Friday, August 27, 2010

Stephen Foster Folk Cultural Center State Park, Revisited...

The Carillon at Stephen C. Foster Cultural Center State Park, Florida
We once again dropped in at the Stephen Foster Folk Cultural Center State Park in White Springs, Florida, this time on our way home. We stopped there for the first time three weeks before on our way north to the Georgia mountains. 

Our original plan was to stop on the way back at the other Stephen Foster park, the one in Georgia, but since we hadn’t made reservations at either one, we decided to do the “drive-in” at the Florida campground.  

We had the kayaks strapped on top of our SUV, but it was just too hot, and we were just too close to the end of our very first ever, three week long vacation to take what would have been a short paddle at the Okefenokee park. 

This time, however, we decided to forego kayaking at the Georgia park and headed instead just a little further south, and just a little off US 441, on the west side, to stay at the Stephen Foster Cultural Center State Park, not far over the Florida state line. Like the Georgia park, it too, is located on the Suwannee River.

We usually travel US 441 rather than I-75 through Georgia as the roads are mostly great and the traffic is a lot less hectic. We usually make better time to Athens, Georgia, via US 441 from north Florida than Interstate 75. The highway also takes us near one of our favorite campgrounds, the Stephen C. Foster State Park, near Fargo, Georgia. The park is right in the middle of the Okefenokee Swamp. 

Time to head home. Besides, the Florida park is just a few miles from the unavoidable Interstate 75 to head to Southwest Florida. The Florida park has easy access, nice clean facilities, and wide, easy campsites that make it a real pleasure to visit.

After a quick, pleasant registration, we headed for our spot, the same one we had used three weeks earlier. Only scattered RVers around the park, we had the campground mostly to ourselves. As we fixed dinner, it began pouring rain, and again we were happy we had passed on kayaking. Something to do another day. 

We went through our pile of brochures and pamphlets and reflected on what was really a great three week venture. The little Jimmy SUV had done well, and we were happy with our Cikira 13FD. Costs were not exorbitant and we actually spent less on campgrounds than we had budgeted.

We had made several decisions that we will follow-up on before we head cross-country to San Diego next year for an Air Force reunion, including tow vehicle and even a slightly bigger trailer, and that will be a study in itself.

The trip home the next morning was uneventful, but again we jumped off of the Interstate near Bushnell, Florida, just to take US 301 through Dade City and Zephyrhills on a “recon” run. We were back on the Interstate though, soon after passing the Hillsborough River State Park. We were home in just over an hour.

Sneaking a quick look at the Internet soon after opening up the house, I came across an email I had to open. It was from a friend about the Stephen C. Foster State Park in Georgia we had decided not to paddle the day before. The Clinch County News had posted a special video about an alligator feeding frenzy in the access canal just beyond the boat ramp at the park. It's currently on YouTube at

Yes, we’ll go back to the Georgia park to go kayaking. We just won’t put in first thing in the morning. 

Next: Close to home - The Myakka River State Park in Florida: 

Monday, August 23, 2010

Unicoi State Park, Georgia

The young couple who pulled into the adjacent slot to us in Unicoi State Park near Helen, Georgia, told us this was one of their very favorite parks. They were hikers and loved the access to the many trails. My wife and I saw the park a little differently, but then everyone has different expectations from their camping experience. As far as hiking trails go, Unicoi offers a wide variety, although we found walking on the highway across the dam as part of the lake trail disconcerting. 

Our initial dissatisfaction with the park came when we found there is no parking at the toilet facility, except for one disabled, sticker-only slot. Campers simply park in the roadway to use the laundry or shower rather than walk the hilly paths to the facility. There were no signs to mark the access trails to the toilet, you just have to know where the trails are ahead of time. Thankfully, they are ground-lighted at night. There was a washer in the laundry with an out-of-order sign that looked like it had been there for awhile.

Rain, Rain, go away!  Campsite at Unicoi State Park
We tried to find a launching point on the small  but pretty lake for our kayaks, and even though there is a beautiful, sandy beach for swimmers, there isn't a way to easily put in your own kayak. There is a staircase but it isn't easy to wrangle a kayak or canoe from the parking area to the water or back. You can rent paddle boats or canoes at the beach, but using your own self-propelled craft is apparently discouraged.

We were surprised by traffic zipping past on the highway one must walk on if you take the 2.4 mile Lakeside Trail. We started walking with our two dogs at the visitors center and walked the well-worn trail counter-clockwise all the way to the dam, where we discovered we had to share a highway with oncoming traffic. While the speed limit is 35 miles per hour, few drivers bothered to go anywhere near that slow. We felt like sitting ducks as they flew across the dam toward us. 

Additionally, there is no sign at the other side of the dam to show where the trail resumes! After a false walk down to a dock, we started across the parking area trying to stay on the forest side of the guardrail. That soon washed out and we once again crossed into the small area between the guardrail and a painted white line that supposedly keeps you safe from cars barreling down the curved hill. It was not the highlight of the park.

Anna Ruby Falls, near Unicoi State Park
The highlight for us is the nearby Anna Ruby Falls which is run by the non-profit Cradle of Forestry under lease from U.S. Forest Service. The pretty falls are formed by the unique confluence of Curtis Creek and York Creek which then form Smith Creek. As Federal property, Anna Ruby Falls have nothing to do with Unicoi State Park which is run by the State of Georgia. Golden Passports, or other senior passes for National Parks waive the $2.00 per person entry fee.


Next: Headed home- another stop at the Stephen Foster Cultural Center State Park in Florida at:

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Metamorphisis - Helen, Georgia

Mickey Dolenz, a member of the band The Monkees, commented during an interview years ago that having four actors actually evolve into four real musicians as they had, was as if Starsky and Hutch had become real policemen. As we drove into Helen, Georgia, this past week, I couldn't help but think the syndrome had perhaps once again repeated itself. Helen has actually become something it once only pretended to be.

Local merchants began a unique marketing campaign over 40 years ago to bring tourism to this small, rural northeastern Georgia town. Our first visits to Helen back then ended in disappointment as plywood facades and hand-written signs failed to evoke a flavor that was as foreign in the rural Georgia mountains as collard greens and fried okra would be in Munich. But persistence has paid off, and Helen has become Alpine Helen, a taste of Bavaria in the northern Georgia mountains. It is a now a bustling tourist destination that rivals any in Georgia.

The architecture of many buildings that are either new or remodeled, actually reflects Bavaria, and the city's project to beautify the entire downtown area with flowers and landscaping has transformed the city not just into an easy, week-end escape from Atlanta, but an actual destination for visitors from all over.

Entrepreneurs have turned the quietly flowing Chattahoochee River that runs through the center of town into a constant flow of happy, chattering tubers of all ages and sizes. They are turning Helen into a tubing destination that probably rivals climbing Dunn's River Falls in Jamaica for a “must do” for family vacationers. The tubes are pink, yellow, red and blue, and denote which company has launched that particular bus-load of adventurers into an hour-long, bumpy, often gently rock-scraping, ride downstream. The stream runs adjacent to several restaurants where water-side diners wave and encourage those who seem to have more fun splashing than tubing.

Although Bratwurst and Knockwurst seem to be everywhere, don't expect to find Rolladen or Saurbraten, or even potato dumplings on every menu. Many of the breads and rolls seem suspiciously familiar, not tasting much like bauernbrot or brötchen. But, it is a far cry from collard greens and fried okra, and is an atmosphere not found elsewhere in Georgia.

Several of the shops feature food, books, CD's, magazines and other items imported from Germany for a real flavor of Bavaria. The bustling atmosphere of the town is in stark contrast to many of the nearby towns that have struggled to adapt to changing times, or have failed to take advantage of their beautiful natural resources.

One of the many souvenir shops sold the cutesy, German buttons that I normally wouldn't be caught dead wearing, actually had one button I couldn't resist buying. I won't wear it often, but if you meet an RV’er with the button that says, ”Pray for me, my wife is German,” stop and say hello. There is a good chance you know who it is.

Next: Unicoi State Park, in Helen's back yard, at:

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Amicalola Falls State Park, Georgia

Miami must be like Paris: Nobody home in August. I don't know where the Parisians go, but the Miamians all seem to go to the Georgia mountains! We met most of them, well, many of them at any rate, at Amicalola Falls State Park in northern Georgia. The first RVers to join us at our nearly empty hill-top camp site were Sal and Yvonne, Miami expatriates who now reside near Tallahassee. They both graduated from my old high school, Southwest Miami, albeit many years later than I, but it was still a unique coincidence. One of the really neat aspects of camping is meeting interesting people. 

This was our first trip to the highly-touted Georgia State Park not far from Dawsonville. The access road to the lodge and the campgrounds located the top of the falls is famous for its steep, radiator-busting 25 percent grade. The lodge offers regular hotel rooms, convention facilities, and wireless Internet, as well as an excellent restaurant.

If you are a hermit, may I suggest tent camping on the wilderness trails where no one will find you, - the famed Applachian Trail begins not far from here - or the individual lodges where you can barricade the doors, even in broad daylight. Otherwise, be prepared for people who stop and talk to you about everything from your camper, your tow vehicle, or even just chat about your dogs.

The Amicalola falls themselves are renowned as the highest cascading waterfalls east of the Mississippi River. However, after looking at the small creek with its staggered, man-made impediments at the very top of the park, I was less than impressed. My wife and I had investigated the trickling flow of water leading to the falls overlook on the day we arrived, and wondered if this was all there was to the waterfall. The road to the lodge inconspicuously crosses over the small creek above the falls by way of an unseen culvert. As we walked down the steps on the west wall below the top of the falls overlook, we stopped often to look at the cascading water. We weren't able to get a good view because of the dense foliage. Still, as we descended further down the terraced walkway, we wondered if it was worth the trouble to go all the way to the bottom as we simply couldn't see anything but small, tumbling falls. 

It was well worth the effort. At the bottom of the 425 step staircase is a paved path that leads to a catwalk that crosses the creek. There you can look up the falls to see a beautiful natural cascade that is, in my case anyway, unexpected.

Our walk down the winding, multi-terraced staircase had been interrupted by the arrival of no less than eight responders to a young woman who was not physically able to complete the climb back to the top of the overlook. The first to scramble past us on the narrow staircase in hurried descent were two Georgia State Park rangers, followed soon by two more carrying assorted bags of emergency medical supplies. Two more teams of county emergency medical responders also hurried down the narrow staircase, carrying heavy bags of assorted equipment to the young woman who was by now sitting on one of the many rest benches found on the staircase. 

Seemingly recovered, at least partially, the woman was accompanied down the trail to a path far below where she was met by a waiting utility ATV-type vehicle that took her out of the waterfall area. I talked with one EMT responder as he packed away his gear. He said they respond at least once a month to such an emergency on the staircase, but so far, had not had a single cardiac event. 

They had to carry their gear back out the hard way, up the staircase to the top. Thankfully, they are in great shape.

After drinking two bottles of water, we climbed leisurely back to the top where we met Alberto, Antonio, Elizabeth and Maria in the upper parking lot. I simply stopped to talk to the owners of a Chevy van that caught my eye and found out they, too, were from Miami.

As we drove back to the hill-top campsite, we decided to take a detour. A white, nondescript sign mounted just past the rental lodges said, "High Shoals Baptist Church" was an invitation to go take a look.

The pavement stopped just beyond the cottages, but the narrow, winding single-lane gravel road continued for another mile and a half. At the end of the road is a small, beautiful church, at 2733 feet elevation, probably the highest point of the headwaters of the stream that makes up the falls, and a continuously flowing water fountain obviously powered by an artesian well. 

As we stood and took photos, two sweaty young women bicycled up and dismounted near by. My wife commented on their stamina and ability to bicycle the hilly terrain only to find out Mary and Emma were also from Miami! Emma is also a yoga instructor, as is my wife, just to make the world a little bit smaller.

So, Miami has come to vacation at the end of civilization, the paved part of it at any rate, at the very beginning of the Appalachian Trail. I have no idea where the Parisians go in August, but trust me, I know where to find the Miamians! The stricken girl on the cat walk may have been another. It wouldn't surprise me in the least.

Next: Helen, Georgia, or if the Monkees can pull it off...  At

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Woodring Campgound: The Learning Curve

Woodring Campground, Carter Lake, Georgia

A good friend asked us ”Are you travelers or campers? Realizing we enjoy the serenity and solitude of a quiet, isolated campsite rather than standing elbow-to-elbow in highly advertised, media-manufactured marketing environments looking at local jellies and handicrafts, we decided we are more campers than travelers.

Our first experience with trailer camping was a small, used 13 foot Cikira that we bought because we could tow it with our small SUV. The little camper was light enough to be towed by our 1999 GMC Jimmy and still roomy enough for our basic, albeit naive, camping needs. Only when seen from the side does the 13 FD Cikira look tiny. People call it “cute.” It is as wide as a standard camping trailer, and just as tall with ample headroom for just about anyone who isn't a professional basketball player. It had all the amenities we needed, from stove, microwave, heater, refrigerator, and a full shower and toilet, and a dining area that seated four that became a queen size bed when dropped flat. That was the part we finally outgrew: we wanted space for one to lie down and a place for the other to sit at the same time.

We happily towed our little rig for our first four trips with just the basic trailer hook-up; the two-inch ball and the required safety chains, but for our first sojourn into the Georgia mountains, I installed a 1000lb load equalizer bar system and an anti-sway bar. The trailer has electric brakes as well, a must-have item when towing even a trailer that weighs only 1800 pounds. I installed the extra hardware because we were also taking our two 14 foot Pungo kayaks, carried on top in a roof rack, as well as both of our bicycles on a carrier mounted on the receiver hitch and I didn't want our tow vehicle to look like the proverbial donkey-cart. The road manners were much better with the equalizer bars, and I'm sure the anti-sway bar saved me more than once when avoiding what seemed to be imminent collision from merging traffic on the Interstate entrance ramps. With a little practice, I soon mastered the proper sequence to load and unload bicycles, kayaks, and unhook the trailer in a minimum of time.

We decided during this first, long trip, our first really extended camping trip, that we need a bigger camper. The 13 foot long unit sufficed for weekend, or even week-long trips, but for extended stays, especially with our two family pets, more room was needed. We decided also that when we go to a bigger trailer, we'll also need a new tow vehicle to replace our six cylinder, 190 horsepower GMC Jimmy. We decided to make the jump from “entry level” RV'ers, to the mid-range, middle class of recreational vehicle owners.

We have started developing our list, picking items we have decided to be mandatory, or just desirable. There are also several no's in our list, such as any vehicle that has to be dedicated to simply towing the trailer, so the big diesel pickup trucks required to haul a fifth wheel camping trailer are off the list. Also off the list is any vehicle I have to break camp to use. Once I have everything set up, I don't want to pack away the awnings, chairs, water hoses, electrical and television cables, and crank up the landing gear (the levelers) just for a milk run to the nearest grocery store. So, since I can't afford a “life boat” to tow along behind a self-contained camper, I'll stick with a tow-along camper. Park it, set it up, and leave it alone is my goal. The regal, cruise-ship style Class “A”s are out, so are the intermediate Class “C”s and “B”s, the ones I might actually afford.

I am unimpressed with today's bloated, overly style-conscious SUV's that don't carry as much inside as my Dad's 1953 Ford station wagon. The older, small to mid-size SUV's were actually built on pickup truck chassis, but many of today's mid-size units are built on uni-body sedan style chassis and are not as suitable for towing as the older units.   It seems fewer of today's SUV's are rated as tow vehicles that will tow a 5000 pound trailer.  I find the aerodynamics of today's SUV's and pickup trucks absolutely preposterous.

Back in the late 70's, I drove a Dodge B-100 van with a 318 cubic inch V-8. I used it to tow my sailboat back and forth from Miami to the Florida Keys. It would be the perfect tow vehicle for me today! Plenty of interior room to store tool boxes and supplies that you simply don't need to carry in the trailer. Power to spare and yet the engine was small enough to be economical on the road. The search for my new tow vehicle is under way, but it might take a while. I wonder whatever happened to my old Dodge?

Next: On to near-by Amicalola at 

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Woodring Branch, Carters Lake, Georgia - Observations

Camped in the Georgia foothills next to a beautiful, serene lake that stretches for miles in either direction, we found ourselves still sitting in our little camping trailer with the air conditioning on at 7:00 pm in the evening. It was still 93 degrees outside, and the humidity was beyond even my level of endurance. I was raised in South Florida long before air-conditioning was installed in the public schools. No rank amateur am I when it comes to humidity. This vacation, however, was supposed to be a break from the heat and humidity at home. Nope, today it is ten degrees cooler in Florida than here!

Getting up here from Florida was an adventure in itself, watching the temperatures in Atlanta hit 103 degrees, and again few miles further north in nearby Marietta when a local bank thermometer pegged at 104 degrees! The heat had enveloped all of the South, including our picturesque campsite only 50 miles further north. So, instead of kayaking the many coves of Carters Lake or bicycling the hilly campsite after getting settled in, we sat and relaxed and and collected our many thoughts about our first long-distance towing adventure.

Our first observation is never trust the voice commands on the GPS! The programmers who set up the instructions for turning obviously make the assumption that every straight-through instruction means stay in the left lane. The “Bear Left!” command, meant to take you straight through a cloverleaf, will unfortunately often take you up a flyover that really starts to the left but eventually swings back to the right and causes you to exit the route the GPS is trying to tell you to stay on! Always have a map handy and know where you are going before barreling into a spaghetti-bowl interchange that will confuse the GPS so badly you may as well be driving on the moon.

Corp of Engineers Woodring Branch Campground, Carter Lake, Georgia
Secondly, the people who set up the Murphy Gas stations found at many Wal-Marts, must not drive cars. At least, not real ones. Besides the almost mandatory traffic jams because flow-design is non-existent, the last place you want to tow even a small, agile trailer is through the short, angular pump aprons at Murphy's. Even if you do get three cents a gallon off the posted price by using a Wal-Mart credit card, the aggravation of using Murphy gas simply isn't worth wondering if you are going to lose a corner of your precious, but fragile, RV.

Thirdly, have alternatives for everything! Alternative routes for travel as well as alternative activities for being confined to your camper when it is either blisteringly hot or pouring rain. Have alternative meals or food available, and pretend you can't communicate with anyone, because, often, you can't. If you don't have electric power, and you don't have a generator, make sure you have a way to recharge or replace a dead battery! 

Next; George Carlin and the Perseids - musings while at Woodring Campground at


George Carlin and the Perseids: Woodring Branch

My wife and I had just watched a PBS special about George Carlin winning the prestigious Mark Twain Award for American humor on the only channel our crank-up antenna would pick up at the Woodring Branch campground in the foothills of the Georgia mountains. We were staying at the immaculate U.S. Army Corp of Engineers Woodring facility for the first time. As far as the television was concerned, we would have picked PBS if we had been given the choice of a single station to receive.

Televised from the Lincoln Center, the event featured many of today's leading humorists and satirical pundits relating personal anecdotes and stories about Carlin, interlaced with archival tapes and video clips of Carlin's groundbreaking performances. As the show progressed, it followed Carlin's development from comedian to social critic, increasingly attacking politics and religion. The highlight of the show was his now-famous discourse on the ten commandments, where he showed that to survive as a civilized race, we only need two of those commandments, and one of those is a maybe. If you haven't heard it, you may find it on you-tube or one of the other social networking sites.

Our daughter called the next morning to say hello and see if we were enjoying our camping outing. As the conversation continued, she suddenly said, “Dad, before I forget! Tonight is the highlight of the Perseids meteor shower! I hope you get to see it!” I remember the two of us laying flat on our backs in our backyard in southwest Miami so many years ago, when she was only ten or eleven years old. Late at night, with no noise but the evening insects, and no offending lights to muddle the darkness, we had talked endlessly about the mysteries of life and watched for hours as the different colored bolides would occasionally streak across the starry sky. I thought if there was no cloud cover tonight, I would drive up to the top of the hill by the bath house and set up a lawn chair to watch the sometimes spectacular display.

When evening finally fell, I picked up a flashlight and drove to the top of the little hill. With blazing 24 hour security lights surrounding the toilet/bath house/laundry building, it wasn't suitable for stargazing, but the boat ramp further down the hill was in complete darkness.

As I parked on the side of the boat ramp, I realized that, except for the bordering trees, this was perfect location. With the flashlight, I could see the concrete path that led to a floating dock, a good 70 feet from shore. Perfect! I cautiously made my way in the dark down the long, metal ramp out to the center of the quietly creaking dock and carefully sat down. I didn't want to accidentally drop the flashlight, or even worse, fall off my newly found observation post to the universe in the middle of the night.

I laid back, stretched out as comfortably as I could on the uneven anti-skid metal surface. I immediately forgot about the uncomfortable surface of the dock as the first things I identified were two satellites, almost on the same orbit, but traveling in opposite directions. Airplanes at different altitudes and different speeds, and faintly visible in the background was the Milky Way. A few moments later, another satellite appeared, and soon another, traveling in a completely different direction. We have filled the heavens with our own inventions and creations, intruding on the majesty of the silent, awesome vastness of space. Out of the corner of my left eye, I caught the beginning of the brilliant orange brush of color that extended to the center of my universe before it vanished as quickly as it arrived, as if to remind me of why I had come out on the quiet, slowly swaying vantage point.

Looking up at the serene, wondrous majesty that I had all but forgotten, I couldn't help but think of the comments George Carlin had made about man's attempts to control others through religion and superstition. Which altar was I at? Or whose?

As a young man, I had often laid flat on my back in the darkness of outdoors and raised my arms to the sky, pretending to have the power to seemingly reach out and touch the stars and galaxies that seemed to be just beyond the reach of my outstretched arms. I think George Carlin may have outstretched his arms to the universe. He certainly saw more than I.

As I lay flat on my back on the modern, neutered version of a bed of nails, I could only think that it has been far too long since I have looked at the stars in wonder.

Next: Learning curve - Still at Woodring at

Monday, August 16, 2010

The Interstate: On to Carters Lake

Never again will I tow a travel-trailer through Atlanta on I-75, no matter what time of day or night, or day of the week. From drivers using their left arms to hold their door shut on their old, banged up pickup trucks erratically towing dilapidated flat-bed trailers, to the eighteen-wheelers racing speeding Lexus's or BMW's, make the experience unnerving. The truckers seemed to take a break from the mundane delight of hounding poor, terrified drivers in the slow lane and attempted to show the unencumbered urban speeders that they can drive just as fast as any nimble sporty car. Just because they were towing a 53-foot long swaying, often ill-tracking trailer, Interstate racing through downtown Atlanta was a challenge many truckers just couldn't seem to resist.

If you don’t know what urban terror is, try driving in the right lane of the twisty, narrow multi-lane Interstate through the urban canyons with two kayaks strapped on top of your SUV, two bicycles on a tail-gate rack and towing a camping trailer in close-packed traffic moving at 65 miles an hour, and watch drivers fly down the entrance ramps without the slightest concern for merging into traffic. They stare straight ahead and simply try to drive into the passenger door of your car! I have ABS brakes on my tow vehicle so I never locked up the Jimmy’s brakes, but I’m sure I flat-spotted the tires on the trailer during the several panic stops I had to make to avoid collisions from traffic merging from entrance ramps. I was glad I had installed both trailer load-equalizers and an anti-sway bar before the trip.

When we finally pulled off of I-75 onto the two lane highway that would take us up into the Georgia mountains to our camp ground, we both sighed audibly with relief. As we finally let our shoulders regain their natural shape and unclenched our fists, both our dogs finally collapsed in the back seat as if to say, “now we can relax, too!”

What makes it all worthwhile happened twelve hours later, after I washed the day-glow pink paint ball splat off the driver's side of the camping trailer. We saw a full grown black bear swimming near the shore in Carter Lake, not 500 yards from our camp site. We were camping at the Woodring Branch Campground at Carter Lake, part of the marvelous U.S. Army Corps of Engineering recreational facilities that surround the lake. We were less than 60 miles, yet a complete world, away from downtown Atlanta.

We watched as the bear climbed out of the water across the cove from us, fumbled around the lake bank for a few moments, then quickly disappeared up into the woods.

It takes a full day for me to finally relax, unwind and realize I am in the wonderful, different world of camping. We decided we'll just find a different way to get here! It won't be on the Interstate!

Next: Carters Lake US Army Corps of Engineers Woodring Campground at: 


Monday, August 9, 2010

Stephen Foster Folk Cultural Center State Park, Florida

We continually confuse our Florida friends when we tell them we camped at the Stephen C. Foster State Park in Georgia. They always ask, “Do you mean the one at White Springs?” No, we answer, the one at Fargo. Georgia. The two state parks are less than 60 miles apart, are both on the Suwanee River, and are really quite different from one another.
The Carillon at Stephen Foster Folk Cultural Center State Park

The one at White Springs is in Florida, and is actually called the Stephen Foster Folk Cultural Center State Park, located right on U.S. 41 just a few miles east of I-75 and north of I-10. We made our first reservation at the Florida park as a convenient overnight stop on our way north on our first extended camping trip in early August. We have previously camped twice at the Georgia park, which is 17 miles east of U.S. 441 near Fargo, and plan to stop there again on or way back.

The friendly Florida State Park ranger at the gate brought the prepared paperwork out of the guardhouse right to the car. I didn't even have to get out! As we drove in the immaculately manicured grounds, dominated by the beautiful Spanish moss-draped Live Oaks, we were impressed with spacious layout of the park. The center of the park is dominated by a Carillon, which tastefully played its bells for us as we drove by. Actually, it was playing the time, but it was a nice symbolic, welcoming touch.

The Florida state park system lets you select your RV site ahead of time, which is easy to do on the Internet, whereas the Georgia park system is first come, first served, based on the size of your unit. The Georgia state parks usually require a drive-through at least once to see which sites are available, which at sites like Unicoi and Amicalola can be interesting to say the least.
Camp site 7 at Stephen Foster Folk Center State Park

Our preselected site was clean and roomy, easy to back into, and separated from the adjacent sites by bushes and shrubs. We soon unloaded the bikes, and even though the temperature was still 94 degrees in the late afternoon, we took a leisurely bike tour of the park and its gently rolling hills. We rode down the access trail to the canoe launch on the Suwanee River and decided we would return here as a destination sometime in the future. We rode to the typical visitor center where you can get information and brochures, as well as T-shirts and caps, and all of the assorted souvenirs usually found at campgrounds.

The campground at the Stephen C. Foster State Park in Georgia, is also clean and with private campsites, and although the access road is somewhat tighter, there is also room to maneuver your vehicle. The Georgia park has rental boats and canoes, a paved boat ramp and a visitor's center as well. Both campgrounds have rental cabins, playgrounds, and amphitheaters for Ranger lectures. The difference is in the location. If you stay at the Georgia park, make sure you are stocked up ahead of time. A milk run for forgotten groceries is a 40 mile round trip.

Next: Our first major outing to the Georgia Moutains. On to Carter's Lake at

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