We Get Kicked Out Of Jonathan Dickinson State Park… Kind Of Anyway

We were surprised to find out how it feels to actually get kicked out of a park… well, kind of anyway. We had planned to utilize overflow parking for one night that was full during our stay at Jonathan Dickinson State Park in Florida but to our surprise they would not allow it. You see because we had to change our reservations at this park to delay our arrival at the Everglades National Park we ended up with a 3 day stay, a non-booked day and a 2-day stay at Jonathan Dickinson.

Since we had previously utilized staying in overflow parking at other Florida State parks we assumed we’d be able to just stay in the overflow area, have fun at the park the next morning and then check back in for our last two night. So, when we checked in we asked and were told, sure… if nobody cancels for that night we’ll gladly let you stay in overflow as long as you’re in a self-contained unit. Can’t get much more self-contained than our camper van so we were extremely surprised when we checked for cancellations and found none and were then told we could not use overflow parking since we had a reservation the next night there. What??? Yep! If you have a reservation coming up you can’t arrive early and use overflow.

OK, we’ll just find a place to stay the night and everything will be fine. Wow! Southern Florida is not very dry-camping friendly. In fact they are about the opposite of dry-camping friendly. We had to drive an hour further south to find a Cracker Barrel that allowed overnight stays. So, off to Boynton Beach for that night and then it was back to the state park where we got to actually get out on the Loxahatchee River on our paddle boards and actually caught a few fish! Yeah!

So all that said, that one night could leave us bitter and upset… but, nope! We just rolled with the flow and arrived back at the gate around 10am the next morning, found our campsite for the night already open, hooked up the electric and headed out on the water for a very fun day.

And, Maggie got to meet up with two of her biggest fans, according to Shawn and Dawn Kane of Michigan.  They reached out to us to find out where we were since they were in Florida and quickly made their way to the park we were at so we could spend some time together.  Well, more like so they could meet the famous Maggie and we tagged along. 🙂  We found a great Mexican restaurant and headed out for dinner together.  It was great getting to know them and hear about their Travato van travels too.  Maggie felt right at home with them too and even rode in Shawn’s lap on the trip. See, she is the star of the channel… but we’re OK with that.  She is such a bundle of love and fun and we are so lucky to have her in our life. 

 

Maggie IS The Star Of The Channel!
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Oldest Florida Campground and Newest Travato Friends

Have you heard the saying, birds of a feather flock together? When you feather is a Winnebago Travato camper van then it seems you flock to the same campgrounds, seeking out the same experiences. That’s what happened when we visited Florida’s oldest campground, the Highlands Hammock Campground near Sebring, Florida.

We pulled in to set up and right in front of us was a Travato… Gary Varner’s Travato to be specific. Right across the street from his was another one… Susan Pell’s Travato. Wow! Then we learned from them that Marilyn and Ann both had their Travato camper vans parked at this little campground too. 5 Travato camper vans in one park. Wow! That must be what was meant by birds of a feather flock together. What a great time we all had visiting and talking about everything from traveling, camping, eating and of course our favorite topic, Travato modifications.

As if it could only get better, our friends we’d made at our last Travato gathering, Art and Luann, came by one morning to knock on our door with donuts. We gathered up everyone else and we had a little Travato breakfast around our picnic table, right next to the Coach Whip snake that we’d seen several times, but luckily it was too much noise for him so he did not make an appearance. It is always a surprise and blessing to get to meet up with folks that know us as we travel. To be there with 5 vans all sharing stories together was just the pure definition of Travato family.

As usual we took the bikes off to ride and learned that the biking trails at Highlands Hammock are superb. One trail lead us to the Cyprus Swamp boardwalk hike, where we saw our first of many Florida alligators in the wild. If you are in or near this park this hike along this raised boardwalk trail is something you have to put on your list. The reflections of the trees, birds, alligators and sky off the black water plays tricks on your eyes. Like us, you’ll find yourself wondering where the reflection ends and actual object begins… it all kind of melts into a 360-degree picture that immerses you into nature, a place where we love to be immersed as you’ll see in this episode that features this awesome hike.

Can Your Dog Climb A Tree? Elk Knob State Park – Our Last Hike of 2018

Well, another year has come and gone. It was truly a good year for us. We are the kind of people who try to make the best of everything and we feel we made the most of 2018. With just 24 hours left before 2019 started we left our home in our Travato van in search of adventure… just like we always do.

A short drive up 421 and we were winding through the mountain roads of Watauga county heading for Elk Knob State Park for the very first time. We got there just in the nick of time, with just a little over 90 minutes of daylight left, and only a few short minutes of non-freezing weather left. We underestimated, as usual, the amount of time it would take to drive those curvy mountain roads, and we definitely underestimated the coldness of the dropping temperature at 5500 feet up. Whew!! It got chilly in a HURRY!

So we parked quickly and started the decent up to the summit, knowing all along that we’d never make it. The sun was setting over neighboring mountains when we were asking each other that very question. This trail to the summit is very well maintained, made of gravel and marked with sign posts every quarter of a mile, making it easy to tell how much further and know for sure after just 1/4 of a mile of hiking up the mountain that we were not going to make it! But we tried and made it 3/4 of a mile of the 2 mile hike to the summit before the sun completely set over the next mountain, dropping the temperature and bringing on dusk in a hurry. So we turned around and headed back. While we were hiking down Lynn brought up the fact that every tree is so different and so “alive” and is such a treasure, but most just walk right by them not noticing. This poem came to mind:

Trees by Joyce Kilmer

I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.
A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;
A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;
A tree that may in Summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;
Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.
Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.

Luckily, we made it back to the van just before dark. The drive back down the mountain was even prettier than the drive up, with mountain streams, cabins and Christmas light decorations along the road. When we reached 421 we turned right instead of turning left back towards home so we could eat at one of our long-time favorite places in Boone, Peppers. Then it was just a drive in the dark back home to rest up after that big meal and strenuous hike up the mountain.

Now that you’ve read about our adventure, you can watch the episode here:

Don’t Forget The Toilet Paper!

We were so happy to have a 70-degree day in NE Florida, about as Northeast as you can get actually, to go for what ended up being an 8-mile hike at Fort Clinch State Park.  If you’ve never been to this state park let me sum it up for you… Spanish Moss, Live Oak Trees, River On One Side and Atlantic Ocean on the other side. In other words, it is literally a slice of heaven.

Here’s our VLOG for our 4-hour hike and tour of both campgrounds:

What?? An 8-Mile Hike?  Are You Kidding?


How We Roll –When we travel we usually have one jewel to visit at each anchor point of the trip.  Our jewel for this anchor point was supposed to be Crooked River State Park in Georgia (<— watch the video here).  After spending one day there we drove back across the bridge into Florida to try out another hike at Fort Clinch.  We’d heard great things about it but thought the best of the trip was behind us.  We were wrong.  The best part of the trip and probably the best coastal hike we’ve ever taken was right there at Fort Clinch.  

The Drive Into The Park – To be honest the drive into the park to get to the actual fort, which Lynn and I didn’t even get to visit this trip, was pretty enough to warrant the $6 per car entry fee.  You drive under what many times appears to be a canopy of live oak trees and spanish moss, with low hanging limbs that are protected by warning signs.  Take you time on the drive in and enjoy it. 

The Parking Lot – The parking lot is right in front of the visitors center and the entrance to the fort.  It closes around 4:30 so if you hike first, like we did, make sure you can make it back to visit the fort before it closes.  Otherwise, visit it first and then do the hike… if you’re up for it.

The Hike – The hike is surprisingly hilly for a coastal trail.  You walk in one direction and mountain bikes whiz my in the other direction.  We had several close calls but managed to not cause anyone to fall or get creamed ourselves.  Remember that road you drove on coming in?  Well the trail hugs that road… all the way to the park entrance and then you cross the road and, you guessed it, hike back to the visitor center.  The day we visited it was 66-70 degrees outside… perfect weather for the hike. We took water and crackers and snacks, as well as our camera equipment. If you hike this in the heat of summer make sure you take A LOT of water.  There are no bathrooms or water on the trails so water and the “comfort” from a comfort station are waiting for you back at the visitors center.  If at anytime you feel like you can’t make the entire loop just cross the road and you should be able to find the trail heading back.  Trust me, you do not want to be 4-5 miles, that seems like 40-50 miles away from the visitor center when mother nature calls.  If you find yourself in that predicament, like I did, you will find lots of privacy off the trail with trees for the easy relief and sticks to dig holes for the hard on your old knees relief.

Our Thoughts?  Do It Again? Well, yes I think we would. In fact when we return through the area next month we plan to try to stay a few days at one of the sites in the 2 campgrounds.  We drove through and documented both campgrounds in the video if you want to see for yourself, but it looks like being on the river or the ocean would be a great choice with lots of water activities.

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