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

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 other's 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.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Steamboat Lake, Colorado

Steamboat Lake State Park is located about 30 minutes outside of Steamboat Springs. During our stay, our site was in the marina area. There wasn't an exceptional amount of water traffic; it was a rather quiet campground, but we were there during the week.
The #1 reason to stay at this campground has to be the views.

 In addition to the $20/night charge (for the "Bridge Island Loop"), there is a daily charge of $7 to be in the state park.

 There are some easy hiking trails available, as well as paddle boat/kayak/canoe rentals. Fishing is also popular. We saw quite a few kids fishing for crawdads.
All of the sites have 2 level, gravel pads, picnic table, and fire ring. This area has no electricity or running water, although there are a couple of faucets in the campground to fill up water containers.

 Vault toilets are available in the Loop. There are flushing toilets and pay showers in the building near the cabins. 

The showers are $1 for 5 minutes, then a quarter for an additional minute. The showers were hot with good pressure.

There are also laundry facilities. 
 I used the large sink to wash dishes. I wasn't sure if I was really supposed to, but there wasn't a sign telling me not to!

We didn't have Laika with us, but pets are allowed as long as they're on a leash. There were campers with dogs; these guys didn't seem too concerned with them:
If more entertainment is needed, these guys will provide plenty:
In the afternoons, there was a lot of wind, but it died down around sunset. All of the sites have a beautiful view of the lake & mountains. We had 4G but no wifi.
The closest grocery store that we found is in Steamboat Springs, so stock up before you get to the campground. There is a store in Clark; however, we didn't stop in there so we're not sure how well-stocked it is. The marina has a small store with very little groceries, but it does have a snack area. There's a place down the road called Hahn's Peak Roadhouse that has an excellent restaurant. Attached is a small store with only essentials. You can also reserve horseback rides/tours, ATV/Ranger tours/rentals, and pony rides. Winter reservations include snowmobiles, horses, and sleigh rides.
Overall, an A+ campground! Quiet, beautiful, with trails, wildlife, and flowers. It was the perfect way to wind down at the end of our vacation.

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