Wednesday, April 19, 2017

T. H. Stone Memorial St. Joseph Peninsula State Park - 2017

It seems that our annual trip to the T. H. Stone St. Joseph Peninsula State Park has earned the honor of kicking off our camping season. For more than 15 years, we have camped in this park during the Spring Break time span. Our first visits to this park were in tents. Now we camp in Rosie, our 25 foot Airstream trailer.

Turning on the road that goes to the park.


We credit this park with our leap from tents to Rosie. A storm drove us from the park one too many times while we were tent campers. As we, along with the other tent campers, were quickly tearing down to get out before the storm, we noticed that the campers in RVs were simply rolling in the awnings on their rigs. That observation put us on the road that led to Rosie.





And Rosie has led us to many camping adventures over the years. While we enjoyed our tent camping days, Rosie has given us new opportunities to explore, such as participating in WBCCI (the Airstream owners association) caravans and rallies. Besides, sleeping on the ground was getting harder for us each new year.

Since retiring, we have changed from scheduling one week in this park to two. That seems to improve the odds that we will enjoy a week of great weather. It was cold during our first week and "Chamber of Commerce" perfect the second. So, our strategy paid off.

We have noticed over the years that the complexion of parks tends to change over weekends. The "weekenders" roar into the park on Friday afternoon and the noise and activity levels explode. They love sharing their blaring music with everyone in the park and their smokey campfires cast a hazy cloud over everything. As quickly as the weekenders took over the campground on Saturday, they disappear on Sunday. You learn to appreciate the joys of weekday camping.

We always enjoy an excursion into Apalachicola to see the shrimp boats followed by a lunch featuring local seafood. We were not disappointed with either.

Shrimp boat in Apalachicola

Lunch!


Shopping for groceries while camping at St. Joseph Peninsula State Park has always been a problem. The two grocery stores we found in Apalachicola are small and have painfully few "organic" offerings. We broke a fifteen year tradition this year and turned west leaving the park. Port St. Joe was half the distance than Apalachicola and we found a grocery store that was larger and better stocked than the ones in Apalachicola.

If you have read any of our previous postings from campgrounds along the Gulf coast, there is no suspense here. You already know that we love hearing the sounds of the surf while camping. It is a safe bet that we will return to the T. H. Stone Memorial St. Joseph Peninsula State Park next year to make sure both Rosie and our minds are ready for another year of camping.
Here are some specifics about this park:
  • There are two camping loops (Gulf Breeze and Shady Pines) in the park. There are some tree-lined sharp turns in the Shady Pines loop and I wouldn't recommend that loop for larger rigs. We have camped in both loops before, but our reservations were for the Gulf Breeze loop this year.
  • Our site had 30 and 20 amp electrical service. I don't think the park offers 50 amp service.
  • In addition to electrical service, our site had a water connection. The water pressure on our connection was a healthy 42 pounds.
  • Our site did not have a sewer connection and I don't think any sites in this park have sewer connections. There is a single dump station near the exit of the Gulf Breeze camping loop. You should plan on waiting for your turn at the dump station if several other people decide to leave about the same time as you.
  • There is a dump station in the Shady Pines loop. You cannot reach it with your RV, so you must lug your sewer tote across some soft Florida beach sand to reach it. While this is a challenge, it is easier to use when camping in the Shady Pines loop than dragging your tote to the Gulf Breeze loop.
  • There are two bath houses in each camping loop and they are all well maintained by the park's staff. The Gulf Breeze loop bathhouse nearest the boardwalk appears to have been updated more recently than the others. That bathhouse was also heated, something we appreciated during the short cold snap while we camped there.
  • The AT&T signal over the park hasn't improved over the years. It continues to rate a "pitiful" to "marginal" classification. We could see one or an occasional two bars of service on one end of Rosie some days and no service was consistent on the other end. Both voice and data services were unreliable. We suffered through several days without any service at our site.
  • There are two WiFi access points in the park. The WiFi at the campstore seems to be a little faster than the WiFi point between the two camping loops. Expect the bandwidth speeds to plummet when someone else starts sharing the WiFi signal you are using.
  • There is a campstore in the park with some last minute necessities. Take lots and lots and lots of money if you need to buy some milk.
  • This is a pet friendly park.
  • We were able to watch ABC, CBS, NBC and PBS most of time time using Rosie's antenna. We occasionally saw the FOX affiliate's signal. We also consistently saw digital channels ME-TV and CW. Signals from GRIT, H&I and Escape drifted in and out during the days.
  • We have seen Poison Ivy in this park before. We saw a bumper crop along the boardwalk this year.
There were eight Airstream trailers and one Airstream Interstate in this park during our stay. Three of the trailers were Bambi sized and another was a 1966 vintage unit. It is always special to meet and share ideas with other Airstreamers as we travel.

Sunset

Along the boardwalk


Suzy out in the Kayak

Steve and Suzy on a trail

The boardwalk

Becky and Suzy

An owl spotted in the park


Rosie seen through the woods

Coming in for a landing

Bath time!

Selfie along the shore

This is the first time we have seen this flag

Becky did some plein air watercolor painting while in the park

Sunset





Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Grayton Beach State Park - Fall 2016

Some parks are "special" and they deserve being added to our list of favorites that we want to visit every year. Grayton Beach State Park qualifies as one of our A-List parks and we try to camp there in Rosie's, our 25 foot Airstream trailer, at least once every year.

Grayton Beach State Park


It is interesting to us because not everyone shares this love for Grayton Beach State Park. We frequently share our favorite campgrounds with fellow campers during the year and have discovered that most people have heard of Grayton Beach and they either love or hate it.

Hate it? We think it is beautiful. The loop we try to camp in is very rustic and a cloud of dust seems to follow every car as it passes by, but it reminds us both of the Florida we grew up in before the condo builders discovered the beach.

Rosie in the Bay camping loop

Looking out over the water

The beach in the distance

Looking at the Western Lake

The trees before The Trees


There are two camping loops at this park. The first has a paved road around it, several concrete pads for your rigs and water, electric and sewer connections. The second has a dirt road, dirt camping pads and water and electric service. The draw for this loop is that it is closer to the Bay and some sites have nice water views.

The famous trees outside Grayton Beach State Park

Suzy and Steve behind Rosie

The Western Lake

Becky works on her watercolor paintings inside Rosie

We haven't seen an alligator yet, only this sign


Dust was an issue this time. We were in the park after a long spell without rain and the roads and sites were dusty. Make that very dusty. We quickly discovered that we needed to hold Suzy, our Yorkie dog, as we walked along the dirt roads of the campground until we reached one of the paved roads.
Otherwise, she started looking like a coal miner.

Since the Bay loop does not have sewer connections, you need to bring your sewage tote. There is a dump station in the Bay loop, but it is in an awkward location. You can easily block the Bay loop road while using it and if you dump while leaving the park, you will end up having to take an encore lap around the loop. I don't qualify as an expert on locating dump stations, but I think that location was picked by a rookie in the park-design business.

Hiking trail at the park

Selfie

A storm on the way


We probably need to make an apology at this point to the parks we recently visited and complained about their water pressure. Yes, I was once again starting to document the low water pressure at this park when I started thinking about the odds of every park we stayed at having pressure issues. So, I started a "science project" where I disconnected various gadgets (Y-connector, pressure regulator, water filter, etc.) from the connection. It appears that the Y-connector also included a pressure regulator that bumped the pressure down to around 22 pounds at this park. Once that was removed from the setup, we had a healthy 40 pounds of pressure.

Temperatures dipped into the "uncomfortable" range during the nights. Our trusty electric heater kept us warm and we didn't have to fire up Rosie's furnace.

Here are some specifics about this park:
  • There are two camping loops in the park. The camping fees are different between the loops because of the differences in connections and paved roads.
  • Our site had 20 and 30 amp electrical service. I am not sure if any other sites provided 50 amp service.
  • Our site had water and electrical connections, but no sewer connection.
  • Our site was gravel and dirt and reasonably level. (Several sites in the other loop had concrete pads.)
  • AT&T placed a strong 4G signal over our site for both voice and data.
  • We were able to watch ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS and CW TV stations using Rosie's antenna. We also saw ME-TV, Grit, MY and Bounce digital stations.
  • We started noticing that the bathhouses in the Bay loop need some attention. They are outdated and we noticed some mold issues. The bathhouse in the paved loop is updated and in good condition.
  • This was a pet-friendly park.
This is a park that you want to bring your bikes to because there are some great paths to explore. They were building a new bike path across the bay, but it seemed to be on the wrong side of the road. We will see how that turned out on our next visit to Grayton Beach State Park.


Becky and Suzy

The beach

Rosie loaded up and ready to pull out in the morning

Monday, February 27, 2017

Big Lagoon State Park - Florida

It didn't take long after returning home from our Airstream Owners Association (WBCCI) caravan of Michigan's Upper Peninsula before we started talking about taking Rosie, our 25 foot Airstream trailer, out on another adventure. Once Rosie was replenished, our conversations started including how nice it would be to camp near the Gulf coast for a week or so.

A quick review of this blog will leave readers with the impression that we love the Gulf coast. The Florida State Parks near Port St. Joe and Grayton Beach are some of our favorite campgrounds along the Gulf. We also love camping in Fort Pickens, which is a federal park near Pensacola. We also have camped along the Gulf Coast in Alabama and Mississippi in the past. Yes, we love the Gulf coast!

While we have our favorites, we are always looking for new campgrounds to add to that growing list. One of the parks in the "Gulf Coast" vicinity is Big Lagoon State Park near Pensacola, Florida. This park is near Fort Pickens, a park we enjoy, and it is on the bay feeding into the Gulf. Plus, Big Lagoon was recommended to us by several fellow campers who shared their "favorites" with us. That all adds up to this being a park we needed to visit.

Big Lagoon State Park


Our first impression of the park was that is was too small and we would probably regret making our reservations for ten days. We quickly found out we were mistaken and that this is a great park to camp in.

Rosie in the campground


What changed our tune? We went for a kayak ride in the lagoon. As herons watched over us from the shore and trees, we enjoyed exploring the waterways with our kayak. We also enjoyed hiking, riding our bikes and the park's observation tower while camping in Big Lagoon State Park.

Along the shore

Wading in the lagoon

Walkway to the observation tower


While the campground is rustic, it had paved roads running through the sites. That made it easy to walk or bike around. It also helped keep the dust down, which would have been a problem because the area was in a drought while we were there.

Becky and Suzy in the kayak

Suzy enjoying her ride in the kayak

Suzy's new hairdo


One of the walkways

Taken from the observation tower

Blue Angels flying overhead


There were several boardwalks running through the park's marshlands. We enjoyed riding our bikes along these paths.

Here are some specifics about this park:
  • Our site had 50 and 20 amp electrical service. We had to use our 50-to-30 amp converter cable to connect Rosie to the power box.
  • Our site had a water connection. We used to think this was normal until we camped in Michigan where water connections don't exist.
  • There were three restrooms/showers in the camping areas. The one nearest us was clean and up-to-date.
  • We were able to watch ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC and PBS TV stations using Rosie's antenna. We also received digital signals from GRIT, ME-TV and Comet.
This is a park we enjoyed and plan to camp in again.

Time for lunch!

Sunset

Entering Pensacola Naval Air Station

The Blue Angels

The lighthouse on the grounds of Pensacola NAS

Becky at the top of the lighthouse