Sunday, May 29, 2016

To Claytor Lake State Park, Dublin, Virginia

The things you see on the road.
This is called the Peachoid, Mr. Peach, or the Peach.
It is a water tower in Gaffney , South Carolina about exit 90 to 92 on Route 85.
Holds about one million gallons of water--not peaches.
From Route 85 we head north on Route 321 out of Gastonia,N.C.
From there it is a right on Route 268 towards Wilkesboro,N.C. 
This a great scenic route with farms along the way and mountains.
Everything is super green or yellow green.
Good place to raise beef cattle it seems.
Warrior Creek Campground is another Corps park on W. Kerr Scott Reservoir.
This is still a beautiful campground, but the sites are not all level and not all sites have good access to the water.
Plenty of room at our site and quite level.
Leaving the campground, we head east through Wilkesboro, N.C. ,
actually, more around it on Route 421 , over to Route 77 north.
The Wilkesboro, N.C. area has a history in Nascar with a track that was here
from 1949 to about 1996.
A native son, Junior Johnson was quite successful at the track for
the Sprint Series.  Now 84, he still lives in the area.
Along some of the North Carolina highways, crews have taken
pains to plant ,and not cut, large sections of wild flowers.
The North Wilkesboro area bills itself as "Key to the Blue Ridge"
This area of Route 77 north offers many views.
Any of you who have traveled this route would remember the 
Fancy Gap area entering Virginia.  
Some might even remember some white knuckle driving.
In Wytheville, Va we head north on Interstate 81 to Dublin and the exit for
Claytor Lake State Park, one of our favorites.
State Parks are not inexpensive.
Many times they can be as expensive as private campgrounds when taxes and day use fees are added in.
We choose a nice site in area B , dry camping, that gives Lady  Blue a chance to use
the solar panels.  Even in the trees, the panels catch a bit of sun 
to recharge the house batteries.
Claytor Lake has a number of hiking trails that are just right for us.
Quiet sections winding through the woods and then great views of the lake itself.
Now and then we mention state parks that offer cabins for rent.
Not all are as nice as these. There are some in Texas, for example, that are only
a shelter to protect your sleeping bags and equipment.
These , however are first class , waterfront lodging.  They have full kitchens, screened porch,heat pumps, outdoor and indoor fireplaces, grills, and new docks for your boat.
All of that , plus the view, for $115 per night off season. 
In this area, prime season is the summer plus all of October, Thanksgiving and Christmas.

These two are the smaller cabins. There are larger cabins that will sleep about 10 and also have a larger kitchen and washers and driers.
The reason we mention this , is that we know a number of friends and family who travel a bit, or are RVers who may have retired from the road.
State Park rentals can offer a taste of the RV life at beautiful locations, often for less than what a motel on a busy interstate might cost.
Research is important and some rentals are for a week minimum.
The beach is quite large, three lifeguard chairs, well kept white sand, changing area and snacks.
A good sized, but not huge, marina.
Near the office, which is the historical Haven B. Howe House
is this gazebo on the point.
Yes, it is used often for weddings.
A nice view of the lake from the gazebo and also the dam.
Some fishermen just fish from the rocks.
A large fish was caught the few moments we were here.
Lastly, we will mention the activities at Claytor.
The last time we were here, 4 years ago, there were some great ranger activities and campfire for kids during Halloween.
Not all are just for kids.
Note these activities for Memorial Day Weekend.
Come on now, who wouldn't want to join in on
Snake Feeding, S'mores, or Owl Prowl?

Monday, May 23, 2016

Some stops in South Carolina

From Strom Thurmond Lake , Winfield Corps of Engineer Campground, it is a very short drive to Modoc COE Campground in South Carolina. 
The wonderful part of these two Corps parks and  Springfield COE and Coneross COE on Lake Hartwell is that most campsites are large( room for a large trailer or motorhome, a vehicle, maybe another vehicle, a tent or two, and more), and most are on the water.  So many campers bring boats of all shapes and then anchor them right at their site.  
This is our site at Modoc COE. We think it is the nicest in the campground, #28.

Besides the wonderful view, we face the sunset.  The first night was cloudy, so we could only imagine.  But, oh boy, this was the second night .
A few fishing boats willingly obliged enhancing our picture. Thank you, folks.

Site # 28 from across the inlet.
In western South Carolina, much of our travel is on back roads in farm country.
Occasionally you meet up with a large piece of farm equipment moving from one field to another.  
The drivers are very courteous though, and will pull over when possible to allow passing.
That brings up another observation. 
When traveling on interstates, we see a good mix of various state license plates.
But , when we travel on back roads, it is amazing how we can be in a state like Georgia and only see Georgia plates.  Then 10 miles east , entering South Carolina, suddenly there are only South Carolina plates on the roads and in the campgrounds.
We call it "the license plate phenomena" It's like they will only travel and camp in their own state!
Speaking of Georgia, we forgot this rainbow picture from Magnolia Springs.
This one only lasted for a few short minutes.

Jan and I had followed US 221 into South Carolina and then Route 28 north towards Anderson.  This route follows Strom Thurmond Lake and the Savanna River north towards our next stop on Hartwell Lake.  The river and lakes form the border between Georgia and South Carolina. If we followed the Savanna south we would pass by Savanna , Georgia and out to the Atlantic Ocean.

Some of this weather was quite hot with temperatures in the 90's and the humidity just as high.
But, Lady Blue provides good shade and inside air conditioning, so the old geezers just keep smiling!
Yep! Just keep smiling!

From Springfield, we follow Route 28 to Route 29 west out of Anderson and then Route 187 north to Route 24.
This crosses Interstate 85 and takes us to Townville and Coneross COE Campground.

From here we begin to see the Smoky Mountains rising up in North Carolina.

Route 24 takes us to Route 11 and Oconee State Park.  This is close to the border of South Carolina, Georgia, and North Carolina.

How many remember seeing or using one of these?
We had some gas pumps like these around Massachusetts in the 1950's, but they were quickly disappearing. Depending on the pump, you would crank a handle to bring gas into the see through area, where markings indicated gallon measurements. Then that amount could be released via the hose into your gas tank.  Of course, there was probably a gas station attendant to do this for you, as well as clean your windshield and check your oil.
If you follow this blog, you will notice many references to the Civilian Conservation Corps of the 1930's.  This government creation put thousands of men to work during the depression all across the country.  What they built in many states is still standing and
quite impressive in many cases.
This is a water wheel that was used to move water up into the camp via a hydraulic ram pump, an ingenious device that used gravity to move water uphill before electric pumps.  They would also attach saws and other machinery to the wheel using belts and gears.
No power boats are allowed on this lake, but you can rent pedal boats.
Jan is enjoying the beautiful mountain laurel in bloom around the lake.
We haven't seen mountain laurel in years. What a treat!

We didn't see any live beaver or beaver lodge on the lake, but there were
signs of recent activity on these trees. What do you think Alison? Maybe they headed your way to meet up with yours on the lake.
A cabin for rent.  There are a number of these with lake views available to rent in the park.
They all have a porch, wood fireplace, heat pump, a picnic table, and an outdoor fireplace.
Not Florida , for sure!
We follow Route 107 north to Route 130 South again to Route 11.
This is a scenic route that is a little bit of a challenge, but offers great views.
 A little hint of the Smoky Mountains on the left and Lake Jocassee below.
Back on Route 11, Jan and I take a few detours into Devils Rock State Park and here at Table Rock State Park.  There were some nice hiking trails here with views, but we decided to move on to Kings Mountain State Park.
We did like this wooden rocking chair in the visitors center.
It seems a nice use of bent wood on the frame , seat , and back.
We follow Route 11 to Interstate 26 south to Interstate 85 east to Kings Mountain National Park and State Park Campground.  We recommend the visitors center for a very well made movie about the battle that turned the tide for the Patriots in the Revolutionary War. Also , a well designed walk through the battlefield that lets you envision what the battle might have been like.
This link will take you to the Park website. Kings Mountain Military Park

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Through eastern Alabama into Georgia

From Fort Pickens, it was clear that it was time to start heading north. Our route starts with Route 399 to 98. North on Route 87 to Route 90 east. Route 85 brings us to the Alabama border in Florala.  Then it is Route 55 north to Andalusia and Route 29 north to Dozier and this new private park called Cypress Landing.    

We will make a point of stopping at private parks now and then, We look online for good reviews.
Also, in this case, it was a new park. We like to see how new park owners are approaching the lot sizes and other amenities.  
This park was still in progress with some new topsoil being added.  A very nice boatlaunch is here with good access to refueling in the water and on shore.  The fishermen were doing quite well.
We also enjoyed a very new, clean laundry facility.
These are now the back roads of Alabama.  We continue on up to Troy where we pick up Route 10 east. We follow Route 10 to Clio where we pick up Route 51 and then Route 30 to Eufaula. Eufaula is a much larger town.  Our route then takes us down the west side of Walter F. George Lake on Route 95 and then 97 to White Oak Campground.  We are trying to catch a number of Corps of Engineer parks in Alabama and Georgia.  We like this one so much, we stayed an extra day on this site.
Comfy Jan?   You bet.  These sites were $12 per night with our Senior Pass.
Jan and I used to think that we would retire to a cottage on a lake somewhere in New England.
Now, we realize that we spend more time on lakefront property at state parks and Corps parks around the country than we ever would in New England.  Why?  Although it is quite possible to find a year round cottage on New England lakes, most folk are only there from late May to October.  
We can find state parks and Corps parks year round.
And yes, we still camp on shorefront property in New England, namely in Maine, when we can.
From White Oak Campground, it was a short 13 mile trip to Hardridge COE.  Such a beautiful campground with a wonderful site.  That is, until we got up on a very hot, humid morning to leave and discovered hundreds of tiny ants in Lady Blue. I had made sure to keep the water and electric hose and cord off the ground and thought we were good, NOPE!
The ants were in a conga line from the electric post, up the electric cord, up to tiny vent holes in our windows, and inside they came. 
Jan and I went quickly to work and took care of the problem. 
Now, we try not to underestimate the determination of tiny ants.
The picture above is from Cotton Hill COE , just around the south of the lake into Georgia and Fort Gaines.
Very close to Lady Blue is an active Bluebird nest.  We will assume this is Dad bringing breakfast to the kids.
Our stay here is in hot, humid weather. Into the 90's with mid 70's at night.Whew!
Air conditioning worked great though.
From Cotton Hill we follow Route 39 up the east side of W.F. George Lake and over to Route 82 east.
At Dawson, we turn north on Route 118 to catch up with Route 280 to Cordele.
For some unknown reason, we were sent on at least a 15 mile detour.  At least the roads were good and we arrived in Georgia Veterans Memorial State Park in good time.
The geese don't seem to mind the heat .
Safely guarding their charges.
Mom and Dad keep watch while the little ones feed on the shore.
This grass was short, but they were still almost invisible.
Georgia Veterans is a huge park with a golf course. cottages, conference center, villas, campground, short line train, a grill with night time entertainment , and Cordelia's restaurant, not to mention a full marina.  This link will give you more information   Georgia Veterans also referred to as Lake Blackshear Resort
The grounds are well kept.  We loved the blossoming magnolia trees.
Most tress that we see in Georgia are quite tall, but these are shorter.
The fragrance is described as citronella and lemon.  
They remind us of orange blossoms and honeysuckle.
Oh, and did we forget to mention a military museum and display.
This is a General Stuart Light Tank that started use in World War II in 1941.
Bruce is standing in front of a Boeing B-29A Superfortress.
Beginning production in 1939( before our entrance into WWII) there were almost 4,000 of these planes manufactured.  The most famous use was the Enola Gay which carried the atomic bomb over Hiroshima.
Anyone who watched the news in the late 60's and early 70's would recognize the Bell UH-1 helicopter ,better known as a "Huey".
From Georgia Veterans, we head on our own detour up Route 75  to Ellis Brothers Pecans.
A huge selection of different varieties of pecans including praline covered!!!!!!
Then we head down Route 215 to 280 east and McRae where we find Little Ocmulgee State Park.
This park was small and quiet.  We found a great hiking trail.
Georgia State Parks are not cheap.  They range  from $30 per night or more ($35). There is a 10% discount for seniors ,and there is a park entrance fee of $5 per night.  We did get a year pass for that which gave us a free pass for the entrance fee and one free night camping. 
We realize some of you are not interested in our routing notes, but others like to know what routes have worked.  We also use it to look quickly back when returning to an area.  It's amazing what we forget these days!
From Little Ocmulgee, we head up Route 441 to Dublin and then east on Route 80 to Twin City.
From there it is north on Route 23 to 25 to Magnolia Springs State Park.
Get your A------ out of the road!
No, seriously, get the donkeys off the road.
They just wandered onto the road
and meandered leisurely down the pavement.  Eventually they went on a different trail.
The couple in distance shared a laugh with us as we passed.
A small lake, but a good site.  
Also some good trails here.
Close by, in the park, are the springs with many turtles.
The green is where the springs emerge.  That clear pool is about 18 feet deep.
Like other springs in the area, the water comes up from limestone and gushes about 9 millions gallons per day.
The small lake at Magnolia is covered with many blooming pond lilies.
On the road again.
Back to the very first Corps park we visited 7 years ago in 2009.
From Magnolia, we traveled up Route 25 to 520 around Augusta(west)
Then it was Route 20 west to Route 150 north to Winfield COE Campground.
Our route took us through the farmlands of Central Georgia.  
We saw a number of peanut warehouses on the way.
Also, a number of fields with 3 foot tall corn, and others turned over to plant cotton soon.
At a stop at a roadside stand , we picked up fresh green beans, a little fresh Florida white corn, and the very first peaches of the season( a little hard, but tasty)
Winfield is on J. Strom Thurmond Lake which borders Georgia and South Carolina. Some of the locals in Georgia insist on calling it Clay Hill.  The lake is the largest Corps of Engineer Lake east of the Mississippi. It contains 70,000 acres and 1200 miles of shoreline.
Almost every site in this campground is a water site and they are huge.  Plenty of room for a large RV and a truck and a couple of cars and maybe a tent!
Not only huge, but there is good separation and vegetation between sites offering very good privacy.
Jan is heading for the dock at the boat launch.  This reminds us of Maine lakes.

We are now up to date on our blog. If you missed our Florida visits, please check the previous issue