Saturday, February 20, 2010

Williston Crossings RV Resort in Williston, Florida

One of the many things I am enjoying about having my little camper is being able to go to new places without worrying about being in a less-secure tent. It also opens the door to the anti-campgrounds, or RV Resorts. That's not necessarily casting aspersions on them but just suggesting that they are different from, say, state park campgrounds.

Williston Crossings is an RV Resort. In my opinion, staying there puts you at the extreme outside border of the realm of camping. Not that it isn't a fine place, but if you enjoy nature, this might not be the spot for you. There was very little nature to be found (though I did finally stumble on some; keep reading).

The registration office is very similar to that found in highrise/condominium resorts. Among other things, there was a large painting that represented the proposed shopping center complex that is planned for this property.

A man named Roy escorted me to my site in his golf cart and helped me back in. The sites are concrete, the back-in ones resemble a driveway with an apron at the top. There are mature trees between the sites, which in many cases leaves only the trunks to provide privacy (a bushy boxwood might be a nice addition here and there).



The site numbers are on lighted posts at the bottom of the "driveway." Trash pickup is at 10:00 every morning; leave your (no smaller than 13-gallon size allowed) bag at your address sign and they will take it.



Needless to say, I was in by far the smallest camper there; I thought I was the only unit without multiple slideouts until I spotted a long Airstream. I'm not sure how many sites there are, certainly well over 100, and a workman told me they had plans to put in 160 more.

I had asked when I made my reservations whether there were picnic tables at the sites and was told that there were. So I brought meals geared toward grilling. There was no table at the site. I walked back to the office and explained the problem. The woman said they would provide a picnic table and would bring it by in an hour, which would be 3:30. I was getting concerned at 5:30 that I would be crouching down to use my little grill on the ground, but they did indeed provide me with a table. I think my neighbors were jealous. Of course there is wifi provided (if spotty at the far end of the resort) and so I wasted no time in locating a roll-up table and ordering it, so as to prevent a repeat of this problem.

I asked about the lake and got directions to it. I walked past the clubhouse and into an undeveloped area, except for steps and platforms down to the lake. The water level was very low; the lake depends on the aquifer. It's interesting that we have standing water everywhere in my part of Florida and the rivers are very high, while just a little south of here they are so low. This is the long view of what there was of the lake visible from the steps.



The next day I went exploring beyond those steps and wandered down a gravel road. It led to an open area (nature!), possibly the site of the next 160 sites, and got me to the lake. This dock shows how far down the water was--those steps should lead into the water.



On the way to and from the lake, I passed these derelict trolleys; kind of an odd sight.



I wandered around the resort and took a few photos. Here's the community firepit:



Shuffleboard, anyone?



I saw these little stops or stations scattered here and there,



and finally put the pieces together. The painting of the planned shopping center, the 160 additional sites, the abandoned trolleys...they are probably planning on being so large that you can take trolleys from one part of the resort to another, boarding at these stops. Yikes.

I walked back to the Community Center. Last time I had peeked in, there had been some sort of ballroom dancing gathering going on (at another time, a woman bicycled by my site with a yoga mat under her arm...they have a lot of activities here). This time no one was around. It is a huge room.



This Christmas village was set up in one corner.



At the other end was a large fireplace setting.



Across from the Community Center is the future home of the pools. They are starting with a shallow kids' pool. Next to that (though now it is a neglected-looking sandlot) will be the adult pool, with a bridge connecting the two (I got all this from a workman I peppered with questions). I pointed to this:



and asked what that was going to be. Well, water is going to run along that flume, with some of it spilling over to fall down those rocks, and some of it will run the water wheel. Beneath all that will be a large koi pond. All this is in addition to the 160 new sites and the shopping center (and the trolleys).

I usually can spend my entire second day just hanging around the camper and reading....but I am also usually enjoying a view of a lake or woods or perhaps a wandering deer. Not that the RV across the road wasn't nice, but I decided to go somewhere. Rainbow Springs State Park wasn't too far away and so I thought I would explore that.

The park and the associated campground (which I toured and didn't care for) are located far apart (7 miles). At the park itself, you leave your car in the lot and the rest of it is all on foot, along paved trails that go by many waterfalls and gardens, as well as the spring. I was very sorry to have left the equipment I would need to properly photograph the waterfalls at home.

Here is a view of the spring from the walkway above it.



Here are several of the waterfalls:



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The waterfalls are actually water that is diverted from the river and cycles back to it. The rocks that make up that large waterfall were taken from the river.

Here is the water leading from the spring to the river. The spring is to the right.



This water is so clear! I took this from a bridge over the water (not from in the water):



And some flowers were blooming!



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I walked back to the butterfly garden (nothing growing there now) and was following an old decrepit and torn fence along the pathway, when I saw this great blue heron perched on top. That was unexpected.



Later on this cardinal looked bright against the drab background.



When I first got to the resort and saw what it was like, I thought this would be a very short post, but instead it's very long! While this resort is significantly different from my usual and preferred destinations, I actually ended up enjoying it as a change of pace. I found four sites that were more private and/or more wooded (at least on one side), and it seems possible that I will return to this place before the season ends. They are very reasonably priced for what you get (good grief, the bath house was huge. The showerheads were those dinner-plate sized rainshower type (I know, isn't every shower like rain?) and were mounted at least 4' over one's head, which made for a very nice shower experience!). I discovered that many people stay here for 4-6 months of the year. Everyone was extremely friendly, both campers and staff. One guy came to my site and said his wife had told him there was a Scamp at the resort, and so he had to come and say hi; he said he had a similar one and that although he was there in a large RV (for three months), he greatly preferred his little camper. I know I like mine....

By the way, all the photos from this trip were taken with my little Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ28 point-and-shoot camera--a very basic camera and not even the latest in the line, but one that I think is very capable for images like these. I had only taken the long lens for my #1 camera and, aside from the heron and the waterfalls if I had had the right accessories with me, there was no need to use that one. It never left the car.

More camping coming up (back to state parks for a while).

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Dr. Julian Bruce St. George Island State Park (again)

Last week's trip to Steinhatchee put me in the mood for saltwater camping so I decided to return to St. George Island--a known place for me, and one that I have enjoyed twice previously in this camping season.

On the drive into the campground, I noticed a small Aliner camper in a site on the right side. I had been set on getting an Aliner very nearly up to the moment that I called Scamp to place my order for the camper I have. I had decided at that last moment that, having been a tenter for years and having dealt with setting up and taking down my little home away from home, I didn't want to have to do any setting up, as required (very minimally) by the Aliner. As I was just finishing backing into my site at St. George (#20 this time; no photo as it is virtually the same as #16, which is pictured in an earlier post), two people walked into my site. They told me they were in the Aliner and had been considering switching to a camper like my Scamp. My car was still running, so I suggested they stop back by in a few minutes and I would give them the Grand Tour. We introduced ourselves (they were Linda and Jerry) and they went on their way and I unhitched and connected the power and water.

They still hadn't come back when I was finished, so I decided to wander down to the beach. It was an overcast day, as has been typical in north Florida of late. There was a breeze, and the water was somewhat choppy. But that didn't keep the pelicans away. This one very nearly caught me off-guard as it swooped overhead.



I walked a little way down the beach. This group was taking a siesta along the shoreline.



When I got back to the campground, I settled down to read for a while, and later had dinner. No sign of Linda and Jerry. I decided if they didn't come by the next morning, I would mosey down toward their site to say hi.

Many people had their pets with them, as usual. On this trip I saw more cats than I typically do, though there is always at least one site with a cat in it, it seems. One guy had a large black-and-white kitty that he walked along the campground road on a leash. It seemed very happy. And then on one of my walks I saw a pet I don't often see on a lead at a campground.



The next day moved from breezy to windy, and the sky was gray. The surf roared in the distance. As I was just finishing washing my breakfast dishes, Linda and Jerry came to the door. They looked at the camper interior (seemed to like it), and we chatted. They had been for a walk on a trail I was unaware of that leaves from the campground and winds through some wetlands and ends up on the beach. When they went on their way, I headed out to the trail.

The sign very clearly indicated that it was a 1-mile trail. Hm, seems pretty short, but off I went. It was sandy and clear and started out winding through scrub pine and other beach-y type shrubbery. I came to the half-mile marker in no time. I continued on from that point, which was over a boardwalk. The "wetlands" weren't wet at all, just brown grasses. The first boardwalk is very long and offers a nice view of an estuary in the distance.



I walked some more. And then a little more. I started to wonder where the mile marker was....this second half-mile seemed significantly longer than the first (I never did see another marker). I walked. And walked. I eventually started wondering where exactly this was going and would I be better off turning around or continuing? Clearly this was more than a mile. About an hour after starting off on this simple, short hike, I came to a guy walking from the other end. I asked him just how far it went. He said I was very nearly to the road, it was just a short "bloop" around a bend. "And just where on the road will that put me?" I asked. He said I would be at the first set of shelters. The first set of shelters??? Good grief, that was a LONG way from the campground! I continued on for two reasons: first, it would have been weird to turn around then, since that would put us walking together, which would be awkward; also, if I continued around that bloop, I would at least have new scenery.

I later measured the distance (using the car odometer) from my campsite to those first shelters, which was 1.8 miles. That was approximately the same distance I had walked before getting to the shelters, based on the time it took. Slightly longer than the simple 1-mile hike I had in mind. However, it occurred to me while walking along the beach right next to the surf, since the sand was firmest there, that I could be in a worse place. I could be in an office cubicle with no window in sight. I could be fighting my way across a frozen parking lot while sleet fell around me. I could be in any number of less pleasant spots. So I was content to put one foot in front of the other with the waves stopping just short of my feet, while the gulls and pelicans soared overhead.

And then when I finally got back to my campsite, I got in the car and drove the short distance into Apalachicola and went into Boss Oyster, where I had a cold beer and a dozen raw oysters on the half-shell at a table right over the water. Of course.

When I got back to the campground I noticed that Linda and Jerry were at their site, so I walked over. I had never actually seen the inside of an Aliner, and theirs was the size I would have purchased. They were nice enough to let me go in and look around. I could go on at length about my impressions, both of the camper itself and their choice of conditions inside it, but I won't. I will just say that I now feel certain I made the right selection with the Scamp, just on a size/shape basis (for the same price). I've never been inside any of the other campers or RVs at the various campgrounds, so I don't know what is typical in terms of space usage. It occurred to me that I have posted several photos of the outside of my Scamp here, but have never given you a peek at the inside. So I took a few quick photos.

This is the dinette area as it generally looks during the day. This converts into the bed, but I don't change it till bedtime, and I put it back this way before leaving the camper in the morning. The pillow is there because I often sit sideways across that bench seat to read. It's right by a window and really comfy and well-lit. I took these during a moment of sunshine.



Here's my kitchen. It seems impossible to take a straight picture of this, I think it's a perspective thing. I had to stand outside the door to get it all in (it's a small camper!). That's a small window over the stove.



Here's the couch at the front of the camper. It magically converts to bunk beds, but I doubt that will ever happen in this particular one...



On my second and last night there, the wind was fierce and the surf was a constant roar. The rain started at about 7:30 and continued on until and while I prepared to leave at about 11:30. On the drive out of the park, I was astounded at how high the surf was. Normally the Gulf is placid, sometimes even lake-like. I pulled over into one of the little access areas, opened the car window, and quickly took this photo of the surf from the road.



(The blue in front is part of the handicapped access....which doesn't look very accessible.)

Another great camping trip! I have reservations to get out again this week to a new (to me) campground. Of course more rain is predicted, as well as overnight lows in the low 30's....looks like more quality reading time is coming up! I'll let you know how it goes.