Tales of the Florida Panhandle

Tales of the Florida Panhandle

As I write this we are currently somewhere in the Ozarks of Arkansas and it’s May. Looking back I have plenty to catch up on. Let’s take a trip back in time.

The time is March and the place is the panhandle of Florida. Our last two stays in Florida were very different yet I loved them both.

Apalachicola National Forest

It took me awhile to learn how to pronounce the name. But I finally mastered it. This place was secluded and quiet. During our stay only one other guy, named Andrus was there and he kept to himself. We didn’t do much except explore the forest roads on foot and by Jeep but I really enjoyed this spot.

Shane and Josie both loved exploring large puddles of water, in their own ways. (Shane did not get the Jeep stuck during these excursions.)

I loved the complete quiet of this place and the beautiful sunsets every evening. And it was dark out here.

The only sound we really had each and every night was this interesting bird that would start calling at dusk. He would move from tree to tree, sometimes further away and sometimes closer. We finally looked up the call and it belongs to a Chuck-will’s-widow. This bird is related to the Whippoorwill and sounds similar.

At first we enjoyed his nightly calls but it turns out they will call all night so you can imagine when he was close we were really hoping he would move along.

Despite it’s remoteness we actually had a signal here. It was truly the best of both worlds, remote yet a cell signal to get some work done. I enjoyed my outdoor office and our daily evening walks along the untraveled forest roads. (We looked up the snake – he was not poisonous.)

The seclusion and quiet made this a great spot for two weeks.

Wilderness Landing in Blackwater River State Forest

This place was the opposite of the national forest. It was remote and we had a signal but there were other people. I will admit after spending two weeks in seclusion in the national forest I was slightly annoyed there were people here. Ms. Spoiled Solitude right here. We had plenty of space to spread out, despite the number of people here. The camping area is actually quite large.

It turned out to be a special place and one that will live in my memory for a long time. The appeal to this place, it had easy access to the Blackwater River. In addition there was a camp host, clean restrooms and showers, water to refill the rig, and trash bins. And it was completely free! Hot, clean showers with trash collection at a free campground is a real treat and hard to come by.

But the real magic of this place was the people. We met the camp hosts and quickly became friends with them and all their friends. The hosts Ken & Lisa hosted live music at their site around wonderful campfires complete with snacks. Gary the musician was a riot. There was a real sense of community here.

What stood out for me was this. There were a variety of people here, some in tents, cars, vans, schoolies, RV’s of various sizes, and travel trailers. And those people were on all sides of the political spectrum. Yet, and this is key, everyone got along just fine. There was no talk of politics or hatred toward one another. Instead everyone here had something in common, we are all on the road and enjoy the freedom this lifestyle allows.

For those that only see what mainstream media shows, I can honestly say I watched Trump supporters and Biden supporters hanging out without issue. Politics stayed out of it and for me that was refreshing.

During our stay here we kayaked the Blackwater River. A special thanks to Ken for the ride back to pick up our Jeep after a nice float down the river in our kayaks. We also hiked around as there were trails along the river. We even spent some time alongside the river, dipping our toes in when it was warmer.

This place was a real gem we enjoyed for 15 days.

Josie found her own way to retrieve sticks from the water.

We had one failed beach day attempt (crazy traffic put a stop to that) and a few severe thunderstorms. Both worked out fine. The beach day turned into Josie having fun at two doggie parks and us enjoying some live music at an outdoor bar.

The thunderstorms left us with some standing water but no storm damage. Although several campers hung out in the bathhouse to ride out the storm.

And we met a ton of wonderful people. I kept note of their names and I must mention them now.

Ken + Lisa – the best camp hosts.

Gary, the musician and his wife Tonya.

Thais, aka “The Gypsy Mary Poppins”.

Tesuk (unsure of spelling), we called him the Subaru guy.

Eddie + Sandra, who sold their house in California and were looking to buy a home in Florida.

Melissa, originally camped next to us who couldn’t find her little dog and after we spotted him she brought us some beers in thanks.

A group that met up here and stayed next to us: Sarah + Steven and adult daughter Jamie, Jeannie + Gary, Phyllis + John, and Kevin. The group invited us to happy hour one night.

Tom + Jackie, who we met on our last evening there and hit it right off. Spoiler alert, we hooked up with them again in Arkansas.

And others – Kim, Vicki, Shirley, Sal, and Matt.

Oh and I cannot forget plenty of new doggie friends, of which I can’t remember all their names. Needless to say Josie loved her new friends.

I’ll leave you with this from Sal. She told us as we were heading out. “How about this instead of drive safe.”

“Drive fast and take chances.” Thanks Sal, I love it!

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