Friday, January 18, 2019

Rainbow Springs State Park

We’re hoping to visit the Florida and Georgia State Parks with campgrounds during short trips every month. This time it was Rainbows Springs. The weather was cooler than we expected, but we survived. Given all the snow up north, I guess 40’s and 50’s isn’t too bad.

The park is kind of weird. One section has the campground. There is only one hiking path there. We hiked that the first day. It was full of palmettos and curvy live oak trees.

The whole area was full of spots of sand from pocket gophers. The ranger mentioned these are like the ones in “Caddyshack”. Cool!

The next day we biked down to the section for tubing. Tubing was closed for the season but open to biking. The third section is the one that is full of things-to-do. The section is only ½ mile away from the camping section, but it turns out you can’t get there without a car. So, we visited that section on the final day as we were leaving. This section used to be a tourist attraction with glass bottom boats, swimming at the springs, a garden, a zoo, and even a monorail. This all closed when Disney came to Florida and the tourists stopped coming.

The area became a state park in the 1990’s. The trails near the visitor center is also a garden with flowers blooming like these azaleas.

The springs are still open for swimming. We didn’t swim, but we saw some people heading that way. They say the water is 72 degrees all the time.

The waterfalls are interesting. The area used to be mined for phosphate. They took the tailings from the phosphate mines and built several waterfalls. The park pumps water from the springs up to pools to make the waterfalls. So, very artificial but it looks gorgeous!

The remains of the zoo are still here. To us, it looked like dinosaurs could show up at any time.

We hiked a couple of miles through the back trails to search for geocaches. There were several large pits along the trail that we assume were where they mined for phosphate.

Good hike!

Friday, December 14, 2018

O’Leno State Park

We decided to make a short visit to a state park only a few hours from our house. We’ve full-timed in our RV for several years. We’ve RV’ed for a few months or a week or two. But I’m not sure if we ever camped for only 2 days before. It is funny how many things we forgot to bring along like glasses or coffee mugs (9 different things!). We survived and made do. John removed the top of a pop can so he could drink his morning coffee.

There was a small town in this area called Keno. The ministers and businessmen decided to rename it to Leno since keno is a gambling game. Over time it became a ghost town. The area became known as Old Leno and then O’Leno. It is one of the first Florida state parks.

The thing that makes this park special is the river. The Santa Fe River disappears underground, travels three miles through limestone, and then comes up and continues on to merge with the Suwannee River. We had no idea what we’d see. I was picturing a large spinning vortex as the water dropped out of site and a fountain of water as it came up. Definitely not what we saw but it was more subtle.

This suspension bridge was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in the 1930’s.

Nearby are remnants of a mill… 

The water itself is dark with tannins. It was like a mirror.

…and a pole showing the different flood levels over the years. This must be something to see since the pole is quite a bit away from the river.

An interesting part is that the small lakes here are tied to the unground water. So you can see slight currents in the water.

We liked the River Sink part the best. It was fairly close to the campsite (2 mile total walk). The river water velocity was high up to the River Sink. The signs talk about 900 million gallons of water flowing in a day.

But the whirlpool was less than what we expected. You can see debris spinning slowly around the area but it isn’t pulled under and the surface of the water is flat. Yet all of that water is flowing out from below.

The next morning I took what I thought would be a short hike. Unfortunately I got lost. So it ended up being over an hour of hiking. The thing to see on the trail was an old limestone quarry. They say the limestone was used to build chimneys.

I also saw a lot of deer (though most of them were very quick).

The River Rise is 4.5 miles from the park. Not too tough, I thought. We brought our bikes. But…we got lost again and ended up adding three miles to the trip going the wrong way around a loop. Plus, biking in sand and piles of pine needles is tough work and I didn’t plan enough water. Luckily, there was a store on the way back and John had brought money so we could enjoy a drink. We think we biked and walked (I was too tired to bike in some places) about 15 miles. We slept very well that night!

We crossed the Bellamy Road. It is part of an old road that went from St. Augustine to Pensacola back in the 1800’s.

We passed a lady who was studying the cave system below. There were seismographs all over the area that they used to monitor the grounds.

The River Rise itself was again more subtle than we expected. The water is just there. We could see some movement like a spring but all over the water not at a single point. Technically, this is a spring but really, it was just surprising that all this water could move through the rocks and just “ta-dah” it shows up.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Going Home

Our last stop was at Colleton State Park. We visited here before but this time we just did an overnighter without going into town. The park is on Edisto River that is part of a 57 mile blackwater trail (the river is dark with tannins).

My morning hike took me on a nature trail and a search for three geocaches.

This was a two month trip. To me, full-timing is easier than part-timing. We moved campgrounds more since we were trying to see more in a short period. That can be more stressful versus staying at places longer. Plus you are thinking about things going on at home and what you need to do when you get there.

Part of the reason for this trip was to visit Minnesota and Michigan, our 43rd and 44th state to see in an RV. I thought visiting in August and September would be great since it would be warmer and then kids would be back in school. It was warmer and it rained only a few times during our trip. However, we missed a few places since they closed after Labor Day. Most places stay open until sometime in September, but I had to keep checking to see if a place would be open or what their fall hours were. I guess there is no perfect time anywhere when campsites are plentiful, museums are open, and the weather is perfect.

We’re planning on some shorter RV trips over the winter so it may be awhile before I post again.

We saw a lot of places during this trip. Here are my personal favorites:
1.    The balls-of-twine! (1 and 2) – These are something we’ve talked about for years and we finally got to see them. Extra points to us for talking to the guy making his in Wisconsin.
2.    Canoeing the Mississippi – Wonderful day and how many people can say they safely canoed on the Mississippi River?
3.    Itasca State Park – Walking across the Mississippi River was a great part of the visit to this park. But we really enjoyed the bike trails here. There are lots of places to visit within one park.
4.    Spring Mill State Park – So much to do in one park: finding Donaldson Cave while lost and wandering through a pioneer village. The best for me was the Gus Grissom Memorial.
5.    Clear Lake State Park – The town is great here. Biking into town was fun. The area had some interesting stops but top stops were the Surf Ballroom and the Buddy Holly Crash Site which were both sad and fascinating.
6. Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park - Fabulous falls at one end of the park. At the other end was a great campground, walking the beach, and Lake of the Clouds.
7. Gooseberry Falls State Park - Falls, hikes, and even an outhouse! What's not to like at this state park?
8.    The geology – The Soudan Mine trip was great to see with both hematite and jasper together. The potholes at Interstate showed the work that water melting from the glaciers can do. The rocks around Lake Superior made for a fun walk on the beach.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Camp Creek State Park

We’re in West Virginia staying at Camp Creek. This is an excellent state park where we have full hook-ups (one of the few times we’ve had that the whole trip) plus wifi and a great view.

I’m trying to figure out if there is a different phrase between babbling brook and roaring river. Perhaps a chuckling creek? Anyhow, the creeks here are full of rapids and falls. More than babbling but only roaring at a couple of the waterfalls in our park. Just by our bedroom is a little creek with several small waterfalls. Very restful! 

My morning hike was exciting. The Piney Ridge Trail is only 1.5 miles but rated Most Difficult. It’s a lot of elevation change. The trail isn’t in great shape with trees down in several locations. The trail is difficult to find since leaves cover everything. At least there are lots of signs to keep you on the trail. I “only” got lost on the trail twice. I did see three deer though.

John and I walked from the campground to two different waterfalls. This one was on Camp Creek.

While this one was on Mash Fork.

I wanted to mention that taking a hike or just a walk around the campground can be quite interesting. We get into a discussion with other campers from around the country with all types of stories. Just another perk of traveling!

Monday, October 1, 2018

Hopewell Culture National Historical Park

I like how we hear different parts of a story at different places. I’ve been to the Hopewell mounds in Newark and at Old Stone Fort but this was the first time to the Mound City Group near Chillicothe Ohio.

The mounds were built from approximately 0 – 500 C.E.  The section we saw had 23 mounds along with an earthen embankment surrounding all the mounds. Most of the mounds were used for cremated burials.

Mound 7 is the largest and included 13 cremated burials. No one really knows what the original height was of these mounds. Trees grew on and around the mounds for 1500 years after the Hopewell stopped using this area. The mounds were farmed for 50 years and then the military came in during WWI to build Camp Sherman for training that flattened most mounds. What is here is a restoration of the original mounds.

This elliptical mound had only 4 people buried here but several hundred flint spearheads. The majority of the pieces were broken before burial.

Apparently smoking was big back then. One mound had almost 200 pipes with all sorts of designs.

Archeologists have found quite a few artifacts within the mounds. The range of the material sources is amazing. There were several spectacular copper pieces. The copper and silver came from mines in the Great Lakes area. We visited some small mines there. 

The mica pieces are the biggest I’ve seen. These are from North Carolina. There is flint that may have come from the Newark Flint Ridge. Obsidian came from Wyoming and Idaho. Shells came from the Gulf of Mexico and sharks teeth came from the Atlantic Ocean. The amount of trade that this required is fascinating.

Traveling South and Short Stops

We’re traveling south now and it is interesting how things change. Up north in Minnesota and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, the temperatures are quite cool (50’s during the day, 30’s at night). The leaves have changed and in some places are past the peak. Gas prices are high (we paid up to $3.09). In Ohio and West Virginia it is still in the 70’s in the day and 60’s at night. Some leaves are falling but there isn’t a major change in colors yet. We saw gas prices as low as $2.60. We’ve adapting to the change and will have to pull out the shorts again and definitely enjoy the lower gas prices.

We stayed overnight at a Cabela’s in Michigan. Here’s the outdoor statue for the store.

I’ve heard about Tamarack: The Best of West Virginia but never stopped. It’s advertised as a showcase for West Virginia artists along with excellent food. Well, the line for food was too long so we skipped that. There’s some wonderful baskets, woodwork, glass, etc.


However, the Best of WV is extremely expensive. We absolutely loved Matt Wilkenson’s woodwork but this chainsaw in wood is $16,700!

If you haven’t heard of the Mothman legend, the short version is that a creature was seen in Point Pleasant West Virginia in 1966-1967. The creature was most frequently described as a man-sized bird with red eyes. There were about several sightings with multiple people seeing this thing. After the December 15, 1967 collapse of the nearby bridge killing 46 people, it wasn’t seen again in this area. The thought is that the Mothman either caused or perhaps was warning about the bridge collapse. There was a book and a movie about it.

We visited the town seeing the new bridge…

…the exterior of the museum (we were too early)…

…and the Mothman Statue.

Going with the Flow

Things happen all the time while RV’ing. The big lesson seems to be to accept that things aren’t going to go your way all the time but to enjoy what you have.

Our preferred stop of Delaware State Park in Ohio was full. So we stopped at nearby Alum Creek State Park. We didn’t have reservations and it was a weekend, but the online reservations seemed to show openings. Nope, it was full! We stopped in the parking lot and starting checking for alternatives. There were a few openings in some nearby parks but the sites were without electricity. Then we saw several electric sites were available in Scioto Trail State Park two hours down the road so we headed that way.

The park seemed a bit out of the way, but we had no idea! After we arrived we were told that several people had died on the route our GPS gave us due to the sharp curves where you can’t see oncoming traffic. They don’t recommend that path to the park at all. However, even on the way out on the recommended path the curves were sharp. The route we took in also had a spot that google calls Deadman Crossing which might have been an old town. I couldn’t find any history about the town except that maybe it’s due to a story about a ghost soldier.  Quite exciting routes both in and out of this park.

The park itself was quite nice. It had wifi which is difficult to find in a state park. The campsite was excellent.

The trails, though, were quite a challenge. We are in the edges of the Appalachian Mountains. The campground is set in a flat valley but on either side the hills are steep and that’s where the trails are located. Lots of ups and downs on my morning hike.