sand—no gravel sites. The bath house in Hickory Loop was surprisingly minimal—no soap dispenser at the sinks and no paper towels. The shower stalls are very small with no outer area or bench to put your clothes on—only the handicapped one was of any size. I had no cell service there, but both loops had pay phones. There were posts for clothesline but no actual line strung at any site, so if you want to hang towels, etc. up to dry, take your own line. This park is located at the end of a road far from any interstate—there was no traffic noise at night whatsoever.

It’s a good park. I hope all the other ones on my list turn out as nice. Stand by for my next camping report.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Three Rivers State Park

Another great camping trip to Three Rivers State Park! I didn’t blog the last trip here since it was essentially the same as the one before, as far as the camping experience. Hike, paddle, campfire, sleep, breakfast…and repeat. It’s great. Our season is winding down and I will be sorry to have to put the tent away till fall.

This time was a little different for two reasons. First, it’s April, and therefore it’s spring vacation somewhere, all month. As a result, there were children in the campground this time. This was novel; usually, since I camp mid-week during the school year, I am actually the youngest person in the place (and I am no spring chicken myself). But this time there were boys and girls having a great time on their vacation, and I enjoyed having them there. They rode bikes—

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and they were out on the pier late at night with flashlights fishing. They had a good time.

The other thing that was different this time is that April-June is gator mating season. It was eerie—all night they could be heard all along the shoreline (and I was in site #9 so I was right at the shore) grunting at each other. Very strange; a little alarming at first but I got over it.

The squirrels at this campground are like those at others—very tame and used to being fed by campers. I had a regular visitor this time who seemed partial to Planters peanuts and partial to me when it discovered I was willing to share. I’m not usually a huge squirrel fan, but this one was kinda cute…

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Hopefully we will have enough cool nights left for me to get back to this park one more time this year. I hope to also get back to St. Joseph Peninsula State Park as well. Stand by to hear about those trips. Meanwhile, the paddling portion of this trip is posted on Kayak Paddle Tales.

Friday, March 31, 2006

Torreya State Park (by way of Three Rivers)

Well, ok, technically I was camping at Three Rivers State Park. I have been here before and this trip was no different, camping-wise, from the previous ones blogged here. No new pictures, pretty much the same experience (though wonderful—this is a great campground).

So I packed up the campsite this morning and since it was too windy to paddle, I decided to check out Torreya State Park as a camping destination, and also as a place to hike. I have heard very good things about their trails. This park was a couple of exits off the freeway on my way home.

I went to the campground first. It has more greenery between the sites than Three Rivers does, but it is oddly planted. It’s thick toward the road, but nonexistent near the back, where one would put a tent. This is another campground that is very RV-oriented, where privacy is not an issue. Since there is no paddling available here, I think I will back-burner this spot till fall, when it is too cool to paddle but ideal for hiking. At that time, I will choose between two sites. Site #30 (the only one available on this day, interestingly) is the best for tenting as far as privacy. It would be fine. It’s across the road from the one yurt that this campground offers. On the other hand, site #17 has its appeal as well. It has basically no privacy, but what a view! This was taken from an overlook that is immediately adjacent to site #17. I wouldn’t mind setting up a chair to have my morning coffee overlooking this hilly vista that is peculiar to this area of Florida!

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I decided to go for a hike on one of the many trails that this park has. Given the hilly terrain, these trails provide excellent exercise. I understand that one of them is known as the “Torreya Challenge”—a 7-mile hike. I opted to take the River Bluff trail, which drops down a ravine to follow, for a short way, the Apalachicola River. What a pretty trail this is!

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At the start of it, you are above the river, looking down at it.

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The trail winds downhill, using both man-made steps and tree roots to offer footing in the steeper parts. Eventually it gets close to the river and offers some super views.

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I was the only one on the trail, so it was very peaceful. Yellow wildflowers are scattered all along the way.

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This particular trail is a relatively short one, taking about 45 minutes to an hour. This was a warm day and there were a few mosquitoes out and about. It may get a lot more buggy in summer.

As a viewer of the TV show “House,” I got a kick out of these signs, of which there were many:

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In this case, however, Gregory House is in fact an actual house (rather than a cranky doctor), a Victorian mansion that was moved across the Apalachicola River piece by piece and reconstructed in the state park (I don’t know the particulars—tours are available on weekends and there is a visitor center and gift shop, which was closed when I was there). This is the back of Gregory House:

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The River Bluff trail starts behind the house, and in fact the photo above looking down on the river was taken from the back of the house.

This is a fine park that is located in the only area of Florida that is actually hilly instead of flat. Great campground as far as the view from the overlook by site #17. The bath house is very nice with two hot-water showers. They have something I have not encountered before in a campground, which is large sinks with hot water that are provided for washing dishes. That’s nice!

I plan to get back out camping again in a couple of weeks, stand by for the next report.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Ochlockonee River State Park

Another great two nights at Ochlockonee River State Park. It was very crowded; mostly RVs but a few other tenters.

Back in November and December you couldn’t walk anywhere in this park without bumping into deer, including just going in and out of the campground. This time they were much more scarce. I went out for a walk on my first day there a little before I had dinner and was lucky enough to see this one.


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She continued into the woods a way and peered at me from around a tree.


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This is my favorite park for hiking. The trail that starts in the picnic area was flooded out a little way in, so I had to backtrack from that one and start elsewhere—the rest of the trails I walked were only a bit soggy in places. I never encountered another person on any of the trails, and I spent hours hiking them in the time I was there. The woods are filled with these bushes with yellow flowers on them, making for some wonderful scenery.

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While I was out hiking the first day, I came to the Reflection Pond, and so I sat on the bench to enjoy the view and have some water (that I had carried in, not from the pond...). A little bird came chirping into the tree next to me. It kept hopping to branches closer and closer to where I was sitting, chirping the whole time, and so I finally picked up the camera and took a picture of it.


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This is the most crowded any campground has been so far, and the first time I have had noisy neighbors at night. I guess that happens as the weather turns camping-friendly, and they did eventually settle down.

On my second morning there I lingered awhile over coffee and a book in my chaise chair, a short distance from the picnic table, at which I had had eggs for breakfast. I always keep the camera nearby since you never know when a photo opportunity will present itself. I became aware of several birds in the area of the picnic table, and while I watched, one jumped into my plate, looking, evidently, for leftover scrambled eggs.


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Shortly after that, one of the nearly-tame squirrels in the campground decided to investigate the kayak.

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This is a great campground and one I highly recommend you visit if you are in the area. And speaking of recommendations, if you like deer, I’d like to suggest you pick up a copy of the book I was reading (and finished) while on this trip. It’s called The Gift of the Deer, by Helen Hoover. It’s one of a series of books written when she and her husband left their jobs in Chicago and decided to live in semi-isolation in the North Woods of Minnesota. This book is all about the deer that they came to know (as much as you can know deer) over a period of about four years. She doesn’t write about the deer in a sappy, gooey way, but rather writes from the standpoint of appreciating them for the wild creatures they are. Other animals make appearances in the book as well. It’s a really good read if you like that sort of thing—I enjoyed it immensely. It’s the second I have read of the four she wrote in this series. I’ll read the other two soon.

As usual, I took the kayak on this trip. Hop over to Kayak Paddle Tales for the paddling report and photos from the water.

Stand by for the next camping report!

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Three Rivers State Park

This was my third trip to this park—this time I was staying for two nights. I got site #9 again (my favorite—though #8 is also a good tenting site) and was set up by about 1:00 (one advantage of living so close to the park!). I took the kayak out for a quick paddle on the lake, but the wind and waves got the better of me and I returned to the campground after less than an hour and decided to take off hiking.

I followed the trail that leaves from the campground, which is a fairly short one. If you go straight on it, you simply come out at the public boat ramp (as opposed to the one in the campground). However, if you take the path to the right when it splits, it makes a nice loop that takes you into fairly high ground (yes! In Florida!), with some great views of the forest. I was absolutely amazed not to see any deer—though there were numerous deer tracks on the trail and the campground hosts had seen them often. Nonetheless, it was a warm day and it’s a nice trail.

The next day there was an event taking place in the park as part of the “Step Up, Florida” fitness and exercise initiative that is being promoted throughout the month of February. The park was offering free admission for the day, as well as free canoe rentals. The reception table for this event was in the picnic area, which is where their longest trail, the Eagle Trail, begins. I decided to hike that trail and stopped at the reception table on my way in, where I was pleased to be given a "Step Up, Florida" cap and a Nalgene-type water bottle! Other visitors while I was there included a couple from Ontario, Canada (I suspect their timing was coincidental—it was a fun event for a worthwhile cause and the promotional items were very nice, but perhaps not of drive-down-from-Canada caliber), and a woman who was hiking the entire Florida Trail, one of only eight National Scenic Trails in the United States, and had so far logged over 1,000 miles in this pursuit.

Eagle Trail is well-marked, well-maintained, and very picturesque. Portions of it follow a service road, other parts are narrower and wind through the woods. It was an ideal hiking day.

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While the days were warm, the nights were still a bit chilly for us weather wimps. But a hot breakfast, hot coffee, and the sun helped warm things up in the morning. On my last morning, while sitting by the lake enjoying that hot coffee, I spotted a woman fishing from the pier. Our spring greenery has not popped out yet and so her umbrella lent some vivid color to the otherwise somewhat gray landscape. I also admired her headgear.

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The campground was more crowded than I have ever seen it—all the lakeside spots were taken first, and then the ones in the center were claimed, and finally latecomers occupied the woodsy sites farthest from the lake. There is one small cabin in this campground—I didn’t walk down there but given the number of campers, it was probably occupied as well. I had the only tent in the campground—the other accommodations ranged from a conversion van in the site next to mine to small truck campers, and then on to RVs that may have had more square footage than my house.

I spent more time hiking the trails this time than paddling, though I did get out for a great 3 hours on the water the morning following my second night. Visit Paddle Tales for pictures and the report from my time on the water.

While it would be nice to always have this park nearly to myself, as I have in my previous trips, it’s too great a park to be kept secret. Fishing, boating, hiking, water and power at every site, fantastic lake views. The bath house is the nicest I have ever encountered. While I couldn’t get cellular phone service there, the campground host got a clear signal through Verizon, and there is a land-line phone available in the center of the campground. Overnight fees are $12—hard to beat that—and they are half-price for anyone over 65.

I have a few more parks in this area that I want to get to for overnight camping before it gets too hot, but I doubt any will be ideal as this one.

Stand by for the next camping trip report.

Friday, January 27, 2006

St. Joseph Peninsula State Park

This was a one-night camping trip to St. Joseph Peninsula State Park. I had never been to this park before. Since it has many sites and this is off-season, and it was mid-week, I did not make reservations. When I got there, the kindly ranger told me to drive around and select a few sites and he would put me in any one I chose that wasn't reserved.

I chose Shady Pines campground over Gulf Breeze, which I had read was more RV-oriented. Shady Pines is beautiful! Nearly all the sites were wonderfully private with a lot of greenery around them. I settled on #116. It was very close to the bath house and yet the trees and shrubs were so thick around it that I could not see the structure, nor did its minimal lights come into the site. But it was conveniently a few steps away. I set up camp.

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I later walked around the campground with my handy-dandy PDA and made notes on other sites; if you are going tent camping in this park and would like some info on a few sites, send me an email.

It was too windy to take the kayak out so I set off on a hike along the nature trail that leaves from the Bayview Picnic area. This is a sandy trail that winds alongside St. Joseph’s Bay. There were many deer and raccoon tracks on the trail. When you get to the end, you have the option of turning around and following it back to the picnic area or looping back using the paved road that leads to the cabins and goes by some residences. I chose the road, as there was a lot of wooded area to the right—perhaps I would spot a deer or two.

And I did! Two deer were grazing on low branches as I approached slowly. Since this is a somewhat public area of the park (several people walk and bike on this road), the deer are not overly skittish.

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I finished my hike and returned to the campsite to prepare and eat dinner, as I planned to be out on the Gulf beach to see the sunset.

I had time while there to take a few pictures, including this one of the beach.

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It was a beautiful sunset.

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This park is very quiet at night. I could hear the wind blowing in the treetops from the cozy comfort of my tent, as well as the waves breaking on the Gulf side of the peninsula.

The next morning I had breakfast (took the second cup of coffee back to the beach to enjoy the morning view) and took down the tent and checked out of the campsite so that I could enjoy the rest of the day without worrying about that 1:00 checkout time. And then I went for another hike. I had intended to head out toward the point, leaving from the end of the road near the cabins. It’s a 7-mile hike; I was not going to do the whole thing, just a portion. However, after going a little way in, I decided that I wasn’t in the mood to hike on deep and loose sand (great exercise, though) so I opted instead to take a trail that was labeled “Gulf access.” It started out paved and then became a wooden boardwalk, and then became hilly sand.

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The payoff at the top of that hill was well worth it. Nice view. The sand here—as in most panhandle beaches—is snow white and very fine.

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I followed that path and took another picture of the dunes as I approached the Gulf.

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When I got back from this walk I checked the water to see if the tide had come far enough in to paddle in the bay. It had, and so I spent the rest of my time in the park out paddling around. Visit Paddle Tales for the paddling report and several photos.

This is an excellent park, and another one that requires more than one day. With so much to do, there isn’t enough time in one day to paddle and hike and have time to take a chair out to the beach and enjoy some simple relaxation.

The website for this park can be found at http://www.floridastateparks.org/stjoseph/default.cfm

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Three Rivers State Park

This is such a great park! In fact, though I usually only camp for one night, I have decided that my next trip here needs to be for two nights. The paddling is too good to limit the time spent on the water, but it turns out their hiking trails, though not as extensive as at Ochlockonee, are more interesting. More on that later.

I had reserved site #7 with the thought of moving into site 8, which is not reservable. Site 8 is closest to the boat ramp. When I got there, I decided to look around a bit at different sites. Last time I was there, there were more people than this time--when I arrived, only one tent was set up in a distant site. Well! It turns out that site #9 is ideal--it's right on the lake and next to the pier. It's a little close to #10, which is their only RV pull-through site, but this time of year, particularly on a weekday, there's a good chance 10 will be empty. It's also set a bit back from 9, so even if someone were there, they wouldn't be right next to you. So I checked to see if #9 was available and got the ok to set up there.

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I paddled for a couple of hours and then at about 4:00 headed off down the hiking trail that leaves from the campground. I came to an unmarked fork. I went straight--it comes out at the boat ramp. I turned around and decided to take the other route. But by then it was 4:30, I had no idea if it was a loop, and if it was a loop, was I 1/4 into it, halfway through it, almost finished? The sun was getting lower so I decided to head back to the site.

Another excellent feature of site 9 is that you can launch and take out a kayak right at the water in front of it, no need to go down to the boat ramp (which is close, anyway). It offers a lovely view for dinner, as the sun goes down and turns everything golden:

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After dark I discovered one small flaw with this site. The bright security light in the center of the campground beams into it. If you have an RV or truck camper, this would not be a problem, but it lit up the tent in a big way! So I spent some time trying to resolve this problem. My first thought was to take off the rainfly from the tent and double it up and drape it over the back to block the light (this light might not bother someone used to sleeping in a bright environment--it's pitch dark where I generally sleep). So I took the rainfly off...only to find that the light came in equally on one side as from the back and the fly would not cover all that when doubled up. I put the rainfly back on and considered draping a fleece throw I had over it. The throw was not large enough. (Fortunately there were no campers near me to witness all this.) So I had to go to Plan C, which was to pull up the stakes and move the whole tent forward, which left enough room to pull the car up behind it to totally block the light. That worked fine, and next time I will know where to position the tent in the first place to eliminate this little problem.

After all that activity, I was sitting by the campfire enjoying the flames. I was about 6-7' from the picnic table. As I sat there, I saw two raccoons approach from the lake side, well illuminated by the fire and the security light. One walked under the table and beyond to investigate the kayak paddles I had leaning on a nearby tree. The other got up on the table. All the food I had with me, as well as the cooler, were in the car. The raccoon rooted around up there for awhile through the stuff spread out on the table (a hand towel, pot lid, washed bowl, etc.), apparently totally unaware of my presence. It finally got bored and they wandered off and I went back to enjoying my campfire.

The next day I paddled for awhile and then decided to pack up the tent and explore the Eagle Trail, which leaves from the picnic area.

It's a wonderful trail!!

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This part of Florida is oddly hilly (though the photo doesn't show this aspect). This makes for very interesting hiking. Walking along shallow ravines and hills gives you much more of a landscape view than walking in a perfectly flat area. They say that there are fox squirrels here, which, in the pictures they provide, resemble the white squirrels at Ochlockonee. I didn't do the whole trail but didn't spot any this time. Next time I will be able to cover more ground since I won't be trying to fit everything into a period only a little longer than 24 hours.

I decided to walk through the spacious and open picnic area, which is right on the lake, to look for squirrels--mostly I was postponing leaving for home. As I was walking near the lake, I saw this:

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Was this poor snowman the victim of foul play? You decide.

It's likely that this park will be my next camping trip destination if the weather is suitable for paddling. With more time I will be able to get out in the kayak and explore their trails to a greater extent. I saw deer tracks over most of the Eagle Trail--maybe I can spot one next time.

Visit Paddle Tales for the kayaking report from this trip and wildlife and scenic pictures.

The website address for this park is http://www.floridastateparks.org/threerivers/default.cfm

Stand by for the next camping trip report.