Airstreaming Louisiana’s Indian Creek Recreation Area

Emily & Silent Partner


Morning, Peeps.

Amazingly, I still haven’t quite finished chronicling our journey across America in the Airstream. Our YouTube channel is keeping us very busy, and to say the least, our appetite to publish content is bigger than our stomachs. Still, I find myself with some time this morning so I thought I would weave together a quick post about another place that stands out in our memories as an extraordinary camping location: The Indian Creek Recreation Area, which sits in the middle of Louisiana’s Alexander Forest Wildlife Management Area.

Our stay-over in Louisiana was essentially accidental, we needed to get from Bentonville, Arkansas to Marianna, Florida – but I didn’t have enough PTO time at work to do the drive over multiple days straight. So we sat down, looked at a map and threw a dart. It landed on Indian Creek Recreation Area as a crude half-way point. Knowing nothing about what to expect we decided to drive from Bentonville, stay in Louisiana for the week, then get to Florida that next weekend. And oh what a lovely coincidence of serendipity that turned out to be.

Booking

Reservations at Indian Creek Recreation Area can be made on Louisiana’s Department of Agriculture & Forestry here. We stayed there in early December so the campground was largely empty. Rates that time a year were roughly around $20/day though incredibly they offered monthly rates, which we came to learn many retirees in the area took liberal advantage of.

20161211_203942424_iOS

20161211_203926703_iOS

Pads were meticulously clean and in good repair, we had 50 amp service and city water. No sewer though, so we did the dump at one of multiple stations throughout the park on our departure day. Landry and bathroom facilities were available at a central building.

We also scored a clear view of the southern sky so satellite was ‘rockin. And as always, since I program computers for a living we needed good cell internet service and Verizon was clear as a bell.

Amenities & Activities

Indian Creek Lake

Indian Creek Recreation Area abuts Indian Creek Lake. We had an unbelievable view. Mornings were especially amazing.

20161212_135200011_iOS

20161212_133432364_iOS

20161212_133414398_iOS

20161212_133404157_iOS

There are several pavilions located along the lake and boat launches as well.

Mountain Biking

While there are some hills in Louisiana along the the Arkansas border the terrain quickly flattens out and merges into low-lying forest and swamp as you move south. As such there weren’t any “mountains” to ride here, but there was a lovely nature trail running the perimeter of the recreation area. Speaking with the local rangers they said it was open for biking, though I must admit I did get a strange look when I asked.

As with my rides in Florida, I found this ride to be sublime.

20161214_223144941_iOS

Certainly not technical but the ride gave me what I needed, which was peace and centering. Deer were a-plenty as was awesome lakeside views, especially in the evening.

20161214_224900984_iOS

New Friends

By now if you follow our blog it’s clear one of the primary objectives of our cross-America trip was to “get away from it all”. I think our multitude of posts shows we accomplished that in spades, which routinely put us in remote quit locations with few people. Neither of us are introverted, it’s just sometimes you just need to unplug.

In the case of the Indian Creek Recreation Area, though, we had one of those wonderful chance encounters. We happened across another couple while doing laundry of all things, and got to talking. Char and Danny if you’re out there, hi! Our conversation grew into a friendship and it taught us the true meaning of southern hospitality.

Char introduced me to boudin, which I practically gorged myself on, and Danny taught us about gumbo. Over a few short days we met our new friends for a southern style dinner that blew our socks off. Turned out Char and Danny are retired and kept a brand new trailer in the park for most of the winter and they commuted up from Lafayette during the week. What a great stroke of luck we should meet.

It’s an old trope, but people really are what make places special.

Recommendation

We found Louisiana’s Indian Creek Recreation Area has “it”. If you have the means by all means stay there!

E1.8 Night Riding with NiteRider Pro Series Lights

Emily & Fred


Evening, Peeps.

Please join us for our 8th YouTube episode, E1.8 Night Riding with NiteRider Pro Series Lights. In this video we review a range of NiteRider lights as we make a circuit around McDowell Mountain Regional Park in the first of 2018’s summer Night Ride Series.

As always please subscribe to our YouTube channel if you like our adventures, we want to bring you more!

That is all.

E1.7 Summer Rides – Pemberton

Fred & Emily


Afternoon, Peeps.

Please join us in celebration as we release our 7th YouTube episode, E1.7 Summer Rides – Pemberton. In this episode we discuss summer riding and take you on an extensive tour of the Pemberton Loop at McDowell Mountain Regional Park.

Please subscribe to our YouTube channel if you like our adventures, we want to bring you more! We’ve listened to your comments, boosted our audio and offered better maps!

That is all.

 

Airstreaming Moab, Utah – Day 3 & 4

Emily & Silent Partner


Morning, Peeps.

Welcome to day 3 and 4 of our not-quite-as-live-as-I’d-like blog from Moab. Today we’re coming to you from the Eklecticafe where exceptional eats and coffees are found aplenty.

20180425_150350397_iOS

I’m blogging from here because cell coverage on the Colorado stinks, even with the booster. So we took a nice lazy morning to imbibe some flavored caffeine, eat some delicious strudel and share the past couple days in photos and prose.

Leaving Slickrock Campground

We left Slickrock campground but not before a furry-friend sendoff.

20180423_144630403_iOS

I have some ambiguity about this campground. The prices were high, but possibly not out of line when you consider being in the heart of town. The facilities were used – hard – but the staff was friendly, and they sold beer at the front desk. The electrical connections at the site bordered on a fire hazard, but the pads were clean, shade covered and otherwise well maintained.

I suppose my conclusion is I would come back, but probably again just as a mid-point while trying to land a better location on the Colorado.

Camping the Colorado

On day 3 of our adventure we moved to Goose Island Campground.

20180424_204239028_iOS

Goose Island is a remarkable BLM facility located not much more than a mile east of Moab on Utah 126.

We like this campground because it’s close to town yet limited to a couple dozen sites nestled up against a dramatic bend in the Colorado River. For $15/night you get unbelievable views of the river and epic sandstone cliffs worked meticulously by water and wind.

20180423_200206197_iOS

20180423_200104377_iOS

The campground offers trash collection and immaculately kept vault toilets but no water. Generator hours are a little odd at 8AM to 8PM, though we understand everyone wants to enjoy the outdoors in quiet.

Being so close to town this campground is busy. All sites are walk-ups so prospective campers (including ourselves) troll the area at all hours trying to score a spot. It’s also not entirely unusual for outside campers to stop by and drop trash in the receptacles, though there not supposed to. Given the amount of activity around here it’s understandable.

As I mentioned earlier, cell coverage here stinks. With the booster I can get internet but it’s too flaky to upload pictures for the blog. Still it’s entirely sufficient for texts and email.

Lastly as seen above foliage is light making satellite reception a snap.

Dead Horse Point State Park Take 2

In an effort to economize on our three-day pass to Dead Horse Point State Park, we rode there again on Day 4. You can read up on the trail details in our previous post here. Below are a few more non-mountain biking highlights.

More Flowers

20180424_175821960_iOS

20180424_192031323_iOS

The Point of the Point

The point of the point is this.

20180424_193305096_iOS

20180424_193242731_iOS

I’ve been to the Grand Canyon numerous times but I find this view infinitely more rewarding. It’s still grand, but somehow more intimate.

20180424_193636109_iOS

20180424_193939888_iOS

20180424_193742479_iOS

20180424_193748512_iOS

 

A Little Moab Walkabout

On Day 3 we spent some time in Moab grabbing food  and groceries. We highly recommend the Moab Brewery. Patio seating is the best.

20180423_183925218_iOS

Eddie McStiff’s has awesome Pizza, though oddly not until after 3.

20180423_181929111_iOS

The Moab Information Center right next door has a gorgeous garden.

20180423_181827935_iOS

20180423_181819703_iOS

To be continued….

We’re lazing around today, I might ride North 40 if I can get out of vacation mode – you’ll find out tomorrow. Peace!

Airstreaming T. H. Stone Memorial St. Joseph Peninsula State Park

Emily & Silent Partner


Evening, Peeps.

In our continuing series on places we’ve stayed in the Airstream, I am proud to introduce T. H. Stone Memorial St. Joseph Peninsula State Park.

Booking

Florida’s state park system portal can be used for searching availability and making reservations here. This park sits deep in Florida’s “Forgotten Coast“, a stretch of low-speed roads and lazy beach towns stretching from Mexico Beach to St. Marks. You will need to put forth some patience to get here but possibly for this reason T. H. Stone Memorial St. Joseph Peninsula State Park was easy to book, quiet and we managed a single site for our entire stay.

Amenities & Activities

T. H. Stone Memorial St. Joseph Peninsula State Park has one entrance on Cape San Blas Rd., which follows an utterly mind-boggling route beginning at Port St. Joe on the mainland all the way to the edge of the park’s wilderness preserve. I describe this as mind-boggling because there are parts of this peninsula that couldn’t be more than a hundred yards (91 m) wide, granting you incredible views of the Gulf Coast and St. Joseph Bay simultaneously as you make your way in.

There are two campgrounds in this park, the Sandy Pines northern camp and the Gulf Breeze southern camp, which is where we stayed. There is a rather extraordinary system of boardwalks connecting these camps which offers not only convenience but truly exceptional access to the peninsula’s wetlands, bird watching and sunsets.

20170110_173841037_iOS

Our site had 50-Amp electric and city water but no sewer so we towed to the dump station once a week. Traffic through the campground was generally light, noise was very low and the people were friendly. Pads were white sand and crushed coral so we spent a fair amount of time vacuuming the Airstream.

20170121_205414883_iOS

There wasn’t a single location in these campgrounds that wasn’t far from one water feature or another – I estimate our site was hundred yards (182 m) from the gulf-side beach and a quarter mile (.4 km) from the bay side.

20170110_173031717_iOS

Trees were sparse making satellite reception a snap. Cell service was poor but still acceptable when combined with our booster. The entire Peninsula sits at the awkward border between the Eastern and Central time zones so cell-phones often randomly toggled between times. At the time we visited there was no WiFi.

The campsite had wonderful hot showers and very good laundry but as always no change machine and no quarters at the entrance. As with the other parks we visited the gate was closed at night and operated with a rotating code supplied to you at check in time.

Mountain Biking

There was very little choice in mountain biking here of course so I mostly took Cape San Blas Rd from the park south and back again every day at lunch time.

You can ride on the beach but we weren’t ‘rockin fat bikes so the effort was fruitless.

20170111_154134403_iOS

I did speak to one man who rode a 27+ all the way from Sandy Pines to the northern tip of the preserve and he gave it a very good review.

Wildlife

This park was bursting with incredible wildlife as the northern half is a wildlife refuge, and therefore prohibits most human activity except with a pass. We routinely saw deer, bird, crabs, turtles, otters and even dolphins.

20170110_181109601_iOS

20170121_205708053_iOS

Snorkeling

My silent partner and I snorkeled in several locations around the park and we had the best success at Eagle Harbor which is immediately before the campgrounds. The water was shallow and warm(ish) considering it was winter. We did need our 3mm wet-suits including head protection. In these adventures we saw scallops, jelly fish, sponges, conch shell and a variety of fish.

Below is a some video of a small inlet close to where we snorkeled.

Beachcombing

T. H. Stone Memorial St. Joseph Peninsula State Park offered endless walks along the beaches and boardwalks. We enjoyed a particularly intense storm which stirred up quite a bit of sea-life onto the beach including Portuguese man o’ war which the local crabs feasted on.

There was also somewhat of an unspoken tradition around sunset where everyone migrated to the gulf side to watch our sun disappear.

Surrounding Activities

We barely scratched the surface on activities at this park and surrounding area. I mean, we didn’t even manage to break out the kayak. This simply means we need to go back!

We also made several runs into town (keeping in mind Port St. Joe is over an hour investment round trip) where we bought some snorkeling gear, filled propane, ate some good breakfasts and found some good pizza. The locals were friendly and the traffic light.

What Could Go Wrong

Time-zones

As I mentioned earlier this area sits exactly on the border between the Eastern and Central Time zones, which makes the cell phones crazy. While mostly just annoyance we did get nailed one morning when we drove into Port St. Joe and found all the restaurants had just switched to serving lunch. Some helpful folks directed us north by 15 minutes where ‘suddenly’ it was an hour earlier and breakfast was aplenty.

Cell Coverage

Cell reception here was… odd. Signal strength was wildly variable and our MiFi absolutely refused to respond to the booster. I wound up using the iPhone tether instead which got me through but there were times where even the booted signal was poor. I suspect this might be because the towers are on the mainland making for some strange water/signal interaction. If you depend on the internet for your living like I do I would ensure you have more than one cellular device, the iPhone rescued us in this situation.

Recommendation

I’ve mentioned the “it” factor in previous posts, and boy does T. H. Stone Memorial St. Joseph Peninsula State Park have “it”. Endless sugar-white beaches, snorkeling, biking and bird-watching kept us busy for days. The park rangers were incredibly friendly and everybody was easy going. Guests not interested in camping can even rent cabins.

To this day we talk about our visit and we absolutely can’t wait to go back. If that’s not the sign of someplace with a soul, I don’t know what is. I give this park two thumbs and two big toes up. If you have the time and means absolutely put this park on your to-do list.

Airstreaming Fred Gannon Rocky Bayou State Park

Emily & Silent Partner


Evening, Peeps.

In our continuing series on places we’ve stayed in the Airstream, I am proud to introduce Fred Gannon Rocky Bayou State Park.

Booking

Florida’s state park system portal can be used for searching availability and making reservations here. If your duration is longer than a few days try searching only for one or two days as you may need to make several reservations at the same park across several sites. This is the unfortunate consequence of people mostly making reservations for the weekend.

*My recommendations to the park manager on how to make their software better were met with polite “aren’t you cute” smiles, and little else.

Amenities & Activities

Acreage-wise this park seemed small, likely even smaller than Florida Caverns State Park though I couldn’t prove it if so pressed. There’s essentially only one large loop through the camping portion of the park so you’re exposed to quite a bit of traffic no matter where you’re located. The pads are clean, large and thankfully covered with large aggregate so keeping things clean is a snap. We had water and power but no sewer so we had to tow to the dump station once a week. Noise was average though the near-by Air Force base sometimes created quite a bit of aircraft “booms”, maybe from a system they use to clear birds from the runway?

This entire park is very heavily wooded leading to the dreaded satellite reception problem so we had to tweak the trailer a number of times to eek out a signal. There weren’t any sites close to the water and even if there were the foliage is so thick you can barely see Rocky Bayou. Cell reception was very good.

The campsite had showers and laundry, though these services were shut down one day due to plumbing problems and then for another couple days due to a freeze warning. As with all the Florida state parks the laundry was coin operated but no change machine was available.

Mountain Biking

There were a number of trails to enjoy including the Rocky Bayou Trail and Sand Pine Trails on the east side and the Red Cedar trail on the west side by the boat ramps. These trails are very short but well groomed, I was able to make a light mountain bike ride out of these trails by stitching them together into a 1 to 1 and 1/2 hour ride.

I tried to catch the Timberlake East Loop Trail at Eglin Air Force Base while we were there but was severely punished for not bothering to read the write-up on MTB Project, as you must buy a pass – which I did not….pathos.

Kayaking

Anyway, there is quite a bit of Rocky Bayou access on the boat-ramp side so we used that area to launch our kayak while dodging the “don’t get eaten by an alligator” signs.

20170102_165625839_iOS

These excursions out into the bayou reminded us why kayaks are called divorce boats.

Surrounding Activities

This park is near Niceville, FL which was, well – nice. We ate some very nice food on the water.

20161226_222721627_iOS

 

Over at Henderson Beach State Park (take care this involves a toll road) you can enjoy the utter magnificence of the panhandle’s sugar-white beaches.

20161226_213010999_iOS

Even in January it was awesome.

20161226_213059141_iOS

20161226_213329751_iOS

20161226_212751378_iOS

 

What Could Go Wrong?

Ticks Ticks and More Ticks

Fred Gannon Rocky Bayou State Park hand-delivered every tick in Florida directly to our dogs and us. We think it might be because it was nymph season (aka seed tick). We already give our dogs NexGard Chewables so the ticks, if left undiscovered, did die but there’s just something indescribably creepy about finding them on you and your dogs.

We wound up shaving the pups down to a very short cut especially on the face and ears to make discovering them after every walk easier.

Satellite vs. Trees

Same issue here as Florida Caverns State Park – the foliage is so thick it took quite a bit of tweaking the trailer to get a signal. If you have internet through your cell provider, and enough data usage, coverage was excellent and we utilized Amazon Prime Video extensively.

Recommendation

Fred Gannon Rocky Bayou State Park was entirely suitable as a place to stay. Services were fine, we found sustenance at local restaurants and even washed the truck a time or two. That said, there wasn’t for us any “it” factor. I would give a mild thumbs up if you find yourself staying there. Henderson Beach State Park is of course, much more glamorous but reservations extended into the next century, which drove us to this park in the first place. I also didn’t especially appreciate the toll road to get out to the beach.

Airstreaming Florida Caverns State Park

Emily & Silent Partner


Evening, Peeps.

In our continuing series premier series on places we’ve stayed in the Airstream, I am proud to introduce Florida Caverns State Park.

20161220_181958003_iOS

Booking

If I haven’t mentioned in the past, my partner and I lived in the Airstream for 15 months full-time. In the winter of 2016 we roamed all over Florida while the rest of the country froze to death. Florida has an exceptional state park system and a matching portal for searching availability and making reservations.

We used this site extensively as our planning rarely projected more than a few weeks into the future. Certainly southern Florida is more popular with the snow-birds so we stuck entirely to the northern parts. This suited us just fine – northern Florida has rolling hills, gorgeous mixed softwood/hardwood forests and not half-bad mountain biking.

* A small note on the Florida reservation system. Park attendants cannot change reservations – you have to do that online yourself. This worked against us, which I will mention in another entry in our series in the future.

Amenities &  Activities

Florida Caverns State Park is small as parks go but we found it to be unpretentious, slow, quiet and exactly to out liking. There were a good mixture of spots from small car-camping areas all the way to large motorhome pads.

The campsite had showers and laundry, though no change dispenser and no change was available at the front gate. One of the washing machines was also intermittently reliable as the humid Florida air had done its worst.

There were three solidly enjoyable if short hiking (pfft) mountain biking paths to choose from as well as kayaking on the Chipola River and swimming in the Blue Hole Spring when alligators aren’t around.

Also the campsites are deeply wooded, as shown in the feature image above. This made satellite reception possible but dodgy and highly dependent on which site we were in. On the up side cell reception (which is how I get internet for work) was excellent.

Mountain Biking

Now you know, Fred and I blog because we love mountain biking. As it happens, my (silent) partner likes mountain biking also. Much of Florida Caverns State Park looks like this.

20161221_204918553_iOS

In my way of thinking, this is a good thing. Take some time and allow your gaze to lazily wander to the blue blaze on the side of those trees on the right. That’s marking a trail (Chipola River Trail). Indeed, this trail run through a swamp!

The Chipola River Trail was overrun much of the time by its namesake, the Chipola River. The flooding wasn’t too deep though, only a couple of inches (10 cm), and it made for one of the most unique mountain biking experiences I’ve ever had. Yeah, I really rode that – repeatedly!

And even though I’m sure riding my bike through flood-plain swampland led her into an existential crisis, I rode three major trails – the Sinkhole Trail, the Chipola River Trail and the Fence Line Trail.

The Fence Line Trail was the longest of the three though none are especially rigorous. The zen I achieved on these rides was the unworldly experience of the swamp and the panoply of living things it offered. Honestly – this is one ride that sticks with me as the most unique ride I have ever done.

Park Architecture

Buildings in the park were constructed in the 1940’s using natural stone quarried on-site. As many of you know, Florida is what remains of an ancient sea bed so the “stone” here is limestone riddled with ancient shells. It gives the entire park a singularly unique texture.

20161222_193046042_iOS

The Big Attraction

Ok, some sharp-eyed readers may have noticed this is Florida Caverns State Park. This is because this park contains the only open-air cave in northern Florida open to the public, or so they say.

For a fee, you too can enjoy an hour-long tour through the caves. The tour starts with an ominous descent into the underworld.

20161222_210516904_iOS

20161222_210526090_iOS

There are a remarkable number of rooms.

20161222_210631478_iOS

20161222_211220819_iOS

20161222_214758394_iOS

There is also a non-trivial amount of crouching involved in this tour.

20161222_211251631_iOS

This cave is still “living” indicating that the formations are growing even now.

20161222_214923903_iOS

The final room is really incredible and beautifully lit.

20161222_220021065_iOS

20161222_215941800_iOS

 

What Could Go Wrong?

Some of the more memorable and ultimately funny parts of RVing, especially full-time, are the things that go wrong. Below is a chronicle of what that park did to the Airstream.

Mold

Our stay at Florida Caverns State Park was our first park in Florida. The humidity there destroyed us, or more like, destroyed the Airstream. With the A/C running in the trailer virtual rivers formed on the windows and interior aluminum skin.

Though an annoyance for the most part this moisture ultimately led to a pretty severe mold problem under the mattress of all places. I think it’s because our bed is directly over the rear storage hatch. Just enough outside air seemed to pull through the hatch and flash condense…. right under the mattress.

I don’t recall what drew my attention to the issue but it taught us an invaluable lesson:

Put dehumidifiers in your trailer!

Put dehumidifiers in your trailer!

Put dehumidifiers in your trailer!

We placed one small dehumidifier directly in the compartment under the bed and another in the rear hatch area. I also placed a plastic barrier under the mattress. This seemed to solve the mold problem for the remaining duration of our stay in Florida.

Satellite vs. Trees

We have a Winegard TRAV’LER RV Satellite Antenna on our Airstream. It’s an excellent system but it simply couldn’t compete with the thick northern Florida forest. We had somewhat spotty reception the entire time we were there.

One trick we did learn is the SD channels seemed to make it through even when their HD counterparts did not, so configuring the satellite receiving not to remove “SD Duplicates” worked very well.

Plumbing

While we were staying at the park I found a leak in the bathroom one day. Carefully tracking its origin I found that the pressure reducer for the city water supply was dripping very slowly but steadily behind the bathroom vanity. In an incredible stroke of luck, I was able to reach under the sink service panel and tighten the fixture by hand. Considering this is nearly the only readily serviceable area I could reach in the the bathroom I still can’t believe our bad, then really good luck.

Airstream Build Quality

Though I dearly love my Airstream, it isn’t without its quality issues. One of the more curious problems that seems to plague my coach is popped rivets. Lots of them.

In this particular case, I lazily closed the front door one morning and watched in slow-motion shock as the chrome belt-line molding popped off and landed at my feet. Examination of the offending and very sad piece revealed four ruptured rivets.

Of course this was demoralizing but in an incredible stroke of luck I had very recently watched a video on my favorite YouTube channel by the wonderful folks at Long Long Honeymoon on repairing Airstream chrome trim.

I’m pretty handy so I got the gasket adhesive described in that video at a local auto parts store and restored the molding to like new myself. To accomplish this I already had a basic rivet kit from Ace Hardware, a cordless drill and a 1/8″ bit to remove the old plugs.

Recommendation

Over the time my partner and I have traveled in the Airstream we’ve noticed a recurring pattern: Some places have an “it”. This “it” is an intangible – you just begin to feel, for one reason or another, there’s a soul making this particular spot special.

Examples of other places where we felt “it” – Crested Butte, CO and Moab, UT.

Florida Caverns State Park definitely has “it”. Maybe because of the charm of small town of Marianna? Maybe because of the unique combinations of things to do in this park? Who knows. Whatever the reason I give Florida Caverns State Park a giant thumbs up. If you have the means I highly recommend you stop by and stay a while.

* We learned after leaving this park some folks we met there had to leave due to flooding. Also the caves flood from time-to-time. My only advice on this topic is to call the park and find out conditions before booking.