Florida Panhandle State and National Parks

Florida Rambler’s excellent blog post about beach camping in the Florida Panhandle http://www.floridarambler.com/florida-camping/beach-camping-in-florida-panhandle/ made me want to see some of the campgrounds there. That really was the start of planning our route to Yellowstone this summer.

Here are some notes about each place we stayed.

Saint George Island State Park

-Beautiful beach with white sand and green-blue water. Softest sand-like baby powder.

-Small sandy RV spots, but there are a few bigger sites with concrete pads. Must book 11 months out. Trees block neighbors a bit. Some sites are hard to back into with fences in front of them.

-Nice bathhouses, but only two showers for woman and two for men in each bathhouse.

-Nature trail to bay and beach.

-Very buggy with no see ums and little black flies. The beach breeze keeps them mostly off the beach.

-The beach is empty. Very quiet campers!

-Ranger programs. We attended a campfire talk. Great!

-Beach path is out by the road where you turn in. About a 10-15 minute walk.

-Sun rises on beach, but sets on bay side.

-Shells are plentiful. Many sea birds.

-Town is small. Lighthouse is pretty. Paddy’s Raw Bar has great oysters from the Apalachicola Bay. Apalachicola is a close town that looked cute.

-No WiFi.

Saint Joseph’s Peninsula State Park

-About and hour and a half drive from Saint George Island.

-Small sites, but plenty of trees in between your neighbors. A few concrete pad sites. Book 11 months out.

-Very buggy. Bring bug spray or cream.

-About four showers for women and four for men in bathhouse. Bathrooms separated.

-Very short walk to the beach on a boardwalk.

-Beach was much more crowded and many more waves than St George when we were there.

-Best sunsets of the three parks.

-Lots of teens in this campground. Looked like church youth groups.

-Quiet Campground.

-So many jellyfish on the beach. Maybe due to the rough waters while we were there.

-Camp store close by marina.

-WiFi at marina and screened in pavilion. Slow.

-No diesel gas close by. No stores close by.

Fort Pickens Campground at Gulf Shores National Seashore (Santa Rosa Island)

-Best Beach! Very white sand and emerald green water.

-Empty beaches. Many Ospreys and other sea birds. Great for birdwatching.

-Close walk for some campsites to the beach path. Longer for others. Long boardwalk to beach.

-Close to Pensacola and stores and restaurants.

-Campsites were wide open with little shade or privacy. Sites along the tree lines were the best.

-Very crowded campground with many families and tent campers. Kids riding bikes and skateboards everywhere.

-Small concrete pads and you must have your vehicle on the cement pad as well, or park in overflow parking.

-Bathhouse crowded. A few showers closed off so it only left three for a huge campground. Unisex showers. Separate bathrooms.

-Fort Pickens is a great day trip. 10 minutes up the road. Nice bookstore and ranger tours. Jr. Ranger program.

We really loved spending time at these beautiful beaches and walked them morning and night. Look at our Instagram page for many more pictures!

 

Cody’s RV Park inWeeki Wachee, Florida

After getting our jack replaced (due to a recall) at our dealer Lazydays in Tampa, we headed to Weeki Wachee, Florida for a few nights. I have never been, and Craig went when he was little. We have really enjoyed spending time at some of the Florida springs. They are very peaceful and low key compared to the Orlando parks!

We visited Crystal Springs and the Three Sisters Springs NWR, Homosassa Springs and Weeki Wachee Springs/State Park. Because it was cool at the beginning of our stay, there were lots of manatees in Three Sisters Springs. About 80-100 the day we were there!

Cody’s RV Park is small and it looks like there are a lot of permanent residents here. It is a great spot for visiting the Florida springs. Cody’s is right up the road from Weeki Wachee Springs and about 30 miles to Crystal Springs. There is a Publix and a Walmart very close by. A great brewery, Marker 48 is 10 minutes away. They have a small pond that you can take kayaks out on and 40 miles of trails out back.

We are off to the Florida panhandle this week and hope it warms up so we can swim at the beaches. More posts soon on the state parks we are staying at there!

 

We Are Working at Yellowstone Next Summer!

We were so excited to hear from Yellowstone Forever a few days ago. They let Craig and I know that we will be working in the Old Faithful bookstore next summer season!

Yellowstone Forever is the official nonprofit at Yellowstone National Park. The Yellowstone Park Foundation and The Yellowstone Association joined together to become Yellowstone Forever. They offer classes and have bookstores all over the park. 

We will leave Florida towards the end of March and take several weeks to get to Wyoming by May. We are really looking forward to our next adventure and spending several months in one of our favorite places.

Whirlwind!

So it has been a whirlwind three weeks, but we are finally settling in. Our road trip down to Florida was beautiful even though it was rushed. I am so glad we saw Shenandoah, the Great Smoky Mountains, the Blue Ridge Parkway, Savannah and Charleston! I can highly recommend all of them. 



There were some hiccups along the way. We hit a huge pothole in NJ that cost us $400+ due to a back wheel issue. We could not fit in the Adams Inn’s reserved parking spot (actually an old, small garage) in DC, so had to drive on to Shenandoah. And Craig’s bike was stolen from Disney’s Fort Wilderness Campground last night. Very aggravating since we use the bikes often. Scary since we were in the RV when the thief cut our cable lock and took it! 


They (Disney management) are giving us a golf cart for a few days until it is all sorted out, but looking at posts online it is an ongoing issue. Even the Magic Kingdom has fallen prey to thieves. Sad. 


Otherwise, we love the RV so far and have nearly everything set up the way we like it. Can’t wait to start applying to Yellowstone and Grand Teton jobs next week!


The Freedom Trail-Boston NHP


On Wednesday Craig had the day off so we went into Boston with friends to walk The Freedom Trail. We had walked it back in 2010, but did not have our national park passport book at the time. We wanted to get some of the stamps that we had missed before we move away. 




The Freedom Trail is 2.5 miles long, so round trip it takes about 5 miles. We wound up walking over 10 miles though. We started at the Boston Common and walked to the Charlestown Navy Yard. We climbed the 294 steps in the Bunker Hill Monument, visited several churches and museums, had lunch in the North End and wound up at Eataly for drinks and dinner. In all a great day with friends and we got many new stamps for the passport! 















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Mysteries in Our National Parks Books

I just saw these mysteries mentioned on one of my Facebook groups and I thought they looked great for young adult readers. Heck, I might read some of them! If you are going on a national park road trip or vacation with kids, it would be fun to get them a few of these. Here are some descriptions from Amazon:

“In this fast-paced adventure, the Landons trail a wounded wolf in Yellowstone National Park. The park is abuzz with rumors of a wolf attack. Meanwhile, a killer stalks the woods. Unaware of the danger, Jack and Ashley are more concerned about rebellious teenage foster child, Troy Haverson. From the opening moments at Old Faithful through 48 action-packed hours, the tension builds: What is lodged in the wolf’s radio collar? And what is the meaning of the Native American story of Sin-a-Wavi? A heady mix of suspense, adventure, and moments of tenderness lure readers into this story of kids discovering the natural world. The book’s afterword, by Yellowstone’s Michael K. Phillips, explores the park’s Wolf Restoration Program.”

“The Landon family is Southbound—headed for Florida to investigate a mysterious illness plaguing endangered manatees in Everglades National Park. Jack, Ashley, and their friend Bridger soon find themselves in deadly waters with a seven-foot shark, an injured manatee—and a mystery to solve. Who was the stranger in the speedboat who snatched Jack’s camera? And what does he have to do with the manatees? Join the heart-stopping chase through a maze of mangrove islands to find out!”

“Life-threatening accidents keep plaguing the Landon family as they investigate the mysterious deaths of white mustangs at Zion National Park in Utah. Even before they get to the park, Jack Landon knows that Ethan Ingawanup spells trouble. Things start to go awry after Ethan and his sister—two Shoshone kids—are placed in the Landons’ care. The questions begin to mount after Ethan teaches Jack and Ashley the ancient Ghost Dance: Are all the hair-raising events just coincidental? Or is there some strange magic in the dance ritual? The answers await in the raging waters of a slick-rock canyon called The Narrows. The afterword by Lyman Hafen of the Zion Natural History Association discusses white mustangs and public lands in Utah.”

Enjoy, and let me know how they are!


We Bought an RV!

Our RV shopping trip to Florida was a success! We went to look at several RV parks and a few RV dealers. We also went back and forth by email with some other dealers to make sure we were getting the best price we could. In the end we decided to order a new 2018 Grand Design Reflection 297RSTS from the factory. It will be ready for us to pick up in September. Grand Design seems to have a good reputation in the RV world.

The first RV dealer we looked at was Lazydays in Tampa, Florida. This is a large dealer with an RV resort, big store, restaurants and even training classes. I had heard they did not deal much, but we knew they had a lot of stock to look at and we were interested in seeing everything they offered. We wound up buying our Reflection from Lazydays. They offered us a nice percentage off of MSRP, we liked our sales person and we loved the ability to stay overnight (or several nights) and test everything out. They will give us a full walk through of our travel trailer and even have classes we can attend since we are new to all of this. They are also a close drive to Orlando where we will be for several months in case we need any warranty work done.           

Lazydays is so large we were driven around in a golf cart. Our sales person dropped us off near all of the Grand Design Reflection and Imagine travel trailers. He asked if we wanted him to look with us or come back. Since we wanted to take our time in the trailers and not rush, we looked for a while without him hanging over us. He had other customers waiting around too so this worked out well for all of us. Many of the trailers were hooked up to electric and the AC’s were running. This helped us to get an idea of how cool they stay in 95 degree Florida heat!

The floor plan we chose was one we had been eyeing online for a while. It is just shy of 34 feet and has a nice layout for full time living. There is a small fridge and grill outside as well as a television. Not sure how much we will use that, but it is a nice option. The loveseat folds out to a bed and the recliners are heated and face the TV and a small fireplace.  

We decided to go with a free standing table and chairs even though we thought we would like the dinette better. The dinette was not comfortable and Craig was really cramped at 6’4. We also opted for a second AC since we will be staying in some hot areas (like Florida in September and October.) There is a lot of cabinet space, so hopefully we can fit the small amount of items we are taking with us. It looks like a small cat litter box can fit in the bathroom and a crate can fit near the center kitchen island. Their water and food also can fit in the kitchen area. There is a combo washer/dryer hookup in the bedroom, but we will see if it is worth loosing some closet space after we move in.

We also looked at Orlando RV in Winter Park, Florida. They were very nice to us, but did not have any Grand Design Travel Trailers there. We got to look at several floor plans that were really nice, but the RV companies (Forest River, Jayco, etc.) do not have great reputations from my research. I feel like we have been researching for years, so it is so exciting to finally have a decision made! Now for the truck shopping… And job applying…

When we got home our new campsite sign that we custom ordered was waiting. We love it and can not wait to get on the road! 3 more months!