Travel changes you. As you move through this life and this world you change things slightly, you leave marks behind, however small. And in return, life-and travel-leaves marks on you.
----Anthony Bourdain

Monday, January 8, 2018

Panama City Beach Camping

Well, this is embarrassing! I looked at the last post and realized it's from last year!  Due to some family issues over the past year, I (Mary) didn't go camping at all. Last summer, Robert went out to Colorado with some of his Overland buddies, so he camped. Now...if I could just get him to write some posts! 😁
We revisited St. Andrews State Park in Panama City Beach, Fl.  between Christmas & New Year's Day. Things were very much the same as last year, except the weather. This year was cold, rainy, and windy, but we made the best of it. We had 2 days of warmer weather, and we didn't let the bad weather deter us. We brought bikes with us this year and we rode almost every day.
We thought way ahead this year (as in we made our reservation in Feb.) and ended up with this site: (I took this picture last year as an example of the water-side sites.)
I actually thought I had reserved the next site over, but this turned out to be a pretty good one. Since there was some foliage along the water, it did block some of the wind.
This was our setup this year. We took the camping kitchen but didn't set it up because of the weather.
We used the windscreens on our canopy the whole time except for part of 1 day.
Last year we discovered the Farmer's Market that is next to Captain Andersons. We were pleasantly surprised to find that it was open on Saturday. There were a few more vendors than last year.
We discovered Lumpia made by an extremely nice military family. They had samples; we tried them and then bought lunch. If you're in the PCB area, check to see where I Roll Lumpia can be found. Well worth the search!
We didn't see any deer around the campsites this year, but we did see them out and about in the park. Our first night there, the people next to us had to shoo away a raccoon, but we never saw any.
We didn't cook as much as we normally do. Robert fixed a couple of breakfasts and dinners. We have a 2-burner stove in the camper, but we don't use it. We do all of our cooking outside.
Robert saw this log in the store and wanted to try cooking on it. He made some shrimp that had been marinated in Italian Dressing. We have a little basket that Robert put the shrimp in & then put over the fire.
Robert gave it a thumbs up. I could taste gas (from the wick maybe?) and wasn't a fan.
Even with the rotten weather, there was plenty for us to do around the area. Our first stop was Thomas Donuts in Laguna Beach.
Last year we found another excellent place to eat, drink some beer, and watch some football: Dat Cajun Place. We ate here a couple of times and stuffed ourselves each time. This definitely isn't a fast food place! Go, enjoy the atmosphere, and have a good time!
We enjoy the beach in the winter. As Robert said, "the solitude feeling of strength".
During a bike ride, we discovered this old still in the park. As many times as Robert has been to St. Andrews, he had no idea this was there.
The birdwatching. Need I say more? (These were all taken from the edge of the water at our campsite.)

This is the edge of our campsite. I had to walk on the boards to get the pictures.
This heron was at the water across from Gator Lake.
Scenes from our campsite at night:

We had 1 day when it was warm enough to get rid of our sweatshirts:
I don't think I've ever seen the water so clear there.
The 1 decent sunset we saw. This was also from our campsite.
This was the most time we've spent in our camper. Even though it's small, it was very cozy. We have gas heat but, since there is electricity at the sites we used a small electric heater. We stayed warm, relaxed, watched movies, and read books. I can't think of a better way to spend a vacation!

Friday, January 20, 2017

St. Andrews State Park (Florida)

St. Andrews State Park is just outside of Panama City Beach, Florida. After visiting The Keys for several years (and having "our" campground plowed down to make way for condos), we started looking for somewhere to visit between Christmas & New Year's. We have been wanting to go to St. Andrews for a while, so we thought ahead (for once) and were able to get reservations.
 We had an inner site; not the best, but definitely not the worst, either. (Site 161) It was a good size for our little trailer. Robert had no trouble getting into the campsite.
The water-side sites appeared narrow, but then they opened up to give you plenty of room.
The bathhouses (there are 4) were big, nice, and clean.
3 toilets, sinks, and showers are included.

The showers are a bit unique: the control is outside of the shower, which seems like a good idea at first, but the pressure is so hard that it blows the curtain. Not only is the pressure really hard, but the shower head is stuck in one position. Not so much stuck, but it's designed in a way that you can't move it. The drains in the women's showers in #4 bathhouse don't work well, so make sure you don't put anything on the floor.
Each bathhouse has it's own laundry and Coke machines.
They also have a dishwashing sink, which we're always happy to see at a campground since our trailer doesn't have water.
A playground is in the campground, so if you have kids, it's a great place for them to stay busy.
Just across the road from the playground, there's a firepit and a little amphitheater. We were a little bummed that they didn't have anything scheduled for New Year's Eve, but one of the state rangers said they may have something next year.
The campsites have a fire ring, electricity, and water. There are some sites with hook-ups, so if you need them, make sure you get a site with that offer.
 This is another example of in inner site. Deer roam freely throughout the campsite. There were signs of raccoons, but we never saw any animals other than deer in the campground.
We had good cell signal while we were there, and were able to use the hot spot. There didn't appear to be any wi-fi. 
Make sure you take your bike; there are several things that are too far to walk, but are within biking distance:
Take a hike around Gator Lake. We didn't see any gators, but we did see birds and a rabbit.
 And a lot of fauna.
There were a few people fishing on the jetties. And, a few brave souls were actually in the water.
The State Park has a pier. It's a little farther away than the jetties, but would be very easy to bike to.
Another point of interest is Shell Island. The state ferry doesn't run in the winter, but we did see some private ferries at the marina.

Overall, we enjoyed our stay. The campground was fairly quiet; not as friendly as others that we've been to, but the people we talked to were very nice. It's very close to shops, restaurants, and grocery stores. Pets are allowed and are to be on a leash at all times. There were plenty of bag dispensers around the campground for the pet owners to pick up after their dogs. 

Oh, and a definite perk of having the beach close by:

Friday, November 25, 2016

Panther Creek State Park (Tennessee)

Panther Creek is a Tennessee State Park northeast of Knoxville. It's easily accessible from 11E. This was not our first visit, but it was the first visit since renovation. 
All 50 sites are paved and are level. Some sites have full hook-ups, but all of them have electricity and water. In addition, the sites have picnic tables, grills, and fire pits.
The sites are spacious; you don't feel like you're right on top of your neigbor.

There are 2 bath houses: 1 for the top and 1 for the lower.
The lower bath house has 3 bathrooms; the upper has 4. Each bathroom is large with a toilet, sink, and shower. 

There is a laundry room in each bath house with 1 washer & 1 dryer. Compared to other places we've camped, these were quite the bargain at $.75/load!
There are 2 pavilions that adjoin the bath house.

A huge plus for us is the trails that are all over. There are hiking and mountain biking trails all around the state park, as well as behind the campground.

As you come into the park, there is a swimming pool, outdoor basketball/volleyball (maybe tennis, too...we didn't drive up to them, so I'm not real sure.) courts, and a playground. Campers get a break on using the pool during the summer.
There is an amphitheater at the top of the campground; it's a short hike to get there.

 The steps are a nice addition since the renovation; it makes it easier to get to the trail in back of the campground:

As far as cell service, 4G was spotty; there were times it was good, but there were times it wasn't very good. There was supposed to be wifi but we weren't able to get it to connect. I was under the router and tried to connect but wasn't able to connect. 
We went without a reservation; however, it is better to have one. Unlike other campgrounds, signs are not placed on the poles to indicate which sites have been reserved. We looked online the night before to make sure there were some open, then talked with the Park Ranger after we got there. 
Panther Creek is one of our favorite campgrounds, and with it being about an hour away from us, it is perfect. There is a WalMart and Aldi not far away, so if you forget anything it's convenient to run out and get what you need. 
Even though it is close to Morristown, you'll feel like you're out in the middle of the wilderness.

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