The day after dropping Ivy off was a moving day. It was a little more than a two hour drive to our next campsite. We’re at site 23 in the Bear Lake campground in the Blackwater State Forest on a ridge overlooking the lake. There is a large oak tree for shade. The gravel site has a slight down hill slope from front to back but it wasn’t too difficult to level up with the boards I brought along. There was water and 50/30 amp service. This is our home for the next four nights.
After disconnecting the trailer and getting all set up, we pulled out the chairs to sit under the old oak tree and enjoy the view of the lake. We were happy with our site…until…we picked up our phones and saw the dreaded “No Service” across the top of the screen. Man! How did I miss that? I probably would not have book this site if I had read the reviews and saw there was no service. But because it was Memorial Day weekend, most campgrounds were full. So when I saw this site was available and was the last one they had, I reserved it.
I’m not saying we are addicted to our devices or admitting we are internet junkies (but we might be). It’s just that we have much to get done the next few days. We have nothing booked beyond this point so we were going to take time to map out a plan and make some reservations. A couple of our daughters were trying to make their own plans that coordinated with us. Maybe meeting up somewhere this summer. I have a blog post ready to upload too. So we took off in the truck to see how far we had to go to find service. We found 3G service ten miles from camp in the little town of Baker. We sent a message to our daughters letting them know we had no service for a few days and not to worry.
Parked at the site next door to us was Tom and Ester. They recently sold their house and moved into a Luxury Suite fifth wheel. We sat together on the ridge as the daylight diminished watching the birds fly over the lake occasionally swooping down to pick an insect off the surface. We chatted and shared stories. They were also dismayed about having no service. They were staying for two weeks and were having internet withdrawal. Tom showed me his cell signal booster with a thirty foot directional antenna and signal booster and an interior repeater. But, with no signal to boost the equipment was worthless.
We went out the next morning to do some exploring and see what there is to do in the area. Without service we couldn’t do any online research. Note to self…Do research prior to arriving in new area. We drove into Milton, Florida, a small town with a population around 10,000 residents. It was incorporated in 1844, one year before Florida became a state. It’s located on the banks of the Blackwater River. One of the first things we noticed was the many parks and open areas. We found a park across the river from the downtown historic district with a boat ramp and covered picnic tables along the river bank. On the town side of the river we stopped at the Santa Rosa County Veteran’s Memorial Plaza. This was a great tribute to veterans and was a special find for us with this being Memorial Day weekend.
There was a boardwalk along the river giving great views and it had places for boats to tie up. On the southend of the boardwalk was a covered pavilion where bands set up for free outdoor music concerts held on weekends. Unfortunately we didn’t get to stay for that but could only imagine how nice it could be to set up a chair near the river and spent an evening listening to local musicians.
We went to the West Florida Railroad Museum where we traveled back in time to experience a depot filled with railroad memorabilia and artifacts. We learned some of the history of the L&N Milton freight-and-passenger station. There was a restored diner car and sleeper car that we couldn’t visit because it was rented for a child’s birthday party. We could see the children through the window of the cars. They were having a great time. What a unique experience for them? The highlight was the garden railroad display. Situated on a 100’ x 150’ residential lot behind the train depot, a local club of train enthusiast build a model train display. As we walked through, we saw four different trains simultaneously moving around the track over trestles and through tunnels, passing by expertly created recreations of towns. I couldn’t help but think of my father and the love of trains that he had. He would assemble his model train set around the Christmas tree.
On our way back to camp we stopped at a tubing outpost. The parking lot was overflowing with cars parked along the highway prompting us to stop. What was all the people doing here? There we found that one could rent a tube and get shuttled up creek for a lazy float trip back to the outpost. It seems this is a very popular activity on hot days like today and reservations were recommended on weekends. The nice lady behind the counter gave us a brochure and also suggested some other places for us to check out. So on her recommendation we went to Coldwater Creek Stable and Campground. Following Google maps directions, we found ourselves in the middle of nowhere on a bumpy dirt road. Not sure if this was the best way to go we pushed on leaving a wake of dirt and dust behind us. Eventually after about eight miles, we came to another paved road where we soon found our destination.
Coldwater Creek Stable and Campground is a Florida Forestry campground set up for trail riding. There are stables for horses and extra parking for horse trailers. The campsites were close together in very tight quarters. There seemed to be extra vehicles parked at a lot of the sites. Keep in mind though it was a holiday weekend. The people that were not out on horseback were laying in the creek that flowed along side the campground. Did I mention it was a hot day? I saw 101 degrees on the truck thermometer for the first time. Near the campground where the bridge crossed the creek was a parking area posted for public access and swimming area. We stopped there and walked down to the water and waded in to cool off. There were a few locals there sitting in chairs that they set in the water of the shallow creek.
Our next stop was Krul Lake. Another Florida Forestry site located only a mile and a half from our campsite. There is a hiking trail between the two areas. This is an extremely popular swimming location open to the public as well as campers. It has a white sand beach, shaded picnic area and docks for jumping in the water. The water appeared clean. We learned they drained the lake every winter to clean the bottom. There was two lifeguard on duty overseeing the activities. There is a two dollar per person day use fee. Campers in the two campgrounds don’t have to pay as it is included with the camp fees. We drove through the campground and saw the sites. Again they seemed to be crammed in close together. I think we made a good decision picking our campground because the sites are more spacious.
The next morning grammi and I were up early and went on a hike before breakfast. We wanted to check out the trail that went to Krul Lake. The mile and a half trail was well traveled and clearly marked. The first section went through rolling woodland then came to a boardwalk through a low marsh. The well maintained boardwalk went on for well over a half mile leading to a suspension bridge crossing over a creek. It continued on passing by an old mill and eventually emerging out of the woods to the swimming area at Krul Lake. The round trip hike took about an hour and was an invigorating start to the day.
That afternoon we packed some drinks and snacks, loaded the chairs into the truck and drove to Krul Lake. We were stopped at the entrance gate and told the parking lot was filled to capacity and we would have to wait for someone to leave before we could enter. Fortunately it didn’t take too long and we were soon on the sand beach with our chairs and umbrella set up in no time. Grammi and I, with the water up to our neck, lounged around most of the afternoon. It was relaxing and the water cooled us from the heat of the day.
We bobbed around and enjoyed watching all the people. A father was tossing his child head over heels into the water. There were some kids throwing a football. Others were running off the dock screaming as they did a cannonball. Some were laying on large inflatables as they drifted around the lake. The scene was surreal as it brought back memories of the places I would go as a child with my family. Places that no longer exist like Lake Ellen or Lake Carrol beaches. We had such fun there.
We sat in our chairs trying to air dry when a cloud appeared from nowhere and burst opened a downpour that chased us back to camp. Just enough rain to soak everything but it was gone as quickly as it appeared.
Memorial Day started off like the day before. This time we hiked the Bear Lake Loop trail. As the name implies, it’s a four mile hike around the lake. I am very impressed with how well maintained the trails are and give Florida Forestry Service kudos. There are plenty of benches for anyone needing to sit and rest. Spaces have been cleared to show off the spectacular views of the lake. A number of well maintained boardwalks went over streams and bog areas. I love starting the day with these hikes in nature.
This is our last day at Bear Creek. We needed to find a campground to move to tomorrow so we went back to the town of Baker. There we sat in the parking lot of a little country store with the engine idling for more than two hours with 3G service. We made reservations for tomorrow, talked to our daughters, checked e-mails, did banking, uploaded blog, checked the weather and the news. We filled up the truck and then settled back at camp for an uneventful day. Not everyday can be fun and exciting but everyday is an adventure, especially with “no service”.