Saturday, April 21, 2012

Gunter Hill Campground - Alabama

Gunter Hill is an Army Corp of Engineers recreation park approximately 10 miles west of Montgomery, Ala.

According to the Web site, Gunter Hill Campground offers a peaceful scene of trees and nature on the backwaters of the Alabama River.

Rosie at Gunter Hill Campground

The campground is on Catoma Creek. When I think of "creek," I think of a small waterway. This creek is wider than many rivers.

Catoma Creek
 Some of the campsites have great views of the creek. Other sites are simply in the woods without views.

View of the creek from our site

 Many of the campers in this park seemed to be there for the fishing opportunities in the creek. There was limited hiking around the park because half was closed for renovations. I had the feeling that many of the campers were "regulars" and frequently stay in that park.

Camping at Gunter Hill
Some points about this park are:
  • Many sites have both 30 and 50 amp electrical service
  • Sites also have water hookups
  • There is one dump station
  • The campground is pet-friendly
  • Most sites allow up to 50' RVs. Some are rated as 80'
  • Expect to pay $20/night
Our view of the creek

Don't expect to use your cell phone here. Our iPhones (AT&T) were basically useless because of the marginal and spotty service. We didn't find a good WiFi hotspot near the campground we could use to load our iPads.

We had strong signals from ABC, CBS and NBC TV stations. There were a few independent TV stations also placing a good signal over this campground.

There was one bath house/shower faculty serving our loop of the campground. We assume the loop currently closed for renovations also has a restroom and shower facility. Camper speculation was that once the renovated loop reopens, the loop we camped in will be closed for renovations. I hope that is true because the restroom/shower facility in our loop is overdue for an update. Sure, it was clean and maintained, but it was easy to see it needed to be included in the next cycle of renovations.

One other point that needs to be brought up is to remind you to bring your mosquito repellant and lots of it. There was a bumper crop of these pests at the the park. We had to learn how to enter and exit Rosie (the name we call our camper) without letting too many of these little guys in.

We were at this campground with 50 or 60 cub scouts on a weekend camp out. The parents and scout masters were great because the kids were well-behaved and good campers. We had to admit that their camp food smelled great!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

St. Joseph Peninsula State Park - Florida

This park has been one of our "must stay" destinations for the past ten years. But things were different this time around. Instead of staying in a tent, we were making our inaugural visit there with Rosie, our 25' Airstream trailer.

The road leading into this state park.

Without question, this visit was different in that we were not sleeping on the ground and we didn't have to abandon the park midday to escape the afternoon heat.

There are two campgrounds in this park. The first is the Gulf Breeze park and it appears to cater to RVs. While there is some shade, many of the sites sacrifice shade for being closer to the Gulf of Mexico.

The other campground is called  Shady Pines. As advertised, this area has more shade and more tent campers.

As a sign that it is hard to break old habits, we reserved a spot in the Shady Pines area for our recent visit.

Our campsite in the Shady Pines campground

Camping sites in both area offer electricity and water hookups. There is a single dump station serving both campgrounds, so you may need to plan departure time around when you can access the dump station without having to wait your turn behind a bunch of other campers wanting to leave the park.

As expected, the main attraction at St. Joseph Peninsula State Park is the beach. It is easy at this park to see why many people say the Gulf Coast features many of the best beaches in the world.

The beach at St. Joe State Park

The warm waters of the Gulf plus the clean white sands are enough to draw us back to this park year after year.

The boardwalk at Port St. Joe's State Park
Another draw is the wetlands area. There is a boardwalk connecting the two campgrounds. People who enjoy bird watching or observing a natural wetland area love this walk way.

Since this is a peninsular, you have the Gulf on one side of the park and the bay on the other. You frequently find pelicans sunning near the boat launch. We see an alligator in this area approximately every other year. (We saw him last year, but not this time.)

Pelicans at the boat launch on the bay side of St. Joe State Park

Some specifics about this park:
  • Most sites have 30 amp power service
  • Two bath houses and restrooms are located in both campgrounds (Gulf Breeze has the newest restrooms)
  • Pets are allowed in the campgrounds
  • They say RVs up to 40' can be accommodated at this park. Larger RVs may find this to be a tight fit. (We were able to reserve a site that give us plenty of room for our 25 foot Airstream)
  • Expect to pay around $25/night for your campsite through
  • Some sites are better than others in that some appear to other campers to be a shortcut to the restroom. Outer loop campsites tend to avoid this problem.

Shady Pines campground at St Joe State Park

We had spotty service from AT&T on our iPhones. We were able to find a "hot spot" about four miles outside of the park allowing us to load "The Daily" on our iPads.

TV service from Dothan, Ala. and Panama City, Fla. was reasonable. At one point, we saw a TV station from New Orleans slip in. We camped in this park during the NCAA's March Madness and there were a couple of basketball games that required heroic effort in order to keep the signal and watch the games.

Sunset at St. Joe's State Park

Apalachicola, Fla. is about 20 miles to the east and you can find some excellent seafood restaurants there.

Panama City Beach is approximately 40 miles west and that was a welcomed barrier between us and the college spring breakers invading that community while we were in the peaceful Port St. Joe area of Florida.

One final point, there were six other Airstream trailers in this park during our stay. People were asking if we were having a rally, something that many people seem to associate with Airstream trailers.

No, it was coincidence and not a rally. But it was interesting to talk to the other Airstream campers to pick-up some pointers. As we are new to the world of trailers and Airstream campers, we were able to pick up several tips that will make our subsequent trips better.