Category Archives: 2015-2016 Trip

2015-16 Back to Florida
Blog in Chronological Order

Wet Summer – Thinking of Florida

Florida for 2015 – 2016
Working on my itinerary for the “Real Florida”. Canoeing, biking and forest settings.

It’s been 7 years since we have been to Florida. We are thinking of starting in South Carolina and slowly working our way south into Northern Florida.

Map1 - SC to FL
We will then visit some of our favorite North Central FL parks, and end up near the Orlando Airport in time to fly home for Christmas with the family. We plan to leave the RV in a storage lot near the airport.
Map2 - N FL
When we fly back in January we plan to head further south where it will be warmer, staying in a few of our favorite County Parks. Most have a 14 day limit and take no reservations which gives us a chance to get a campsite. At this time of year all the Florida state parks are booked for the rest of the winter once you get south of Orlando.
Map3 - S FL
These plans are still tentative but we will firm them up in the next month.

Florida 2015-16 plans firming up

Many of our friends are surprised that we are not heading to Mexico again this winter. We have gone to the Yucatan for the last seven years in a row and have spent 14 winters altogether in Mexico. We will miss the beautiful beach at Xpu-Ha.

When our kids were young we used to go to Florida all the time, vacationing there 16 different times.

We have decide to fly home for the holidays just like we did the past few winters. We have a big family and hate not seeing all the grandkids for Christmas.

We will fly in and out of Orlando on Spirit Airlines, cheap but hopefully on-time, we have no luggage. Since we know those dates we have reserved a few campgrounds around that time. Looking at the maps that I posted in my last last blog, #13 & #14 in map2, and #3 and #6 in map3. After #6 we could head further south, if Florida is too cold for us.

Central Florida is great for paddling on its crystal clear spring fed rivers.

Maybe not as exciting as my kayaking.

We also hope to do lots of Hiking & Biking.

Winter 2015 Trip Begins

Our first day, Wednesday, was a long drive from Sunrise to Sunset but we made our goal a Wal-Mart parking lot just outside of Asheville, NC. It was a 550 mile drive. Sunny but cool and light traffic. No problems except when I put on my Polaroid sun glasses and looked at my computer which displays a GPS map, it was black. No problem, as I have a big Garmin GPS. After a while I found out the screen on my new computer must also be Polarized because when I switched back to standard glasses everything was fine.
IMG_3562 Our next stop was only 90 more miles and we got to Greg & Sandy Lewis’s about 9:30 AM. We found the nice little house that Greg designed himself on Lake Keowee in SC.
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GregsView



The community called the Reserve makes the big homes on Deep Creek Lake look like little cottages. One is bigger than the next and the views from his place are fantastic. 

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On Thursday they drove us up to the highest waterfall East of the Rocky Mountains on the Whitewater River.
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Last Two Days with Greg & Sandy

Living Room FireplaceGreg's Breakfast

We spent the first 3 days of our trip with Greg & Sandy Lewis in SC. It was like staying in a 5 star resort.

We have known Greg since he was in high school in the 70’s. He is a great friend, kayaker & a fantastic host. He loves to cook and entertain and we truly enjoyed his Southern Hospitality.

Greg prepared gourmet meals each night while also entertaining us each day with local hikes and a boat ride where we could really see Greg's Transportationthe million dollar homes all along the Lake.

His home is near the street and the path down to his boat dock is so steep he needs his high power transportation 2-ReadyforBoatRidewhich is almost an amusement ride of it’s own.

When you drive around the Reserve you can barely see any homes but from his boat these mansions are very visible.

4-Reserve

Lake Keowee was created by Duke Power company. They dammed up the main river and all the little tributaries Falls into the Lakethat drop into the lake making for a very long, narrow lake with many fingers.

Occasionally you can see a small stream falling abruptly into the lake. Views from Mtn Bridge WildernessThe weather has been cool at night but warms into the high 60’s during the day, with bright blue skies.View Toward the PiedmontView toward Table Rock

On Friday we took a longer drive to Caesar’s Head State Park where we were 2000’ above the surrounding valleys with views to the Piedmont and Table Rock.

Triple Drop Falls

We drove into NC to view two very scenic waterfall areas with short hike to Triple Falls and High Falls.

11-HighFalls

The foothills of SC are a really nice area and both a vacation destination along with a beautiful place to live.

Greg & Sandy have been lucky to be able to retire early and afford a place like this. Sandy was an interior decorator and the home shows her artist touch. Hopefully we can get back another time in the near future. They are only 1 hours drive to the Chatooga River where we have spent many years paddling in the area.

South Carolina State Parks

From the Mountains to the Low Country was about a 225 mi drive. Endisto RiverGivhans FerryWe headed to Givhans Ferry State Park. It is on the Endisto River and we had hoped to canoe there. With all the rain the blackwater river was very fast flowing. We were not sure how scenic it would be or if we could set up a shuttle so we decided to do a 6 mile bike ride in the area. It was Peggy’s first bike ride in a year.

The camp was full on the weekend but when we got there on Sunday afternoon, it was empty. We did a short hike and ran into lots of mosquitos, after we put on Off they all went away. We stayed for 2 nights and got a lot of rest. Peg Bike by Waring HouseI found out we had a weak cell phone signal signal but boy it worked great tethered to the computer to get me the internet.Salt Marshes 

On Tuesday we drove 30 miles into Charleston. We did a bike ride around the original colony of Charleston at Charles Towne Landing State Historic Site.

Waring House Avenue of OaksWe really liked the nice park. They have a series of paved walking/biking paths. Animals native to Charleston in 1670 can be found in the Animal Forest. They have lots of signs with explanations of how this first settlement managed.Peg in Stocks
Bison

Peggy wasn’t a good girl so she got locked up.

The trails were probably only about 3 miles long but it was a lot more fun riding our bikes. There were lots of schools on field trips. The Adventure is a replica trading vessel docked at Charles Towne Landing. John on Rudder

Several stops had costumed rangers explaining how the colony made friends with the local Indians but introduced African slaves to help them till their farms. Ranger Talk

It was beautiful warm day, but tomorrow there is a slight chance of rain and heavy rain is forecast for Thursday.

We decided to camp at a new Wal-Mart just 10 miles outside the historic downtown.  Tomorrow we will drive the RV into the city and hopefully find a parking lot near where we plan to take a walking tour of historic Charleston with 7th generation native Michael Trouche. We also hope to visit the historic Charleston city market which is over 210 years old.

If all goes as planned we should be staying near Savannah on Wednesday night and then drive to Jekyll Island on Thursday.

Charleston Walking Tour

Peggy Loves BasketsCity MarketI read all the reviews on what to do in Charleston, SC and a walking tour sounded like a good way to see the old houses and learn about the history of one of the first settlements in the USA.

We got there about 1-1/2 hrs. early because of the need to find a nearby parking lot that would accommodate our RV. We lucked out, we found a small lot near the city market and only a couple of blocks from where we were to meet Michael Troche, 7th generation native who calls his tours “Charleston Footprints”. So we toured the market and looked at other tour possibilities, like a carriage tour or boat tour to Fort Sumter.Carriage ToursFortTourFerry

But we like walking so  this two hour tour sounded like the best choice for us.

We met on Meeting Street, Michael limits his tours to 20 persons and you need to make reservations to be sure he can accommodate you on: http://www.charlestonfootprints.com/Footprints Walking Tout

FootprintTour

Church Street

We walked all round the old town and Michael regaled us with his stories both historical and humorous. Rainbow StreetHouse

When we got back to the RV the lot was full, we thought we would have trouble getting out but we made it out in one big turn. We could have been trapped for a day if most people didn’t drive small cars. So on to Jekyll Island tomorrow after spending the night at a Wal-Mart in Savannah.

Jekyll Island Bike Ride

1-Jekyll Bike Ride

After a rainy night in a Wal-Mart parking lot in Savannah we only had a short 90 mile drive to Jekyll Island, GA.. We got here at 9:15 AM and there were plenty of available campsites. It is the only campground on this 2 x 8 mile island but it not only has full hookups but it has good fast wireless internet and cable TV.

However the weather on Thursday was the worst of our trip so far. It was a warm 77oF but it rained all day. We got in a lot of rest. Finally on Friday morning, all the rain was gone and we had bright blue skies.2-Views of the Bay 

There are over 25 miles of paved bike trails, several golf course and many hotels and homes on the island. The island was purchased by a group of multi-millionaires in 1900 before they discovered Palm Beach, FL. The club was abandoned during World War II when German submarines were spotted nearby.

The Historic District still has the big hotel and many of the huge cottages which have been restored to former grandeur. The island is still a quiet place without a lot of nightlife. There are lots of natural areas and beaches which are probably nice in the Summer. They were cool and windy today.

3a-Jekyll Island Club Hotel

4a- Croquet.

We saw a group playing croquet at the Island Club Hotel, I guess that’s what you do when you are all dressed in your whites.

Cherokee Cottage

Today I decided to try to take pictures with my new cell phone. I still not smart enough to have figured out how to do most things with this Smart Phone but they don’t look too bad.

The picture on the left is a small Villa, which has been restored, it is called the Cherokee Cottage. It is now rented for meetings or weddings. It is typical of the homes the early founders built to be near their club.6-Atlantic Ocean

The last part of our 10 mile bike ride took us along the Eastern beaches where most of the hotels are.

It was a very windy day and Peggy didn’t like finishing up fighting the wind while riding along the Atlantic beach.

The sunny skies kept us warm even though the temperature was only 70oF.

Heading for the Swamp on Sunday

JohnBike2We woke up to a much cloudier day with some rain predicted this afternoon and tonight. After that a big cold front is forecast to come in and drop the low temperature to near freezing on Tuesday morning.
We decided to take another bike ride early before any rain arrives. We rode over to see the big fishing pier near the campground at Clam Creek.

ClamCreekPier

We then headed back to the Historic District where you can read about how the Island was settled and visit their free museum which included a short movie.

The map below shows the original town.JekyllHistoricDistrict (Custom)
Peggy couldn’t find anything to buy in the little gift shops.
We decided to head to what looked like a new shopping area near the Convention Center on the windy eastern side of the island. Most of the stores looked closed for the season.
We decided to bike back the way we came rather than fight the wind, so today we biked 13 miles. Peggy is getting stronger on her bike.

Map1 - SC to FL[3]
If you recall, this summer, I posted our tentative itinerary. We have completed 2 to 5 and tomorrow we will do another short 130 mile drive to Stephen Foster State Park #6 in the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge. We have been here several times before. It a nice place to paddle your canoe in the large blackwater lakes filled with Cyprus trees.
You can do longer overnight trips here with a permit and put your tent on the platforms they build along the canoe trails, but we just like to do day trips and return to our nice RV.
Hopefully the cold spell will kill most of the mosquitos. All the other times we have been here have been in January or later and there has never been any.
I don’t know if we will make it to Ocean Pond #7 in Osceola NF  by Thanksgiving or not.

Okefenokee – Cool Nights

PegPaddlingOkefenokee
It ‘s only a 130 mile drive from Jekyll Island to Stephen Foster State Park in the Okefenokee Wildlife Refuge.

The park is in GA but we had to drive through about 20 miles of Florida to get there. They had forecast rain with a cold front passing through but it only drizzled a little on the drive over. So when the sun came out after lunch we decided to take our canoe out for a short paddle to Billy’s Island. About a 2 mile paddle each way and a nice hike around an abandoned town.

JohnBillysIslandHikingSince it was cool there were no alligators sunning themselves, they preferred the warm water of the swamp. But plenty of Egrets and Heron with an occasional Hawk and Vulture.

Since we got here on a Sunday the campground was almost empty. Peggy and I haven’t canoed since our Michigan trip 3 years ago, but she was as strong as ever and I had to paddle fast to keep up with her stroke rate.
PegBillysLandind

GiantEgret

We are able to get on the internet here tethering my smart phone to the computer but phone calls barely work. Early Monday morning the temperatures were down to 39oF, so we waited until after lunch to venture out. By then it had warmed to the low 50’s and very sunny.

We decided to do an 8 mile round trip paddle to Minnie’s Lake. We took our time and enjoyed the solitude and all the birds.

Today we spotted a couple of small alligators in the water. It was still too cold for them to come up on the shore or logs like the turtles. CypressTrees
The water trail going north is all big Cyprus trees and the reflections of the trees and knees in the water was very beautiful.MinniesLakeShelter

By the time we made our way to the platform that campers use in the swamp Peggy noticed that if we go as slow as we did getting here it would be dark before we got back. The sun sets about 5:15 PM and it gets dark instantly.

So we jumped back into the canoe and went into full racing mode. We made it back in half the time finishing up at 4 PM. Maybe a little sorer for the effort. But we sure weren’t cold although the high today had only reached 53oF. So far there have been no mosquitoes.

Thanksgiving at Ocean Pond, FL

BigShoalsParkMap

The Okefenokee is in GA only a few miles from the FL border. We loaded up our canoe and headed south for the Osceola National Forest about 40 miles due south. On our way we decided to do an 8 mile bike ride in Big Shoals State Park near White Springs.

BigShoals2The park has a nice paved bike trail, called the Woodpecker Trail, which goes from the south entrance up to the Suwannee river near the biggest rapid in FL called Big Shoals. A 1 mile trail along the river takes you to an overlook of the rapid below.

The rapid drops about 9’ in a quarter mile over three sharp limestone ledges. They say it’s a fun run when the river level is between 55-65’ on the USGS gauge. An interesting thing is that you can put-in right here in the park 1 mile above the rapid, then paddle down, run the rapid, walk back on the portage trail and try it again. Then when play time is over you can paddle the slow moving river back to the put-in. But today the water level was only 52’ and it looked too low for us to consider taking our View of OceanPondcanoe down.

We had some grocery shopping to do in the town of Lake City, FL and then we got to our next campground called Ocean Pond. The round lake is 2 miles in diameter and the campground has three different kind of sites.

CampsiteatOceanPondNFWe never had a problem in the past finding a site with electricity but we were here for the long Thanksgiving weekend and all those sites were already taken. We got a nice big site that only had water hook-ups, but at $6 a night it couldn’t be beat.Peggy Thanksgiving in RV 

Most popular FL State Parks are 100% reserved on the weekends but here they take no reservations, so it’s usually easy to get a campsite at any time.

We had our leftover turkey from our big family dinner before we left on the trip, Read Blog about Family Dinner, but we sure missed the family and also Gene at Tepetapan RV Park in Mexico where we have spent the last 6 Thanksgivings.

On Friday we did a 13 mile bike ride around the lake. There are no trails but if you have a good map you can find local roads, some are dirt and some are paved but they provide a good ride all the way around the lake. Several miles are on the highway leading to the park but we only saw one vehicle so Peggy didn’t mind the highway ride.

We are not sure what we plan for Saturday yet but we will leave Sunday morning and head about 35 miles southwest to OLeno State Park, near High Springs, on the disappearing Santa Fe River.