It’s map update time again! I’m writing this blog entry as we make our way across the Florida Panhandle to Crooked River State Park in Georgia. We just flipped our trip odometer over again, so we’ve covered 2,000 miles to date on our Grand RV Adventure.
We left the beautiful Fort Pickens Campground on Wednesday, stayed two nights at Florida Caverns State Park as an interim stopover, and we’re about 4 hours from the next state park on our list. I’ver heard so many good things about Crooked River Campground, and all of us (dogs included) are eager to check it out!
Soon we’ll turn North toward home, and I have really mixed emotions about that. I miss my kids and my mom and my friends. I miss “working“ in my studio (and I know how very fortunate I am to be able to say I miss “working!”) And although it’s still winter back home, it feels like Spring here, which makes my fingers itch to get into my gardens.
Interestingly, I don’t really miss the conveniences of my sticks and bricks home. Okay, I miss the dishwasher, although Steve usually does the dishes because I do the cooking. (He also does the cleaning because I do the laundry and most errands. Again, how lucky am I, right?). And sometimes - especially before bed - I miss the convenience of letting the dogs outside off-leash into our fenced-in yard.
But, I digress! Here‘s the weekly map update:
And here are a few RV Life Lessons from the past week:
In my last blog post, I shared the story of our inaugural dump run with our honey pot (lovingly dubbed Pepe). While not unpleasant, we didn’t feel compelled to repeat the experience again until absolutely necessary. We became uber conscious of our water usage, and adopted some practices we’ll continuse going forward because it’s really not hard to do the right thing our planet. We went the last six nights at Fort Pickens without dumping - and with room to spare in both gray and black water tanks! I estimate that we made about 3 gallons of waste water each day, although we used the campground’s bathroom, shower and dishwashing facilities as much as possible, so our actual water usage was higher. Still, I think we can do better. If you have tips, let me know!
You may recall how I rejoiced that the mosquito population in Louisiana - while abundant - did not seem to care for my northern(ish) blood. Well, Florida mosquitoes did not get the memo; they like me just fine, thank you very much! I’m so grateful to my friend (and wonderful fellow potter) Lyla for recommending Murphy’s Naturals plant-based Mosquito Repellant Incense Sticks. They’re so much better than smelling like insect spray, and they kept the little buggers from biting.
One week seems to be an ideal length of stay in any one place from Bandit and Oakley’s perspectives. By then, they’ve exhausted most trails, and are in turn exhausted and ready for a travel day! Also, they seem to start getting territorial beyond the confines of Irving around Day 6-7-8. We’ll test this theory further, as most of our stops are in the 6-8 day range for the remainder of our trip.
A two-night stopover at a small campground is much more relaxing than a one-night stopover in a Cracker Barrel parking lot! At Florida Caverns State Park, we kept the set-up to a minimum, the walking adventures to a medium, and we all feel relaxed and rejuvenated as we head to Crooked River, where we have been told we will find some excellent hiking trails. And - BONUS! - we set a new record for exiting the campground this morning! We were able to pack up outside, disconnect, reconfigure Irving’s interior for travel, and play switcheroo with the dog and their beds in less than an hour this morning!
Sand gets everywhere — and while I might be finding sand in Irving for months to come, staying so close to the beach was totally worth it! With the exception of a newborn, I don’t think there’s a better smell in all the world than an ocean breeze (although the forest after a rain comes close).
I think there’s a bit of magic in greeting the sun at the start of a day and seeing it to bed in the evening, especially when a large body of water is part of the scenery. I am admittedly obsessed, so much so that I bookended several days at Fort Pickens with sunrise in the morning over the sound followed by sunset in the evening over the gulf (much to Steve’s chagrin, although he kept smiling through it all!).
There are so many ways to enjoy a sunrise at Fort Pickens. Here are a few of them: from our “front lawn,” from the sound, and from Irving’s back window.
Sunsets over the clear waters of the Gulf Shore National Park are stunning, but there are plenty of other places at Fort Pickens to catch a beautiful sunset, too. Climb up onto a battery for a wide angle view, catch a glimpse from a trail, or simply step outside your camper and look up!
On Tuesday night, the full moon (a worm moon, in fact!) rose from behind some dense clouds, emerging right at the top of a grove of trees behind our site. It was spectacular!
The previous night, I looked up to see the moon peaking at me through the branches of a tree from a crystal clear night sky. I was reminded of the song my mom taught us from her years as a Girl Scout Leader and it made my smile: “Oh, Mister Moon, moon, pretty silver moon, hiding behind that tree…”Anybody else know that song? If so, I hope it makes you smile, too!
The smears on my camera lens from my visit to the beach earlier that evening created an awesome special effect in the photo, don’t you think? (And yep, that green spot is the moonlight reflecting off a speck of sand in my lens cover!)
Lest you think that beaches, sounds and sunrise/sunset are the only things we saw on our stop at Fort Pickens, I’ve got more pictures to prove otherwise. Press the little arrow at the right to advance through the images.
We enjoyed numerous walks on nature trails, including the Florida Scenic Trail which runs right through the campground and out to Fort Pickens. The historical elements of the park were interesting, but not nearly as entertaining as watching the osprey re-build a nest or the blackbirds dive into the marsh for lunch from their perches in the trees above, all from our front “lawn.” We were encapsulated in a cacophony of birdsong by day, and lulled to sleep at night by the tree frogs, crickets, owls and more.
On my forays to the sound for sunrise, I was delighted by little leaping aqua acrobats and schools of fish blooming in the calm waters, and enraptured by the sand crabs lining the banks of the sound in the morning all nestled snugly in their little shells.
I can’t put into words how much I am enjoying “awakening” (in both literal and figurative terms) with the presence of wildlife around me every day. In my sticks and bricks home, I spend much of my time in my basement studio; on this journey, I‘m immersed in the natural world almost constantly. I’m feeling a deepening connection to all the life around me and my stress levels are way, way down. As night falls, I grow sleepy and head to bed at a reasonable hour, without the call of pots needing my attention from my studio. And in the morning, I’m waking up with birdsong in my ear in time to experience the magic of the world reawakening as the sun rises, as if an internal alarm clock is nudging me toward my own personal reawakening.
I also feel like all of my senses are hyper alert - I see, hear, smell, touch and even taste everything more acutely. Is it because I‘m starting my day in alignment with the forces of nature all around me? Is it because I’m looking inward more deeply in these quiet moments (starting with a recently adopted Morning Pages practice based on Julia Cameron’s teachings in “The Artist’s Way”)? Is it because I left so much of the stress of being a business owner and production potter back at my sticks and bricks home? More than likely, it’s all of these things and more - a magical combination that I’m only beginning to discover, which in turn is helping me to discover within myself a level of inter-connectedness deeper than I remember knowing before.
These are the questions I’m starting to ask myself as I release the inner intensity brought on by years of my (admittedly, self-induced) high-intensity production based studio practice. More importantly, I’m asking how can I retain this level of connection to the world around me when we return to our sticks and bricks lifestyle next month? In the next few weeks as we begin our journey northward, I’ll be looking inward as I reflect more deeply on these questions. If you’ve got suggestions, I’d love to hear them!
Our week at Fort Pickens wasn’t all quiet mornings, long walks and peaceful sunsets. I made some shard jewelry for the studio tour in May, and also set up a photo booth in a gorgeous little grove not five minutes from our site where I photographed new images of my nature-inspired colored porcelain jewelry.
I posted a video tour from this special little place on social; if you missed it, head on over to Facebook or Instagram (@SusanOHanlonPottery on both platforms) to check it out!
Our stop at Florida Caverns was rejuvenating, but short, so I really don’t have many pictures to share from that park. But here’s a selfie Steve and I took by the “blue hole” spring-fed pond. It was blue(ish), in a green and not so clean sort of way. I’m confident I wouldn’t swim in there despite the sign inviting us to do so at our own risk, but the surroundings were pretty.
And, of course, Bandit and Oakley enjoyed the hiking trails, which we took at a restful pace while I gathered more photos of wildflowers for my upcoming work. Butterflies and dragonflies escorted us along the trail as we walked, which was quite beautiful! The pups are happily dozing away as we cross the Panhandle, no doubt building up energy to take us for a long walk tonight after we settle into our digs for the week.
I’m going to post my reviews of Fort Pickens Campground and Florida Caverns State Park separately, because this post already seems a bit long. If you came here looking for detailed information about either of those parks beyond scenic photos, explore my blog’s homepage for those posts, as well as earlier reviews of Palmetto Island and Bogue Chitto state parks in Louisiana.
Well, lookie here … We’re in Georgia. Thanks so much for sharing the ride with me!
It’s also really nice hearing from you by email and social media, and knowing that you’re enjoying these updates from our journey. Feel free to post below in the comment section, too! I’m still figuring out how this whole blog thing interfaces with my website, but I promise to respond to your comments and questions however you share them with me.
Until next time, thanks as always for being with us in spirit on this journey! We’re off in search of more sunsets, and we’ll share the best of them and all the wonders we encounter on our Grand RV Adventure with you right here in about a week. See you then!
Susan (and Steve and Bandit and Oakley, too!)