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Winter Wanderings Day #39-40, Gold Head Branch State Park, Keystone Heights, Gamble Rogers Memorial State Recreation Area, Flagler Beach, FL

We drove through Gold Head Branch State Park before leaving, to check out the Lakeview Campground for future visits. We did not like it, as well as, the Sandhill and Turkey Oak Campground loops, mainly, because it was at the end of the park, further from all the trails and ravine. We preferred the central location of the other two. After touring the campground, we parked at the end of the road at Big Lake Johnson to hike around. The wind was whipping and the temps, so low, we decided against hiking and set off on our way to Gamble Rogers. We really enjoyed Gold Head and look forward to returning.

We pulled into Flagler Beach at lunchtime. Yelp told us, Flagler Fish Company was tops, so that is where, we went. WOW! It was incredibly good! Can’t recommend it enough. You can pick your fresh seafood from the case and they will cook it up for you, any way you choose. We chose from the menu. Do not think you can go wrong, either way. We enjoyed the gazpacho, house chips, oysters on the half shell, fried seafood sampler, and a hot peanut butter and chocolate brownie, topped with ice cream and hot fudge. Hungry yet?!! Needless to say, we had half of this left over, including the brownie, so got our money’s worth, enjoying it again the following night. So yummy!

We had great camping karma, due to a last minute cancellation, landing a beachfront campsite for our first visit to Gamble Rogers. The ranger told us at check in, that the Gamble Jam was going on in the picnic area, so we went there before going to our campsite. We were so glad we did. There were a bunch of really cool folks, jamming and singing, despite the strong, gusty, cold wind. We sang lots of old classic rock favorites. What a wonderful welcome to the park. We talked to two super, northeastern couples afterward, giving them a bunch of Florida campground recommendations. One couple, Carl and Kathy, own the Xtreme Mobile Adventures Sportsmobile van. They travel with their dog, Hobo Joe to overland and outdoors expos and events. Their van was covered with sponsors, they do mobile advertising and live demos for at shows. Cool idea for funding travel.

Continue reading Winter Wanderings Day #39-40, Gold Head Branch State Park, Keystone Heights, Gamble Rogers Memorial State Recreation Area, Flagler Beach, FL
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Winter Wanderings Day #36-38, Jacksonville, Mike Roess Gold Head Branch State Park, Keystone Heights, FL

We arrived at Mike Roess Gold Head Branch State Park, early morning, so were unable to get into our campsite. We stopped on our way to the picnic area, when we saw signs that said, “Ravine Overlook” and “Ravine Parking”. Just the mention of a ravine in Florida, stopped us in our tracks. We had to see what that was all about. Wow! What an unexpected surprise. We hiked on the stairs, way down into the gorgeous ravine, to the crystal clear, spring creek, Gold Head Branch that cut through the land, over the centuries, to create the ravine. There were live oaks with Spanish moss, mixed in with saw palms, and the first vines of yellow jasmine of the season. At the bottom of the stairs by the creek, were trailhead markers in all directions for several trails. We’d have to come back to hike them over the next couple of days, while we were camping in the park.

We worked in the van in the parking lot, in the picnic area, that first day. At lunchtime, we hiked on a trail from the picnic area through a forest, a meadow, then coming out at the Little Lake Johnson lakefront, which was dotted with cabins. We hiked past the cabins over to Big Lake Johnson, but could not find a trail to continue around or across the land between, so circled back, coming out at the swimming area and canoes. The lakes and wetlands were full of shore birds and lily pads. It was so lovely. This park was beyond any expectations, I had. A friend from college, from Jacksonville had recommended it. I was so glad I listened.

Continue reading Winter Wanderings Day #36-38, Jacksonville, Mike Roess Gold Head Branch State Park, Keystone Heights, FL
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Winter Wanderings Day #24-25, Big Lagoon State Park, Pensacola, FL, Fort Toulouse/Fort Jackson, Wetumpka, AL

It was difficult to leave Big Lagoon State Park in Pensacola. We had fallen in love and wanted to stay. We finally got the weather, we had gone in search of when we hit the road south from the WNC mountains, January 13th. Our time at Big Lagoon was dreamy! Sadly, pesky work got in the way, and we had to head north for meetings in Greenville, SC, this coming week. The rain, the morning we were to leave Big Lagoon, helped soften the blow. Will look forward to returning, next winter for sure. Add this one to you campground bucket list.

We drove through rain and storms from Florida to Alabama. It was an unpleasant trip. We arrived at Fort Toulouse-Fort Jackson Park, near Montgomery, in the rain. What we saw of the park, from the van, was good. There was, what looked like a fort by the Visitors Center/Camper Registration. We looked forward to exploring the forts and park in a couple of days when the weather cleared up. Looked like it was going to be a rough couple of days of rain until then…

The Visitors Center/Musuem/Camper Registration was “located inside the “Graves House”, a Carolina Tidewater Cottage built around 1830 in Lowndes County Alabama. The Bookstore and museum features archaeological collections from French colonial, early American and prehistoric Indian items”.

We registered then went to get settled. The campground was sparsely populated. We chose campsite #32 on a bluff above the wide Coosa River. We had no neighbors, which was nice. The site was under large Spanish moss covered trees. Despite the rain, it was a beautiful setting. We had awful thunder and lightning storms with strong winds all afternoon and evening. The puppies were super stressed. Pippa went and hid under the bed in her cave. Nigel came and cuddled up with me on the bed, while Wiley worked in the front of the van. That night they were both in bed with us.

We spent almost all day, the second day, inside due to weather. We started the day with a tornado watch, which is scary, when you’re in a campground, in a van, down by the river. Thankfully, we did not experience any severe weather, just thunder, lightning, and strong winds. It’s very rare, we have an entire day, where there is not a break in the rain long enough for us to get in at least a short hike. At one point, Wiley went to take the puppies for a walk, just through the campground, when he thought the rain had stopped, but as soon as they left the van, I heard the rain start up again. They were not gone long and came back wet. I did not leave the van at all. Not a fun day. Nigel, particularly, was not amused. We could not wait for it to clear up, the following day, so we could see all there was to see at the park. Bring on the sunshine!

From two days spent in the van, you get puppy pictures. You are welcome!

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Winter Wanderings Day #22-23, Big Lagoon State Park, Pensacola, FL

Monday and Tuesday were dreamy at Big Lagoon. It was low 70’s, both days and we were in shorts. Yes, shorts! It was the first time on our Winter Wanderings this year, that I was able to don shorts and a short sleeve shirt. Oh, happy day!

Monday, it was sunny and bright, but not hot. Perfection! We hiked to the Governor’s Pavilion and scenic overlook on Big Lagoon. We had a nice picnic in the Pavilion, then, as we were about to leave, we noticed some picnic tables, past the playground, through the woods, so decided to check it out. Boy, were we glad, we did. We stumbled upon West Beach on the Lagoon. There was a great sandy grass area, right before the beach, that was perfect for Nigel to play ball. For Pippa, there was a tree with brush all around the base, that she stayed hidden in, blissfully, hunting the entire time, Nigel was fetching. Everyone enjoyed themselves thoroughly.

Continue reading Winter Wanderings Day #22-23, Big Lagoon State Park, Pensacola, FL
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Winter Wanderings Day #21 Big Lagoon State Park, Pensacola, FL

Sunday morning, waiting for it to warm up at Big Lagoon, I worked on the second leg of our Winter Wanderings. We begin to head north on Wednesday to be in Greenville, SC for Wiley’s meetings 2/10-12. We’ll visit with family and friends there, then go check on the house and see friends in Sapphire for a couple of days before returning south. Of course, everything in Florida is booked, because of the snowbirds. Thankfully, I put in requests on reserve.wanderinglabs.com for all the parks and dates we want. WanderingLabs has always come through in the past, so here’s hoping that trend continues. We were able to book our old standbys, Jekyll and Edisto, for the return trip. We always love both of them, but that is all we were able to book. Eek! Send good vibes!

Before lunch, we packed a picnic and set out from our campsite, #28 to catch the boardwalk, right across from us, leading to the trail system. Sweet spot! We hiked to Long Pond, where we decided to have our lunch at the covered picnic table overlooking the pond. It was sunny and 62, an absolutely perfect day. The day, I had been dreaming of since leaving the mountains 1/13. We had a lovely picnic then hit the Estuary Trail towards the observation tower and Big Lagoon. When we arrived at the shore, we saw sailboats, fishing boats, and kayakers enjoying the water. The sun was glistening off the water’s surface, like diamonds. It was so picturesque. It just took my breath away. In that moment, there was nowhere on earth, I would rather be than right there with Wiley and the puppies. My heart was so happy and grateful.

Continue reading Winter Wanderings Day #21 Big Lagoon State Park, Pensacola, FL
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Winter Wanderings Day #20, Buccaneer State Park, Waveland, MS, Bark Park, Perdido Key, Big Lagoon State Park, Pensacola, FL

On Saturday morning, we left Buccaneer and headed east. We were excited to drive through historic Bay St. Louis and Pass Christian, MS, I had heard about from my parents. They were really beautiful! Sadly, neither had a dog friendly beach, so we kept going. We stopped at Buc-ees, Texas sized “convenience store” near Foley, AL on Ashe’s recommendation. It was crazy! Outdoors gear, toys, home decor, grills, smokers, boilers, fire pits, food, and more. The size of a TJ Maxx. If you see one, stop! En route to Pensacola, Bringfido.com located a dog beach for us, just 4.5mi before we arrived at Big Lagoon State Park. The “Bark Park” or River Rd Dog Park was right before the bridge that takes you from Perdido Key to Pensacola. The park was cute. It had a big dog and a small dog area. It was cold and very windy, so we had it all to ourselves. We opted for the big dog area, because it had agility equipment and covered picnic table, where the small dog area had nothing. After exploring and playing ball a bit, we went on through to the beachfront area. It was great! It had a small sandy beach and a wonderful, huge saw palm and brush area at the base of a tree for the dogs to hunt in. Our two loved it! Nigel played ball and hunted, because the hunting area was so sweet. Pippa was in heaven. Being so chilly, us parents did not make it long. After a while, we had to rally the troops and get back in the van. Being so close to the campground, we could return when the weather would be warmer, while we were staying nearby if needed. We would see.

We drove into Big Lagoon and were pleased from the get go. We wound through the pretty sand hills, all the way to the end of the park on the Big Lagoon. We parked and walked towards the observation tower. We were amazed by the beauty of it all. There were boardwalks over marshes, raised, covered picnic areas, overlooking the water, trails throughout, and the tower with great views of Grand and Big Lagoons, the marsh, beaches, lakes, and forest. We looked down into Big Lagoon from the tower to see two dolphins, swimming near one of the two kayakers. Wow! This park is a dream, especially with the promised weather ahead. Hallelujah! This was the perfect place to end this leg of our Winter Wanderings. It was chilly and windy, so we just did a short hike around, planning to explore a lot more over the next few days with warmer temps. The only drawback, being, like all Florida State Parks, no dogs allowed on the beaches. Other than that it was perfect!

Continue reading Winter Wanderings Day #20, Buccaneer State Park, Waveland, MS, Bark Park, Perdido Key, Big Lagoon State Park, Pensacola, FL
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Huge Update! December 2018-January 2020

After our family Thanksgiving trip to New Orleans last year, I pretty much quit blogging on my own website, exclusively posting my travel journal to Facebook. Part of it was the ease of Facebook posting and picture importing vs. less simple, WordPress. The other part of it was visibility. I felt like my thousands of followers on Facebook were actually reading, commenting, and liking my content, but no one was seeing it on my website. I got discouraged and stopped using my website, except for my High Maintenance Hippies Jewelry sales.

After much thought, I deactivated my Facebook account to focus my time and energy to complete the project of updating my website blog. My goal is to blog and interact with people through my website, not on social media. I will reactivate my Facebook account to launch my updated blog and invite people to follow our new adventures this winter here on my website, not on Facebook. I will be keeping my 2020 Winter Wanderings travel journal HERE, only using Facebook to post links to my blog posts. Hope to have you along for the ride!

Rather than attempt to cut and paste all of my Facebook travel blog posts from 12/18-1/20, I will summarize the last year, share the highlights, and pictures. It was an amazing year full of travel, adventures, family, and friends. So grateful!

WINTER WANDERINGS 12/7/18-3/9/19

12/7-13/18 Edisto Beach State Park, *Primo Campsite #12*, Edisto, SC: We stayed in the beachfront campground, under a giant live oak, just behind a dune, with a pathway to the beach, one of my most favorite campsites ever. It was a really chilly week at the beach, but I always love the beach in the off-season. We bundled up and took plenty of walks on the beach with the puppies. It snowed over a foot back home while we were gone, so I was happy to be at the beach. We ate plenty of seafood at SeaCow, Whaley’s, and Ella & Ollie’s. By chance, a friend, Holly Peterson from Greenville was at Edisto at the same time, so we got together several times during the week, just us girls and as couples. Fabulous week!

Continue reading Huge Update! December 2018-January 2020