We decided to head back to Florida again this fall & winter. We will bring our new lightweight Mad River canoe and our new Burley Tandem Bicycle. We hope to do some Rails-to-Trails in VA, NC and GA on our way south. All of our plans can change depending on the weather, but we hope to visit Greg & Sandy in SC and end up in Orlando to fly home to CLE to spend Christmas with our big family. Here are some maps showing our route planning up to Christmas.
1 Home, 2 Galax, VA, 3 Va Creeper Trl, 4 New River, NC, 5 Blue Ridge Pkwy, 6 Greg in SC, 7 Augusta, GA, 8 Laura Walker State Park, 9 Okefenokee, GA, 10 Ocean Pond – Nat’l Forest, 11 Palatka Trail, FL, 12 Juniper Springs, 13 Silver Lake, 14 Wekiva Springs, 15 Store RV in Orlando
Any friends that care to join us along the way, now is the time to let us know. On all of our campsites we can share a second vehicle, since we don’t pull a car with us.
We had a warm spell to get all packed and ready to go. We should have left last week but we had our annual early Thanksgiving dinner with all our family. It’s getting to be a tradition since we head south in early November. Our last blog post shows where we expect to travel this year but plans often change.
To keep from reinjuring my back, we bought a Kevlar canoe that is 20 lbs. lighter the our old ABS canoe.
To keep Peggy peddling on all the bike trails, we bought a really cool used Burley Tandem bike. We practiced with it all summer and she loves it. It looks like we can double the mileage we normally peddle in a day on the Rails to Trails bike paths that we love.
I had to change my hitch to move the bikes 5” higher so as not to block my tail lights. The tandem is 8’ long so needed to have a local canvas company make a custom cover to keep the dirt off when we travel. It turned out he only lived a mile from our home so he dropped over to measure and then deliver the beautiful cover.
I will provide our blog with a option to read in the order of our travels as well as in standard blog format with latest news on top.
It was a cool sunny drive to Galax, VA, a few miles off I-77. Our plans were to do a section of the New River Bike Trail that starts in Galax and goes to a long bridge over the New River. It was cold about 45oF and cloudy. We decided we would try it anyway. We dressed warmly and had gloves, but being our first bike ride we felt we had gone far enough so we turned around at 9 miles, uphill back to our RV. We loved the trail, but I forgot to take pictures.
The weather report called for light rain on Monday so we decided to skip going up to the VA Creeper Trail, which we had done about 20 years ago.
We decided to go up to the Blue Ridge Parkway which we had enjoyed about 40 years ago. We got off when it started to drizzle and got foggy at Boone, NC and spent the night at another Walmart.
We got back on the parkway and stopped at the first craft shop and visitor center. We found out that all the other campgrounds and visitor centers had closed at the end of October.
The weather started to clear up so we took a short hike to Linville Falls.
The day got more sunny and the views were spectacular. Very little traffic and we did not see one RV. I’ll bet this place is a zoo in season.
You can only average about 35 miles/hour, so it turned into a long day, we had only travelled about 120 miles to Hendersonville, NC and another overnight at a Walmart.
If it warms up this morning, Tuesday, we will try biking again on a local bike trail that follows along a local creek.
Later we will head over to our friend’s, Greg and Sandy Lewis, home in the South Carolina mountains.
We did try what was supposed to be a nice bike trail in Hendersonville, NC on Tuesday. It finally warmed to near 50o around noon.
We decided to start at a park on the south end and head north since it was only a few miles from where we camped. It was a nice park with lots of parking, a nice paved trail that was about 3-1/2 miles long each way. We headed off and went around the corner and found the trail underwater. I know it follows a creek but not in a creek. We turned around and rode around the park and then packed up to head to visit our friends Greg & Sandy Lewis, Keel-Haulers from Cleveland, who built their palatial estate on a beautiful Lake Keowee north of Clemson.
To not to repeat myself, take a look at this link to my blog about our visit 2 years ago: http://keelhauler.org/WordPress/?p=4488
View from their deck.
Greg & Sandy enjoying their view after a big oak tree fell – – – -Distant Island boat dock
Today got warm and sunny so I convinced Peggy to try a nearby Rail Trail from Pickins to Easley, SC called the Doodle Trail. Greg took us over there and peddled his mountain bike. It was a really different trail, 10’ wide asphalt in semi-rural area but lots of small road crossings and continuous up and down 3% grades. It is 7-1/2 miles one way. Our 15 miles trip took about 1-1/2 hours.
Our plan is to leave Friday morning and head to Augusta, GA on the Savannah River where there are supposed to be some nice bike trails and the Augusta Canal National Heritage Area
We left Friday morning to drive to Augusta, GA. The 3 hour drive was all on 2 lane roads with very little traffic. We arrived at noon so we went directly to their Discover Center which had a nice movie and museum showing why they built the canal that made Augusta a great textile area in the 1800’s. More pictures of the Mill, Canal and Bike Path area are on this great website. There are some great 360o panoramic views and historic photos on that site. We again stayed overnight at a local Walmart.
We picked up this map of the bike paths, which are mostly hard packed dirt.
On Saturday morning we headed over to the Headgates where there is plenty of parking, since hundreds of people seem to love to come here to rent bikes or kayaks and jog on the trails.
We biked along the Towpath Trail to Mill Village and then tried the River Levee Trail which ends at a steep suspension bridge. The locals told me you can walk down some steps with your bike and bike along the river right down into the city, but we stopped at the bridge.
The 15 mile round trip took about two hours.
This is the Savanah River where the canal starts.
Peggy looking at the Love Locks that people place along the bridges.
Walking back down the suspension bridge near town.
We got back on the road about noon for a four hour drive on local roads with little traffic, to our first real campground, Laura Walker State Park in Southern Georgia. We will relax here a few days before going to the Okefenokee where we will be trying out our new canoe.
This small GA State Park is near Waycross and on the northern edge of the Okefenokee Swamp. We decide to relax here and just do a little hiking each day. On Monday we took a 3-1/2 mile walk around the lake that divides the camp from the golf course.
I played a round of golf on the nice 18 hole course about ten years ago. They have improved the 44 site camp with very level pads for your RV. On the weekend it was near full but very empty during the week, I’ll bet in the summer the place is packed.
On Tuesday we will drive to Stephen Foster State Park which is deep in the Okefenokee Swamp and we will have an opportunity to paddle our new canoe.
The weather has been sunny in the high 60’s, dropping to the low 40’s at night.
It was an easy drive to Stephen Foster Park in the Okefenokee Swamp, and even though this was Thanksgiving week the campground was far from full. We enjoy this park because in late November there are very few mosquitos and the weather is cool and not humid which is good for canoeing.
We are camped again in Site 16 which is only a 0.3 mile walk from the site to the boat launch. We had no trouble dragging our new light weight canoe on our wheeled carrier from the campsite to the water.
The last time we were here it was a little windy, this time the lake was like glass.
We started our 4 mile paddle to the west around 10 AM when the fog lifted. We saw dozens of gators.
Most just sunk out of site as we approached. A few stayed on top to watch us. We saw lots of Egrets, and other birds along with a few turtles.
One big gator had a really bad injury. The loser in a fight or did a motor boat hit him? It looked really bad.
We headed back to camp at noon but since it was so nice we took another 3.5 mile canoe ride east to Billy’s Island, where there is a short trail and explanation of how the early settlers in the area made a living logging all the huge Cypress trees. There is a nice landing here.
There were fewer gators but lots of Herons and Egrets.
They are forecasting heavy rain for Thanksgiving Day and then the weather is supposed to warm into the high 70’s. Our next planned camp is at Ocean Pond campground in the Osceola Nation Forest about 60 miles South of here near Lake City FL. But they will be totally full for the weekend, so we decided to stay here until Sunday morning.
The rain started early on Thanksgiving morning. It never rained hard but it spoiled a lot of families big cookouts. We stayed in and read but this year we had no turkey leftovers, so we had chicken leftovers instead. South of here it rained over 2”. We are in the middle of nowhere but every once in a while we can access the ATT 4G network but there is no phone service. But they do have a TV cable service that gets the 4 networks and a few other channels.
So on Friday morning I went to sign up for 2 more days camping as planned but was told there were no sites available for Friday night, only Saturday night. That won’t work, we told them we will move in with another camper for the night and made a reservation for Saturday night. We didn’t move and it never really filled up, so we had no problem.
Friday was cool in the morning, so we planned to paddle around noon after it had warmed. This 7-1/2 mi round trip paddle was to the Minnie Lake shelter and return. On this trip we paddled a narrow slow moving river through the towering Cypress trees.
When we got to the day use platform, we found a young couple were all set up to camp overnight. They said the normal shelter was closed for camping so they used this platform instead. So we had our rest stop there and headed back to camp.
Saturday started out cool but quickly warmed to the 70’s, Sunday will be a shopping day on our way to Ocean Pond Campground, where we hope some campers will be leaving after the long weekend. It at least has good 4G service for internet access. This National Forest is right off I-10 and is very popular for snowbirds since it is only $12/night for Electric Sites and $6 for water hook up sites.
This National Forest campground is on the north side of a 2 mile in diameter round lake, which is what Peggy likes to call it. There are 3 different priced portions, Electric & Water, Water, and Rustic, all right in a row. It is usually full on weekends, so we got here on Sunday morning and had no trouble getting an Electric site, #8, which we like since it is next to the woods.
We have never Canoed here since it didn’t look that interesting. I guess you could take a six mile paddle following the shore line all round the lake, but we like biking on the park roads and trails. On Sunday we peddled over to Cobb campground, which was still full. It is very rustic with no facilities. We took a few side roads and made it back to camp, about 8-1/2 miles.
On Monday I did some computer programing for our KHCC website and the Vermilion River Race. On Tuesday we took our traditional 14 mile ride around the lake, with a stop at the RR Depot museum in Olustee.
Then on Wednesday we peddled over to Olustee Battlefield and biked around their trails reading about the biggest Civil War battle in Florida. It was a 11 mile bike trip.
Here is what we imagined the battle was like. They say 10,00 troops were involved resulting in 2800 casualties.
Peggy can’t hold them off.
We took our time leaving Ocean Pond on Saturday morning. Our next trail ride would be on a paved section of the Palatka State Trail which we read about on Trail Link. The various sections are paved, dirt or under construction. From the info on Trail Link we decided to do a 10 mile paved section from Keystone Hts. to Florahome.
We parked our motor home at the corner of “Happy & Healthy” in their large parking lot, right next to the trail. Our 21 mile round trip ride to a little trailside antique store (Old RR station) was very pleasant with temps in mid 70’s.
After the hurricanes in FL, one of the roadside lakes went across the trail.
Should we cross, Peggy asked?
Doesn’t look too deep, I replied.
Actually it turned out to be a foot deep, luckily I was wearing sandals because the water was above my pedals. Peggy stuck out her legs and keep her shoes dry.
Later we heard that an alligator likes to come ashore there, but we saw no sign of him on either of our crossings.
By 1 PM we were back to our start for a light lunch in our RV. Our plans were to overnight at Walmart in Palatka, shop & go out to eat dinner at a local Mexican restaurant.
We could have just continued on to Juniper Springs as it is only an hour away. But it’s tough to get a campsite on Saturday, so we will follow our plan and head there tomorrow morning.