Friday, December 25, 2009

Lake Seminole State Park in Donalsonville, GA

I had been to this park once before, at which time I stayed in one of their very nice cottages. This time I was going as a camper.

I arrived midweek a few days before Christmas, and when I got there the only other sites taken were those for the two hosts, and one for a foursome of campers with two tents. For the first day I had the whole lakeside row to myself!



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I had not taken the kayak since I knew it was going to get very windy, which it did. But it was warm during the two days I was there and so I spent a lot of time either reading by the lake or walking on the nature trail.

On the first afternoon I was sitting in my chair near the camper reading and watching the ospreys circle overhead. The sun was getting low in the sky. A little sparrow (previously identified as a wren--thanks SNB for the correction. I am the first to admit, and often have, that I am fairly clueless when it comes to small bird identification!) landed on a stalk of something tufted in front of me and proceeded to pull off the tufts.



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Shortly after that I had dinner in the camper, read some more, and went to bed.

The next morning I decided to go out exploring. The "Gopher Tortoise Nature Trail" starts in the campground. There are a lot of offshoots to the trail, but I continued on it to the boardwalk over a wetlands area. I was very surprised that there were no wading birds or osprey in the area. I spent a lot of time on a bench in a little shelter at the middle of the boardwalk while I was at the park, and never saw anyone else on the trail. Very peaceful. This is looking back from the shelter to the start of the boardwalk.



This is the view off the other side of the boardwalk.



This is from the shelter, looking toward where the trail continues into the woods. I never went any farther on the trail, but I did spend a lot of time watching this area for deer late in the afternoon....with no luck.



They have a lot of fox squirrels there (I may be guessing that they are fox squirrels...). I've never seen any of these up close before. For one thing, they are huge! Nearly twice the size of the squirrels that run our around our yard at home. They are really attractive, for a rodent.



On the afternoon of my second day, I drove to the picnic area to look for the Canada geese that I had heard honking over there. I found a large group of them at the swimming area. This one was coming in for a landing to join the rest.



Touchdown...



And putting on the brakes.



I have always liked Canada geese; I find them very striking.



As I was taking that last photo, I heard an osprey peeping overhead and was able to get this one as it headed for a tree branch.



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This is a popular area for the birds. This great blue heron was fishing near one of the docks at the boat ramp.



I guess this is a shy one....



This picnic area is across the small cove of water that the campground sits on (called Fish Pond Drain...how picturesque sounding...). While I was there I took a photo across the water of my camper, looking very little and solitary!



That's the bath house in the background, which is convenient to all the sites.

I drove back to my site to spend the rest of the afternoon reading. An osprey circled overhead and I couldn't resist photographing it as it searched for food in the water.



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I hoped it would see something and dive for it, but it never did, and eventually flew off to search somewhere else.

At about 4:00 that afternoon, which was December 23rd, several RVs started arriving at the campground. I had not realized that Christmas was a popular camping time... I soon had a neighbor in the site to my right, and someone else was beyond them. Soon a third lined up next to those, while someone else pulled into a site near me on the other side. These sites are very large and wide and so even when someone is in the adjacent site, there is no sense of being crowded.

You cannot reserve specific sites at this park, which I find somewhat annoying and pointless--why not? But even if all the best lakeside spots are taken, nearly every site has a good view of the lake. You could launch a canoe or kayak from most of the lakeside sites. They all have power and water and can be used by RVs or tents--most of the lakeside sites have raised, level tent pads. The bath house is small (the women's section has two showers and two stalls) but clean. There are washers and dryers for laundry. You can buy firewood and ice at the campground. This park is a bit out of the way--it's about 20 miles to Bainbridge--but there are a few convenience stores nearby.

I plan to return to this park again soon with the kayak, and stay for three days instead of two.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Yellow Jacket Campground in Old Town, Florida

Time to try a new campground! I have been reading the few reviews of this campground that exist and while they varied a bit, it seemed worth a try. Very pricey for the sites along the Suwannee River at $44 and $48 a night, depending on the site. The interior ones are less. I wanted to be on the river, so I chose site #13, a $44 one. The photos on the campground website (yellowjacketcampground.com) are very deceptive since they show two views of the same two sites, #1 and #3 (#2 is offset somewhat from those two), the only two sites with an unobstructed view of the river. The rest of the sites are set back from the river and the view is obscured by palmetto bushes and shoreline cypress trees. Here is my little camper set up in site #13.



This is the view of the river from the far end of the campsite, where the picnic table and fire ring are located. This is the same view from every premium site from #4 upward.



I did not formally meet the owners, though I did speak to the man at one point and saw the woman riding her bike through the campground. I was checked in by a very nice woman named Kathy. I discovered several advantages to a privately-owned campground over a state park, including the availability of ice. In addition, they had a very tempting freezer in the office stocked with ice cream and other goodies...



They have free wi-fi at this campground, though it was out the day I got there. It was back on the next day and stayed on for the remainder of my stay there (only two nights). They also had a heated pool and hot tub. Another thoughtful convenience is that in addition to two large dumpsters located by the side of the road near the exit, as often found, they have groups of five trash cans lined up in several locations throughout the campground, so you are never far from a place to discard your trash.

The bath house surprised me, but this is only the second privately-owned campground I have been to, so perhaps this is somewhat common. Basically it was a large building with standard doors lined up on either side; doors with doorknobs and deadbolts. Each of these doors led to what was essentially a full bathroom, including a sink with a mirror over it, a toilet, a stall shower with a curtain, a large checked bath rug, and many hooks set up high on the wall. Since each room was a full bathroom unto itself, they were unisex. I thought this was just great.

The best sites are #1-3, with #1 being ideal for a paddler. I did not take my kayak this time since I knew it was going to be extremely windy (as it was). Next time I will get site 1, which is right next to a huge sandy launch area for canoes and kayaks.



This sign was next to the launch area.



They say that they have a nature walk, but I did not find it. This is, however, a really large property, and so I went exploring the first afternoon I was there. The tent sites are at the far end of the campground. This campground is referred to on their signs as an "RV Resort." This usually means that tenters, if they are allowed in at all, get short shrift when it comes to sites. This is not the case here, though. The tenting area is basically a very large space with bushes and trees and power and water poles, along with picnic tables and fire rings. The site boundaries are not designated, but there is power and water for each. The tent camper can set up basically anywhere in the vicinity of the power and water pole they want to use. It is quite far from the bath house. It's a very large area and hard to photograph. I took these photos while there.



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Walking beyond the tenting area takes you to more open area with three ponds.



Back to the RV sites. They are of normal size. The owners have just started the process of putting in greenery between the sites to offer some privacy. They were working on site #15 while I was there.



I also thought that site #4, a premium $48 site, was particularly attractive. The fence along the right side borders the path to the dock.



Sites #63 and 64 are both very nice, very long pull-through sites with trees and shrubbery nearby. I advise against site #61, it seems to have squeezed into its spot as an afterthought.

This is an excellent campground and I felt that it was worth the cost if one was only going to stay a few days. It was only about half-full, and I was the only camper in the row next to the river; the rest of the campers were staying for several weeks to a month, which would be expensive on the premium sites. I will definitely be going back when I can take the kayak, and stay in site #1.