Monday, July 14, 2014

More Adventures in 2013

August 2013
Black Rock Mountain State Park
Mountain City, GA
Georgia's highest elevation state park.
Stairs!  Too many for one little waterfall. 
(Waterfall picture unimportant.  Trust me on this one.)

Hiking to the continental divide, in a cloud,  just before the rain.
See the gorgeous view behind us?

By August in Georgia it is usually so hot that I have given up on watering any outdoor plants.  It's too hot to bother with them.  Not at Black Rock Mountain.  Apparently elevation makes all the difference. It rained.  It was cold.  In August.  In Georgia.  Weird.

In the end, our friends put two sides on their easy-up to block the wind.  I scrounged for a Little Buddy heater in my trailer so we could simultaneously enjoy each others company and stay warm.

The campground at Black Rock Mountain is restricted to trailers 25' and under likely because there's not too much room to maneuver once you're at the top of the mountain.  Additionally, there is the matter of getting back down.  I heard a rumor that if you don't put it in low gear you can: a) smoke your brakes or b) scorch your transmission fluid.  (Names withheld to protect the guilty.)

September 2013
Hunting Island State Park, South Carolina
Hunting Island Hiatus Rally

We stopped on the way to Hunting Island.  We must be getting closer to the beach, the trees say so.

At the beach, we jumped on our bikes.
It's our new favorite thing to do at the Atlantic.

A storm in the last few years eroded the beach.  
Now the forest is on the beach.

It has turned into a driftwood forest maze.

 We were only able to get through the beach forest on our bikes when the tide was low.

Sometimes abandoning bikes for tide pools...

Friends of Hunting Island has a sea turtle conservation project.  We tried to join them one morning but instead were rewarded with a quiet walk on the beach.

Later, while Brian worked, we visited the lighthouse.

Look who else made it to the top: two brave kids, and our friends from New Smyrna Beach, FL.
The smallest Sanders sat stubbornly at the bottom in her straw hat.  
(There's really no need to go to the top of that tall, tall, tall, lighthouse, is there?) 

Hunting Island State Park has a lovely boardwalk that stretches out over the marsh.
The kids and I took an interpretative walk there.

Our guide patiently pointed out creatures and edible plants.  "Look!  More shrimp."  At home, a couple of our kids could practically be naturalists.  This marshland, however, is an ecosystem we have little experience with.  What an interesting place!  Sharks come into the marsh for mating, the marsh grasses are annuals, and the marsh has a tide.

Did I even mention that we came to Hunting Island for a rally? 

Sabrina especially liked having a lizard-catching partner.  He lives in Ohio and the Hunting Island Hiatus Rally was his and his parents first rally.  Sabrina hopes to hunt for lizards with him again soon.

What a lovely evening; live music and a splendid low country boil put on by our hosts. 

Before heading home, we finally met up with the Friends of Hunting Island turtle group.  It was a neat experience to check on nests, count hatched eggs, and learn about nest relocation.

Not to mention, taking the last opportunity for a morning walk on the beach.

Byebye, Hunting Island.  See you down the road.

Home is a little more than 300 miles away.  Over 150 miles of the trip stretch along I-20.  Maybe they spaced the mile markers out farther or something because that particular stretch of road always feels long.  There aren't many places to stop and it's the definition of a coffee desert.  Then suddenly, you are on the outskirts of south Atlanta suburbia, an exit with coffee.  Brian went in while I drove around with the trailer.  I parked and waited.  I looked up, and saw another Airstream pull in for coffee.  It's someone we know!

Brian comes out of the Starbucks and tells the story about what happened inside:

The barista saw Brian come in.  Wow.  You have an Airstream?  He helped his grandpa restore one, you don't see them very often, lada lada lada. (The other barista is staring.  What in the world are these guys talking about?) Then the 1st barista says "Oh, look. There's another one. "  Brian looks up and says "That looks like Brad and Karen.  Then, in walks Karen and Brian says "Hi Karen." Both baristas are blown away.

October 2013
Mistletoe State Park
Appling, GA
All of the regulars were down at Mistletoe State Park.  Maybe I should say we were "over" at Mistletoe State Park.  It's about 150 miles directly east of home.

Sitting around at breakfast, someone in our group told the social media masses about what a nice time we were all having over at Mistletoe State park.  Then, low and behold, before lunchtime Saturday morning we were joined by a fourth Airstream!  Some other Airstream friends of ours live not far away, saw we were close, and came to join us for the weekend.  Yay!  The more the merrier.

In the evening, we released paper lanterns over the lake.  Fun for all ages.

November 2013
F.D. Roosevelt State Park
Pine Mountain, GA

The trees at home were especially lovely.  It was almost hard to leave.

Thankfully the campground was nice, too.

Well, it was nice except for that really strange thing that happened Saturday morning.  We heard a bullhorn.  Then, noticed that people were standing in orange safety vests by our trailer and in pairs around the campground.  Pretty soon, kids were running past with numbers pinned to them.  (They can't see me if I stand behind my trailer in my pajamas rubbing sleep out of my eyes, right?) I guess the campground is a nice level place for a kids race.  Well, that's a new one.  I'll have to remember to ask next time we check in at a campground.  "Excuse me, are there going to be any races right outside my trailer at 8am on Saturday?"

Later, we set off to explore Columbus, GA:

Our Airstream-radar went off as soon as we pulled into town. This cutie was sitting all by itself in an overgrown gravel parking lot. 

Our sneaking suspicion was that it belonged to the folks with the Bar-B-Q joint but we didn't go in and ask.

Uptown Columbus's once-industrial riverside has turned home for hipsters and magnet for tourists.

Best place in Columbus to get photo bombed.

The redeveloped 14th Street walking bridge to Phoenix City, AL had only been open for about a month.  It is still isolated from the Uptown area.

I am sure this view will change over the next few years as Columbus works to make the 14th street bridge accessible from Uptown; they are busy on it now.  See the crane?


Back at F.D. Roosevelt in the early evening we listened to a talk about American Indians who lived in the Pine Mountain area.

 It is easy to understand why American Indians would live here.
We, too, are in love with this part of the state.

Especially on a perfect fall evening, with favorite people, and an occasion to celebrate.

December 2013
Silver Springs State Park
Ocala, FL

Car trouble first.  Thank goodness it happened before we got to the interstate.  You've head of a check engine light? Well, my whole dashboard was lit up like a Christmas tree.  The voltage regulator went out on the alternator. 

We left before lunchtime the next day with (another) new alternator.
Our evening reservations were for Silver Springs State Park but we were determined not to forgo an ambitious side trip to St. Augustine to see Christmas lights.

In addition to the large display of lights downtown there was a luminary event at the lighthouse.  You can bet this is why we made the extra effort to come on this particular evening.   However, I did find there is a downside to illumination by paper bags exclusively.  Locals know where all the boat ramps are.  Out of town drivers don't.  No harm done. I provided entertainment for a truckload of firefighters... the girl who almost drove her trailer straight into the ocean. 

Luminary Night was well worth the detour.  

On to Silver Springs for a Christmas gathering of friends.

 We finally met our match in the "cat crazy" department.  Sabrina jumped at the privilege to take Puss and Boots for a ride in their stroller.

For this Georgia girl, there's only two reasons I've ever been to Florida.  1) To go to the beach and 2) To see that Mouse.  Florida State Parks clearly knows this is the case for many Florida tourists. The Florida State Parks motto is "The Real Florida."  In spite of the lack of mouse and beach, we found a few things to do here.

Silver Springs in particular has a rich history of tourism.  Arguably Florida's oldest tourist attraction, glass bottom boats started service here in the 1870s. 

Our friends invited us to go kayaking with them.
We had not been kayaking before.
(Maybe I should stay home and wash my hair?)

My skepticism stems from a jon boat ride in the Okefenokee 15 summers ago when granddaddy alligators popped up beside our boat from the inky black water.  The clear waters at Silver Springs made all the difference.  Yes, there were still (smaller) alligators but I could see them.

  We enjoyed kayaking so much we took Brian back with us another day.

Hey, kids!  Look out for that glass bottom boat!

Silver Springs State Park is in the middle of a growth spurt.  Palace Entertainment recently paid the state $4 million to be relieved of it's 30 year lease 16 years early.  The State regained management of the park about a month before our visit.

 An amusement park turned state park makes for an interesting paddle indeed!  Abandoned buildings, boat docks, do I smell elephants? 

Around the park we heard whispers and mumbles about the "glory days" when Silver Springs used to be an amusement park.  (What about the rides?  You can't feed the alligators anymore? Where's the zoo?)  While it may be hard for locals to accept yet another change at Silver Springs it is not hard for us to imagine what a great place this will be (again) once it gets past this gangly growing phase. We look forward to seeing the changes.

Remnants of another tourist era are still here.
We're looking for monkeys. 

These Rhesus monkeys have been here since the 1930s.

Here's a monkey.  In Florida.  Surreal.

Ocala, Florida is horse country.   
We went for a trail ride.  Add that to the list of things you can do at Silver Springs. 

 Christmas lights in historic Ocala, in our t-shirts:

We were drawn to the adorable theater with the vintage marquee.  Even better, they had vintage prices.  It was the perfect opportunity to see the latest Disney flick, Frozen.  How odd to see a cold-themed movie in a very warm place.

Central Florida, I have a whole new appreciation for you.  Thanks, friends, for showing us "The Real Florida."  We'll be back.