Wednesday, December 25, 2013

St. George Island State Park in Florida.....Up Close

I camp at this park so often that it is a challenge to find a new way to post about my trips that won't just be re-runs of the same story and images. I sometimes skip posting, but that's not as much fun as sharing!

Last time (which was quite recently) we took a broader view than usual and toured around the town. This time I decided to zoom in a bit for some of the photos.

Of course this park is all about the beautiful beach.

The breeze was causing the long grasses to carve out patterns in the sand.

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The tide was going out, stranding many jellyfish on the beach.

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It's so interesting how the ripple pattern on the sand mimics the water so well.

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I had clearly missed a lot of crab activity here!

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A little farther along, I didn't see this guy half in and half out of his hole until I nearly stepped on him! He was a medium size crab, maybe 4" across.

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I took several photos from several angles while he was motionless. I actually asked him if he was dead. No response, though that seemed like it would be an odd place to shed the mortal coil. I said okay, well, thanks for the pictures, and got up from my crouched position to leave. As soon as I did that, he sprang to life, ready to defend his little home.

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Later, I wandered down to the bay. Someone had set this on the picnic table--lots of oyster shells attached to something. If I were creative, I would make a lamp base or something out of this...

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The next day I went for a hike on the trail that goes inland a bit, and through wetlands. There were several pine-y type trees, with needles extending out from a center area. Those look almost like little closed pinecones in there.

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And hey Sharon! Look! Another one! There were several of these, many of them with large caps, growing out of the sand on the trail, similar to those at St. Joe except these had brown caps.

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I had not planned to take any long scenic photos for this post, but that great blue heron was on the beach every time I went for a walk. I decided to process this photo a little differently, just for variety...

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When I was down by the bay late one afternoon, it was so calm and peaceful, I decided to get a short video of it, another way to make this post different from others.

In contrast, this was the Gulf the next day. (Quite a wind so the sound is terrible....)

Even though I had made these reservations about 10 days earlier, my usual jinx of having it be pouring rain while I am trying to hitch up and do everything else involved with leaving was clearly firmly in place. But this time I was ready for it! When I saw that rain coming, I just reserved for an extra night. And so for the first time for a long time, I was hitching up and leaving in sunshine, after an extra day at the beach! Win-win!

I hope everyone enjoyed the holidays. Let's all have a great 2014!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

St. George Island State Park (yes, again!)

On this trip, I was camping with my friend Kim. We had a fantastic time and were lucky that the weather was warm enough for beach sitting and eating oysters on the deck at Boss Oyster in Apalachicola.

I was in site 57 again, which is one of my favorite sites. It's at the Gulf end of the campground so I could clearly hear the surf through my open windows. Kim was next to me, in site 59, also a nice site.

As many times as I have posted about camping at this park, I wasn't sure what more I could offer in the way of information about the campground. Ah, but I have never shown you any of the town (such as it is). So I took an afternoon and walked around taking some photos.

This is the bridge coming from the mainland to the island:

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When I am camping here, I often drive off the island into Eastpoint to get shrimp to cook for dinner. It's a bit of a drive, though, so if you aren't inclined to do that, Doug's Seafood trailer is nearly always parked in a big parking lot near the bridge.

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There is a sign that says "Future Home of Doug's Seafood" on a small parcel of land alongside the road that leads to the park. It's been there for years. I guess the future never really gets here, does it?

As soon as you get to the island, you see a lighthouse. This is actually a reproduction of the original  lighthouse, which finally succumbed to constant battering by hurricanes and toppled into the Gulf in the early 2000's. Next to the lighthouse is a combination gift shop/museum, which has some artifacts from the original lighthouse as well as a wealth of information.

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The lighthouse windows were decorated for the season.

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People who don't camp can choose to stay in a very tall, skinny house in a row with other tall, skinny houses on the beach.

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And that concludes our brief tour of town. Back to the beach now!

I like pretty much everything about this campground with one exception. This:

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Now, if those little pointy things, aka sand spurs, would stay on the plant and up off the ground, that would be great. However, they plummet to the sand and then cling to shoelaces, socks, pants, and often feet...which is really painful. I have at least half a dozen of these presently stuck to the bottom of my shoes. They are particularly hard on dogs--not only do they dig into their paw pads but they cling to the fur between those pads and can be difficult to dislodge.

The campground has the Gulf on one side and a quiet, placid bay on the other. This is the approach to the bay, taken when the sun was low in the sky.

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I sat at the picnic table for a while just enjoying the quiet, and then took one more picture as the sun was lengthening the shadows.

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And then out to the Gulf side the next day for some beach sitting. First, the obligatory seagull photo.

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I believe this great blue heron has made an appearance in this blog before, but maybe it was his look-alike cousin...

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I sat for a long time looking for dolphins (no luck), and watching the little sandpipers skitter across the shallow water of a receding wave.

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Every once in a while one would get carried away with the search for food and fail to notice the next wave coming in...

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I had plans to camp elsewhere later this month, which, in addition to other future plans, would prevent me from returning to St. George until late January. While I was sitting on the beach I realized I didn't want to wait that long (I may have mentioned that we are moving to NC in May, and so my camping time at St. George is limited) (no plans to return to FL once we move). So during this trip I cancelled those plans and reserved a site in this campground for those dates. I hope to return to St. George several more times before we move, though I might not post those trips.

This was a great one! I hope the oyster population can replenish itself before I get back; Kim and I managed to deplete it somewhat.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

St. Joseph Peninsula State Park

Technically, this park's name is T. H. Stone Memorial St. Joseph Peninsula State Park...but it is commonly known as St. Joe Peninsula State Park. I had been here once before, back in my tenting days several years ago. This is a 4-hour drive from my home, and I recalled that on my last visit I made a vow not to make that drive again. But this was a special time--a chance to camp once again with my friend Sandy, who I only see twice a year: Once on her way south to the Keys from her home in Minnesota and once on her way back to Minnesota. This was on her way south. So it was worth the drive!

There are two campgrounds in this park, Gulf Breeze, near the water, and Shady Pines, which is a longer walk to the beach. As far as campgrounds go, I thought Shady Pines was better--the sites are farther apart and more private; it's a really beautiful campground. If you don't care much about proximity to the water, I recommend that campground. I had site 57 in Gulf Breeze. 

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This is a paved site in a row of paved sites; some sites are hard-packed sand, some paved. I was close to the very nice bath house, and just down the road from the boardwalk that leads to the beach. This is the one advantage to this park over my favorite campground on St. George Island--this one is so close to the beach! This is the view of the road to the boardwalk from next to my site:

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After I had set up my camper, Sandy and I went for a walk along a boardwalk (lots of boardwalks here!) that winds through the wooded area of the park.

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This boardwalk forks at one point, with one path leading to Shady Pines, the other to the beach. We walked to the water and then returned to the campground via the beach. Sandy's site was on the other side of the campground from mine; a little farther from the water, but she had a fantastic view from the back of her site, across wetlands with the bay in the background.

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Given the drive and the time of year( it got dark shortly after our walk)., I was pretty tired by dinner time. I couldn't resist one more stroll to the beach boardwalk and took this picture from the top of it.

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The next day was cold and windy. We went to sit on the beach for a while, me with my Kindle and Sandy with her Sudoku book. We didn't last terribly long, it was just too cold. But the waves were wonderful. I couldn't resist taking a few pictures of them--I love wave pictures. You will have to indulge me while I include them here:

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We decided to part company and go to our sites to stay warm. At about 3:30 I just had to get back out and do something, so I wandered down to Sandy's site to see what she was doing. She was reading. She asked if I wanted to go for a walk, she wanted to show me her favorite nature trail. Given the time, we were just going to take a short walk.

The trail is off a parking area near a playground--you could easily bike to it, but it was so cold that we drove. We had barely started our little hike when I looked over to the side and saw this:

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It's been so long since I have seen a deer on a hike that it never occurred to me to take the big camera, I only had my little one. The deer was unafraid; Sandy said they are pretty tame. So we made plans with the deer to meet at that same spot at 12:30 the next day, when I would have a proper camera for photography.

We were very punctual the next day, in fact even a few minutes early. Evidently the deer did not make a note about the plans; you know how easy it is to forget last-minute dates. It never showed up. So we continued walking.

This egret was high on a tree limb, fluffing itself in the breeze.

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Much of this trail runs right next to the water, with benches scattered along it for resting and enjoying the view. We saw these paddlers sharing the water with the gulls.

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This photo is for Sharon. These little mushrooms (right term?) were growing right out of the sand on the trail. I've never seen anything like this before on sand. I thought they needed a wetter environment.

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We walked for about a mile and a quarter, and then went back to the campground. We had some lunch, changed clothes, and headed out on the bikes for more exploring. We covered about 3 miles on that ride, then back to the campground again. This was my last day there, and so I wanted to go back and try beach sitting again--it was warmer on this day. So, back to the beach.

I was looking for dolphins, which are common at St. George. Much to my surprise, I saw what I thought was a dolphin, but it was swimming very close to the shoreline. Actually, I thought it was two dolphins, since I could see two fins sticking up out of the water. Sandy had binoculars with her so she could see it clearly and she said no, that was just one Very Big Fish (shark?). She said the snout was not like a dolphin's. I have no idea what it was, and this is the best I could do for a photo.

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Rain was coming in and the sky was turning gray, making the water darker as well. We saw three large boats on the horizon; we wondered if they were shrimp boats.

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While we were sitting, a single willet came wandering by. I love these birds.

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We soon got up and went to our sites to have dinner and enjoy the evening in quiet solitude. I packed up most of my site. As happens on nearly every camping trip I've had, it was going to be raining when I was hitching up the car and emptying the tanks and so on, so I did as much as I could before going to bed. (And yes, it started raining very early and it rained continuously for my drive home. It always does that.)

Sandy likes this campground better than St. George. I prefer St. George, not just because it is over an hour closer to me, but because of the conveniences close by (you have to drive a really long way just to get gas when you are at this campground, never mind groceries!). However, this one does have the beach much closer to the campground. Verizon cell service at this campground was 2-3 bars; I did not make any calls, but texts came and went just fine. There are phones available in the campgrounds for use with calling cards. This is a very popular campground for snowbirds and so the best sites are probably hard to get on short notice, but if you can get one and want to be near the beach, I highly recommend sites 52 and 51, and even 53, which are all across the campground road from the boardwalk. Site 52 looked big enough for a large bus-type RV, but check the site info carefully when reserving any site at this park--it's old and some sites are very small.

Speaking of St. George, my next trip, in December, will be there. Can't wait to get back to it!

Monday, May 27, 2013

Roosevelt State Park in Pine Mountain, GA

Ok, here's the deal. It's way too hot and buggy for me to want to go camping right now. But that doesn't mean I stay at home sitting on my hands waiting for cool weather to return. I just stay in a cabin or cottage or rental house instead of my camper. So! I decided it was time to take another look at Callaway Gardens in Pine Mountain. I did that and will put a link to those photos at the end of this post.

On the following day I decided to go check out Roosevelt State Park, since it was only a few miles up the road from where I was staying. The park is over 4 hours from my home, so it is very unlikely I will ever camp there....but I can still suss it out for you!

The Welcome Center, where you get your parking pass and maps and so on, is an old building and used to house a small tavern, and the rooms upstairs were rent out (they are now offices).

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After getting my pass and map, I headed for the campground, which is on a small fishing lake. The sites near the lake are fantastic but very small--I thought maybe they were tent-only, but evidently not. This one might accommodate a 17" camper, with the car parked next to it on the other side of the picnic table.

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That's site 113. The site numbers are probably less important if this park is like other GA parks and you cannot reserve a specific site.

Here's another small one--fantastic view but could be a problem for almost any size RV, but a tent would work.

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This campground has 3 sections. Those lake sites are pretty far from the bathhouse. Moving away from the lake, we come to a more woodsy site, which is also roomier.

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By the way, although this was a hot day, it was surprisingly breezy, and bug-free, in the campground.  Staying in the second section, this site, 212, was quite large, certainly suitable for a large bus-type RV.

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There is a nice, lit picnic pavilion in the center of this section.

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Here is a view of the campground from across the lake.

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Now, here's something very great. Twelve miles down the road is Franklin Roosevelt's Little White House, where he (and often Eleanor and some of their kids) spent some time. To be honest, I have never had any particular interest in FDR. But, it was early in the day and I'd already been to the gardens, and I could get into the Little White House with my pass, so I headed out that way. To get there from the park, you drive over a mountain pass. Here's a view from one of the little turnouts they have provided:

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I want to stress that I had no great expectations regarding this side trip. I turned out to be mistaken. The first thing you see when you get past the place where you enter is their museum. There is a wealth of information about Franklin and Eleanor in there, as well as two of his cars (I can tell you from personal experience that if you really, really just have to touch, say, the blue one, no alarms will go off....just in case you wonder about that...). It's well worth it to look at all the photos and read all the informational signs they have up.

Ok, so you then leave there and have some choices of things to look at. Given the heat of the day, I headed right for the guest house and the servant's quarters, which you pass on the way to the Little White House. Both of these are interesting--you go in, and they have large glass doors closing off the actual rooms, but you can clearly see in. Also, there are actual furnishings just sitting there, such as a couch, with a sign on it not to touch it or sit on it. But it's the actual couch that was there when all this was in use. There is some information about the 2 servants that stayed there when FDR was there.

Then, through the Bump Gate (ask the ranger about that) and down to the Little White House itself (and it is little).

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This has been left exactly as it was when FDR died there. Everybody  just left. While you can't wander around and sit on his couch and so on, only those velvet cord things separate you from the rooms--and in the kitchen, you can touch the stove and counters and many other things. The ranger told me about how when FDR was declared dead, his cook, Daisy Bonner, unplugged the clock on the stove. And there it is, forever stopped at 3:36. You can touch the clock, pick it up (I didn't, though)--I've never seen things this accessible at any historic site before. Daisy wrote a note on the wall in pencil after FDR died--they have put that behind plexiglass, but it's readable.

Here's the living room. FDR was sitting at that card table having his portrait painted and working on something when he collapsed.

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This sign is in his bedroom:

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And here is the room, with the sign by the bed.

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Back in the living room, you can see the scratches on the glass of the front door made by Fala's nails (his Scottish terrier), and Fala's chain leash hanging in a closet.

If you are going to camp at the state park, I strongly urge you to take the drive down the road to see the Little White House.  And if you don't think you care that much about FDR, you might be surprised after seeing all this.

Oh, here's the link to my photos from Callaway Gardens, which is also within a few miles of the state park, and also a great place to visit:

I'll be back when I get back to camping, or when I can show you a campground that I haven't covered, even if I'm not camping there--which ever comes first!

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Back to Kolomoki Mounds

I camped in this park a couple of years ago (that post can be found here), and covered the campground and the mounds pretty well in that post.

This time I went with a wonderful group of women campers. We have gone on several camping trips together this season, and at each one we get to know each other better and form strong bonds. We had some new folks at this gathering, which is super--the more the merrier!

One of the reasons we chose this park was because several of us wanted to see Providence Canyon near Lumpkin GA.  This is a deep canyon area that is only 70 years old, formed by basically bad farming techniques (regarding water).  We all loved it and took many photos of it.

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We also enjoyed spending time around the fire ring (which only had fires in it in the evening, though) chatting.

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One of the women had just gotten a kayak and so she took hers and I took mine and we went out for a paddle on a windy day (every day was windy). While I was out, I took a photo looking back over the water at the campground.

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There had been a great deal of rain in the area and so the lake was not the usual pretty blue color, but rather had turned to mud brown. It was still fun paddling, though.

I haven't been posting much in this blog, not because I am not camping but rather because I am camping in spots that have been covered here before. I have two more trips planned and reserved (one new one for this blog), and I think that will do it for camping for this season.