Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Falling Waters State Park in Chipley, FL

I had thought that camping season was over after the hot March we had, but the weather suddenly cooled wonderfully, so I headed back out to a state park. I had never been to this one before.

It's a nice campground, similar in many ways to Florida Caverns (which is closer to my home so will likely be the place I return to when I am heading in this direction). I had selected site 5 when I reserved, based only on the locations of the occupied sites at that time.

It's a great site, a long pull-through with a nice view of woods out the door.


However, don't reserve this site unless you are only stopping here for a quick overnight and will be leaving early the next morning. In an arrangement I have never seen before in any campground, the dump station is essentially in what would be the campsite adjacent to this one (and no farther away than typical site distance. I was pretty much standing next to it to take that picture). Since the weather was nice and my windows were open, I experienced the effects of this for a very brief time early in my first morning there. I was lucky that the campground was so empty; aside from that one use, nobody stopped at it while I was there. There is a paved site that is directly across from it that would also be problematic if the campground were full. So, if you are going to stay here for any length of time, go for a higher site number. The ones I noted as being particularly nice were 9, 10, 12, 14, and 24, with 14 being the best (IMO). The campground is also odd in that it is not arranged in a circle, but rather you enter and exit from the same spot, with a turn-around at the end (near site 24). Stranger still, on each side of the road the pull-throughs face different directions--so while you might be able to simply pull into one, you will have to turn around to get into the adjacent one, even though it is on the same side of the road.

There is a really nice trail that leads down to a small 2-acre lake with restrooms, picnic tables, and a beach.


Here is the lake as you approach from the trail. The water looks brown, as if it were muddy, but that's just a tannin effect. The water is actually very clear.


Another view of the lake from farther along the trail, looking across at the beach:


From there you can follow the trail down to the waterfall area. Notice how you are walking down to the lake and then down to the waterfall. Depending on your age and condition, you may want to keep this in mind for your return trip back up. The trail from the lake to the waterfall is mostly a wooden walkway with steps. On the way down, you will pass this sign about the oil drilling that was carried out for a brief time on this property.


As you approach the falls area, you can look across at where the falls would be, and down on an observation platform across from them.


I walked down to the observation deck even though it had been far to dry for too long for any water to be falling. Well, actually there was some water dribbling down (but somehow Dribbling Waters is not as good a name for a park...). I took a picture. Just in case you miss the dribble, I have designated one line of it with an arrow...


This waterfall would actually be falling into a sinkhole. Not being a fan of heights, I wasn't crazy about peering over the edge into the hole...


This is a good campground. The bath house sits in the center of the campground and is very clean and spacious. There is a 2-sink dishwashing station just outside the bath house. Two of the sites are tent-only and if I were still in a tent, this campground would be very high on my list of favorites--the tent sites are fantastic; off the road a wee bit and down a few steps, and therefore woodsy and very private. Verizon cell signal was strong. Every fast food restaurant you could want is a short drive away, and Chipley, only a few miles up the road, has a Walmart and better restaurants.

Now I really think camping season is over for me, and if so, this blog will be napping until fall.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Lake City Campground in Lake City, FL

This is a different type of campground for me, unlike the state parks or COE campgrounds I usually go to. Based on the site arrangement and the A-frame office building, I wonder if this might have been a KOA at one time. I decided to try this campground based on its proximity to my home, the fact that it offers wifi and full hookups including sewer, and because she has ducks; I like ducks.

Their website dictates a 4:00 pm check-in time, which wasn't ideal for me since I live only about an hour away and so I wanted more afternoon time there after arriving. The manager is in the office from 8-10 and from 4-7, so she told me to call before 10 on my arrival date and she would give me a site number and I could get there early and settle up when she opens the office at 4. So that's what I did.

I chose site 36.


The sites are very close together. They are --is asphalt the word I want? Hard surface, mixed with some gravel, and not terribly level. Sort of as if this surface material was poured over the ground and someone drove on it before it was dry, sinking parts of it down into the ground. At any rate, my right tires were lower than the left, in a sort of shallow trough.

Here is a photo of the sites forward of mine, with my site on the left.


The website says that they have shady sites, but as you can see, that's not really the case. There is another section of sites for people staying long-term. It's on the other side of the office and looks pretty much like this side, only with fewer trees.

The bath house was very clean and required a passcode to get into. This campground is located directly alongside a well-traveled road and has no gate across the entrance. I'm sure that explained the locked bath house, and I had no complaints about that--I appreciated that level of security, particularly compared to some bath houses I have encountered recently.

Speaking of the road, this campground is located one mile from I-10. I heard absolutely none of the roar of traffic you get from an interstate. There was some noise from the nearby road, but (a) I like the sound of cars going by one or two at a time, and (b) it completely quieted down by about 11 at night. So road noise was not an issue at all.

She has a pond and a couple of ducks.


Evidently in the past, dogs owned by campers killed several of her ducks. As a result, while she allows pets, I would not call this a dog-friendly campground. There is a large unfenced dog walk area near the front of the campground and dogs must be walked there, far from the pond. One woman walking dogs by my camper said that she hoped they could hold their poop till they got to the dog walk area since she didn't want to get fined. So.... something to consider if you travel with Fido (I have no idea if there actually are fines involved).

They have a pool, which they spent a great deal of time maintaining.


Another reason I think this was a KOA at one time is that they have several primitive cabins near two other ponds at one end of the campground.


These were remarkably similar to KOA's Kamping Kabins.

I think this campground is well-suited to travelers looking for an easy overnight stop on their way to somewhere else. While I enjoyed spending 3 days there, it doesn't strike me as a destination spot. The wifi was strong, the Verizon signal was strong, and they had a plethora of handy stuff for sale in the office. Lake City has a lot to offer in terms of shopping and dining. I'm glad I went to this campground, but I don't anticipate returning.

Meanwhile, it's summer in north Florida and this may have been the last camping trip of the season. I guess we'll see.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

General Coffee State Park in Nicholls, GA

This was another new park for me. And a very uncrowded one! There is a campground host, and during my three days at the park, there were never more than two other campers besides me. I don't like a crowded park but this was a bit far in the other direction! There are 50 sites in a circle, all of them are pull-throughs. I took site 48, which was across the circle from the host and the one other camper who was there at the time.


This was the view from my patio:


This is looking across the campground. Given that there are no other campers in this section, it's a little hard to tell much about the sites!


The sites are well-spaced, level, and roomy. The ground is an odd ashy gray dirt, with large gravel mixed in. Be sure to take along something to wipe your feet on, particularly if it rains. The park roads are paved, but the campground is all this ash stuff.

This is a sizable park with a lot of attractions. I was surprised to find a large pool in one of the picnic areas. (Of course it was closed this time of year.)


There are two small ponds side-by-side. One is available for fishing and is very scenic.


There is a walkway between that pond and the other. Standing on that walkway, I looked across the second pond toward the Heritage Farm exhibit, which contains many farm animals.


So of course I walked over there and took some pictures.


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There are several types of ducks. This one was striking, with its green feathers.


Another handsome duck:


who decided it was bath time!


They had lots of hens, several roosters, and of course, a turkey.


As regular readers of this blog know, I like Canada geese. They appear often here, and I took some photos of the ones at the park. Since one Canada goose pretty much looks like every other, I decided to make this photo look more like a painting, just for variety.


This park is near the town of Douglas, which has a Walmart, grocery store, and several restaurants. The Verizon cell signal was very strong in the campground. There is wifi offered in the office--they have even set up a little desk for you to use. It's a large park that would be good for biking, and they have a lot of nature trails set up.

I commented to the ranger during registration that I would have had trouble wending my way over to them from my house without my GPS, and she was surprised that it worked. She told me that guests using GPS usually end up on the dirt road that runs alongside the park.

When you turn in to the park entrance from the highway, you will naturally steer toward the kiosk ahead and to the left to register. Don't--registration is (at least at this writing) in the "Trading Post" slightly to the right as you drive in. There is no dedicated RV parking in that small lot or elsewhere (that I saw) near the park entrance. Be aware of all this before you head down the narrow park road (one camper got all the way to the campground, at the end of the park road, circled the sites, and then waved me over to ask where they were supposed to pay for camping).

I'm glad I saw this state park, though I doubt I will return. Meanwhile, it seems camping season is wrapping up early this year due to the warm weather that has persisted through our so-called winter. I do want to get in at least one more trip, and I have my eye on another new (to me) campground for next week. We'll see.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Cotton Hill Campground in Ft. Gaines, GA

It's been a while since I posted a camping trip! I was out of commission for about a month late last year due to a mega-flu that hit me and would not go away. After that, my camping trips have been to spots that have been covered in this blog. Until, that is, my recent trip, which was to a new (to me) campground.

Cotton Hill is a COE campground that officially opens on 2/24. At the time I went, there were only 38 sites open, which was fine with me.

I reserved site 38, which had a long view of a river-like finger of Walter F. George Lake, across an expanse of grass.


Walking down the short hill and across the grass takes you to this view toward the main part of the lake.


This is a good place to take a bike, it's a little over 3 miles to circle through the three camping areas (I didn't take my bike this time, so I walked. A lot). I was in the old Mill Road area. I didn't care for Marina View area at all--no trees and the sites are extremely close together--since all those sites were open, they were all full, which may have led to it looking so crowded. From there I walked over to Pine Island area, which is my favorite. This is where the beach and playground are. This is looking toward the beach and playground across site 88:


And the beach area itself:


Sites 95 to 104 are tent sites. Their map refers to them as primitive, but they all seemed to have power boxes. They are pretty well spaced, have a nice view of the water, are in amongst some pine trees, and looked flat. There are only a few reservable non-tent sites in this area, which are, in my opinion, the best sites (why do they always make the best ones not reservable?). Sites 74-81 are not reservable, but they are wonderful sites--they are down the road a bit from the playground and beach area, but still have a stretch of sand in front of them. You could easily launch a canoe or kayak from any of these sites. This is the view looking across those sites.


It looks like they are very un-level, but that's the the approach--the parking areas of the sites are all level. This is the shoreline from the edges of those sites:


The water in this lake is very clear. I stood at the edge near the playground and took this looking straight down through the water:


Here are a few more photos I took on this trip.


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This campground has very typical COE bath houses. First, they are spaced very far apart. According to my handy-dandy pedometer that I wore while walking around, the bath house in my area, Old Mill Road, is a mile from the nearest other bath house, the one in Marina View. Keep this in mind if you are in a tent or vehicle with no facilities--if you put yourself in the middle of those two, you will have quite a walk. I didn't visit the facilities in Pine Island, but I did note that the bath house in Marina View is better than the one in Old Mill Road. As with other COE bath houses, there is no security whatsoever in the shower area--curtains instead of doors, and an outer door that does not lock. And a great big sign outside the door that says "Womens Showers." And of course, no private changing area, just very small shower stalls. Marina view also has curtains instead of doors but the showers and toilets are in the same part of the building, and the stalls are long enough for changing.

Of the sites that can be reserved, I recommend 23 and 32, which are both pull-through sites with good views. I also liked 8, 9, 11, 12, and 27. There is a loop in Old Mill Road that has sites 13-20. Of those, 16 and 20 are okay. The rest in that loop have a severe incline from the RV parking spot of the site to the road. I tried to get a photo of what I mean by this, but the angle didn't show up. Nice sites, close to the water, but access is terrible.

Verizon cell service was at about 2-3 bars, enough for texting, but calls tended to drop out. Do not use the street address they give on the recreation.gov site for this campground to program your car's GPS, it will proudly announce you have arrived when you are actually about 7 miles away.

This campground is fairly remote, with only a small grocery store, liquor store, and some jiffy stores nearby. However, I discovered one thing that made it appealing to me as far as surroundings. George T. Bagby state park is about 3 miles down the road. There's no campground there, it's a "lodge park," with lodge rooms and cabins as accommodations. However, there is a restaurant in the lodge. A really nice restaurant (Pilot House Grill), which serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. There is a large fireplace in the middle of the room, and a wall of floor-to-ceiling windows at one end that provide a view of the lake. There is also a deck outside those windows for dining outside in nice weather. Free wifi is available in the lodge lobby and restaurant (I used it while I had lunch there one day, I'm not sure what their policy is for anyone just wandering in and sitting down in the lobby, though it may be just considered part of the park admission fee). If you need a Walmart or the like, those can be found in Eufala, about 15 miles from Cotton Hill (I didn't go there).

There's nothing that stands out about this park, and I wouldn't say it was worth a long drive if you have lakeside campgrounds closer, but if you are going to be in the area, it's certainly nice enough.