Saturday, July 20, 2013

Grayton Beach State Park

 We left Huntsville, Alabama at around 6:30 pm with a 6 hour drive ahead. We had picked out one final destination before the Warrior took us home. Grayton Beach State Park was the first Florida beach side park on our route and sounded both unique and pristine. We booked the site via iPhone, got the after hours gate code, and were off. Snaking southward through Alabama, we stopped for gas in my hometown of Montgomery at around 11pm. It was too late to contact family or drive by my old house, plus the kids were sleeping. As we stretched our legs at the gas station, a young guy (like many others around the country) asked where we were from and where we were headed. We told him about our journey and then I threw in "But this is my hometown!"
  We pulled into Grayton Beach State Park at 2:30 am. Our campsite was sweet, right on a dune lake with a kayak launch directly at the back of our site.We went to bed listening to the hum of the cicadas, happy to be back in Florida.
  The next morning we surveyed our surroundings.

Lotus, up early and exploring, ran down to the dune lake. There, right at the back of our campsite, was an eleven year old boy throwing a castnet! Lotus immediately grabbed his net and joined in the fun. For the next hour Lotus and Josh from Louisiana compared notes on fishing, vacations, families and more. Priceless.


We decided to launch the kayaks and explore the dune lake.


There are only a few hundred dune lakes in the world. They are found exclusively in Australia, New Zealand, Madagascar, Oregon, and the Florida gulf coast.They are mostly freshwater, with only a bit of salt entering through severe storms and seepage, and heavily colored by tannins from surrounding vegetation. 

We crossed the dune lake and were just a stones throw from the Gulf beach, so we parked the kayaks and went for a quick dip.

Coast to coast to coast!!

Having seen the ocean, we were ready to fully explore the dune lake.

After exploring for over an hour with no signs of gators, the kids decided it was time for a dune lake dip. They acted as our motors for a bit while Sky and I sat back and relaxed.

We arrived back at our campsite and had to prepare for checkout. This little guy reminded us we were getting close to home.

After leaving our campsite, we played in the ocean a bit more.

The kids could have stayed all day, but the tides of time were pulling Sky and I home. We somewhat reluctantly loaded up for the final drive to complete our journey of over 12,000 miles. As we drove home and the sights became more familiar, we reminisced about our amazing journey.
We pulled into our dirt road at 10pm. Lotus was literally jumping up and down as if it were Christmas morning! When we arrived at the dome, he ran out as fast as his legs would carry him and kissed the ground!! For a boy of 10, a month is  long time to be away from your home.
We're settling in now, and preparing for summer camp and glass orders. These things are fulfilling in and fun, but they also will provide resources for our next Summertime Adventures!

Monday, July 8, 2013

Alabama roots

We were so lucky to be able to visit my Dad and Sonja (Paw Paw and Nanny) and my sister Alaire on our trip. Our visit was short but sweet. We enjoyed some of life's simplest pleasures- playing fetch with the dogs, family movie night, fresh vegetables from the garden, and listening to my Papa fingerpicking on his guitar. 

I loved seeing this old sign from my grandfather's business...

On Sunday I went to the barn with Sonja and got to see Alaire's country cottage for the first time. It was so cute and her vegetable garden was incredible!

Sonja had made special arrangements for her and I to ride horses together. She rode her Morgan horse Arlo

and I rode a huge (over 17 hands) fleabitten warmblood named Sweet Lips!
Look at those juicy lips!

The horses were all in their stalls because of the recent rain and were quite curious. 

We gave them each of them a flake of hay and then had an awesome ride. 

Back at Nanny and Paw Paws it was time for hugs and goodbyes until next time. We love you guys!

Tom Sawyer's Mississipi River RV Park

“…nothing so liberalizes a man and expands the kindly instincts that nature put in him as travel and contact with many kinds of people.” – Mark Twain

This quote was the first thing I saw when I checked out Tom Sawyer's Mississippi River RV park on the web. We had been cruising east from Hot Springs and were looking via iPhone for an interesting spot to make camp. This little hideaway fit the bill.
Driving toward our chosen destination we had a few doubts. West Memphis ghettos and industrial parks surrounded us. But we followed our directions onto a small gravel road and the landscape quickly changed to forest.
 Scouting the available sites to camp at around midnight, we were lucky enough to find one right on the mighty Mississippi River, literally a few feet from the shore. Sky and I sat by the river while the kids slept, chatting and watching the night shift river barges churn by in the swirling eddies and currents. 
The next day we explored the river and then just sat on her shores, watching the tugs and barges chug a lug on by. The power of these modest tugboats is impressive. We saw one tug pushing a row of barges as long as a football field. Entire trees had been washed well above the waterline during floods past and were littered up and down the shore.  The Memphis skyline provided the backdrop for the scene.
 We left around lunchtime, after Lotus had collected an armload of driftwood for whittling. Mark Twain would approve. 

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Hot Springs, Arkansas

We woke up well rested in the middle of Wyoming, knowing that it was officially time for some epic driving.
We drove through the day in Wyoming and dodged the huge wildfires in parched  Colorado. The kids passed the time by bundling wild collected sage into smudge sticks. We made it to west Kansas as night fell, took shifts driving through the night, and watched a beautiful sunrise as we crossed into Oklahoma. 

Arkansas welcomed us soon after, and we arrived at Gulpha Gorge campground in Hot Springs National Park around 3pm. Road weary, we sat in our camping chairs, drank a beer and watched the kids explore the river. They explored the shallow rocky areas 
and even the underground pipes which carried the creek under the campground!

The kids were well into an elaborate rock river dam when injury struck. A rock meant for the dam dropped on Lotus' knuckle with force. 

He was okay, but the mood shifted from dam building to quiet RV cuddle time and a movie. 

The next morning the swelling had gone down and Lotus was ready for early morning exploration in the gorge. We swam, caught a few fish, 
and enjoyed the scenery. 
Footloose and carefree!

We left Gulpha Gorge and set out on a mission to find an old friend. 
Eight years ago, we took the Karma bus on the Heartland of America tour, driving through Alabama, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi.  While seeking out local advice on the best crystal mining spots in Arkansas, we met Gary Correll. He was selling crystals by the highway and we stopped to chat. That chat turned into a lifelong friendship. We mined together and he invited us to park the bus on his property. 
We pulled up to his place and were thrilled to find him still there! Gary lives in an old house and store that are literally built into a very special mountain laced with freshwater springs. Behind Gary's house and up ivy covered steps,
antique aqueducts covered with freshwater seaweed drip with the freshest water you can imagine. 

In fact, Mountain Valley Spring Water is bottled on the other side of the same mountain!
He has two main buildings that run along busy Highway 7.
One is his home and the other a store built in 1900. I hand painted a sign for the store 8 years ago- it's holding up pretty well!

The store is full of antiques and interesting Arkansas oddities.

But the most interesting thing by far is a quartz crystal lined wishing well that is fed from the mountain springs inside the shop!

I wonder if this frog that lives in the well grants the wishes...

We caught up on all the happenings of the past few years with Gary and he got to know our much bigger kids. We departed for our next destination, the quartz crystal mine, feeling thankful for such a great friend.