Sunday, December 31, 2017
Marjorie Rawlings is best known for The Yearling, a novel about the life of a subsistence farming family in rural Florida. The book is centered around the adventures of their only child, a young boy who befriends an orphaned fawn. Rawlings wrote ten books and dozens of short stories, many of them while living at her home in Cross Creek, Florida which is now the state park.
Rawlings purchased the homestead and orange grove in 1928 to satisfy her love of nature and her craving for a quiet place to write. When she died in 1953 the homestead was willed to the University of Florida. The homestead became a state park in the 1970s. At that time Rawling’s husband, Norton Baskin, donated all of the original furniture and household items that had been in storage to the park. The house has been returned to its original appearance as closely as possible.
The state park includes the main house which is actually three buildings joined together to make a rambling eight room house, a tenant house where her maids lived, a reconstructed barn, chicken and duck coops, a vegetable garden, remnants of the orange grove, and two short trails. Visitors may tour the property and peek in the windows anytime the park is opened but to see the inside of the house visit on Thursday through Sunday for a guided tour.
One of the park brochures states that the park is disability friendly. This is not true as nothing is wheelchair friendly. The trail from the parking lot is loose sand, the buildings have steps but not ramps, and the trails are rough with roots and lumpy ground.
Small RVs will fit in the parking lot but it much easier to park in the large county boat ramp and picnic ground parking lot adjacent to the park. Park 29.48015, -82.1605
Friday, December 29, 2017
We liked this national forest campground so much that extended our planned stay by a day and would have stayed longer but the short hours of daylight and clouds that rolled in made our solar panels pretty useless. The fact that we parked under the trees didn’t help either. :-D The sites are all fairly large and the campground appears to get lightly used. The sites under the trees are level. The sites in the grass are not as level but have a partial view of the lake. Amenities include tables, fire rings, trash cans, hand pumped water, and vault toilets.
The campground is about 3.5 miles west from Route 19 on a wide, maintained but washboard dirt road. It’s very dark and quiet at night. Another campground, Lake Delancy West, is adjacent to Lake Delancy East and is designed for OHV users. There were only a few riders during our stay and they rode on trails away from the campgrounds but weekends may be noisy.
None of the sites are designated as accessible but many are usable. The sites in the grass have concrete tables without overhangs but there is at least one wooden one with an extended top. The sites under the trees have wooden tables with short overhangs. The ground at the sites under the trees is hard packed and pushing around is not difficult. The toilets are listed as accessible but I did not check them out.
Wednesday, December 27, 2017
(we’re back :-) hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas!)
Albín Polášek, sculptor and teacher at the Art Institute of Chicago for 30 years, retired in 1950 to a small isolated lakefront home and studio which is now surrounded by the community of Winter Park, Florida. He completed over 400 hundred works including eighteen created after he suffered a stroke which left him with only one good hand. Many of Polášek’s pieces are on display in the studio and garden. The studio is open by guided tour only. There’s also a small museum featuring changing exhibits.
Everything is accessible but the ramp from the garden (fenced off from the front of the property) to the museum rear entrance is steep, lacks a landing, and has a door that opens outward making access very difficult. It may be possible to use the rear studio entrance which is not as steep to return to the parking area.
A gravel and grass parking lot, suitable for large vehicles is located on the right side of the property. Museum 28.59605, -81.34321
Thursday, December 14, 2017
Time for our yearly maintenance – waxing, caulking, and all the little jobs that we leave for the slower winter months. We’re in our favorite Florida campground, Moss Park, an Orange county park east of Orlando. It’s a quiet and beautiful park with huge, nicely spaced campsites and lots of vegetation for privacy and shade. The sites have water and electricity plus there’s a dump station. Other amenities include flush toilets, showers, playgrounds, boat ramps, fishing, swimming area, and hiking trails. It’s also inexpensive for Florida. Campers over 55 get a 25% discount so we are paying $17.50 a night.
Moss Park is almost empty at this time of year which is odd because it’s such a great park. The top reasons may be the rules banning pets and alcohol. Also reservation can only be made 45 days in advance by phone which may not be answered. There’s a two week limit and campers must leave for two weeks before returning. I’m sure all of these things keep the snowbird population down since most have pets, enjoy happy hour, and like to settle in for a long relaxed stay.
We especially like the park because the accessible sites are some of the best that we’ve found. The concrete parking pads are large enough to park an RV and several cars. There’s enough room for me to circle the motorhome and stay on the concrete. The table, water/electric post, and grill are all on the concrete and the fire ring is circled by concrete.
I checked out restrooms even though I don’t use them. The exterior doors do not have the correct handles for accessibility and are a bit heavy but I could still open them The accessible toilet stalls are very large and have sinks. All of the showers are roll in. The restrooms are not dirty but they could use a deep cleaning.
The roads are very hard packed sand which makes rolling around easy. A network of concrete trails meander through the trees and connect the sites to the restrooms.
The dump station is accessible and trash cans take the place of dumpsters.
Monday, December 11, 2017
The refuge’s 402,000 acres contain wet prairies, cypress forests, scrub-shrub vegetation, upland islands, and open lake. Few roads or trails penetrate the refuge so the best way to see it is by canoe, kayak, or boat tour but there are three drive-in entrances - Steven Foster State Park on the west side, Suwannee Canal Recreation Area in the east and Okefenokee Swamp Park on the north end. We visited the Suwannee Canal Recreation Area which is managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The recreation area has a small visitor center, an historic homestead built in 1927, eight short dirt trails, and a boardwalk trail.
The trail to the homestead is hard packed dirt and pine needles and is accessible. The homestead grounds are soft sand, making it very difficult to push a wheelchair around to see the buildings. None are opened to tour but a brochure is provided. A spur trail off of the homestead trail leads to a 3/4 mile boardwalk and observation tower. This trail, like most of the other trails, is packed dirt and pine needles but roots and ruts make it bumpy and difficult. Drive to the boardwalk parking lot for easier access.The boardwalk is accessible but the tower is not. The visitor center had closed for the day before we got a chance to see it.
Saturday, December 9, 2017
As a young married couple in 1915, Dan and Catharine Bland started their life together in a former tenant house that they remodeled into a homey cottage. They ran a dairy, raised livestock, and grew pecans, pears, and vegetables. They lived on the farm for almost 70 years and filled the area around their cottage with gardens of camellias, azaleas and native plants. The cottage, outbuildings, and 11 acres of land were willed to the Georgia Southern University after Dan Bland’s death in 1985.
The garden has many small obstacles starting with large, loose gravel in the parking lot. Other problems are uneven brick paving, roots on the trails, deep mulch on the trails, and steps at every room in the mule barn blocking access to the exhibits. Visiting without having someone to give assistance when needed would be a frustrating experience.
Friday, December 8, 2017
Magnolia Springs was the site of a Civil War prison camp built to alleviate the extremely crowed conditions at the notorious prison camp in Andersonville, Ga. The camp was in use for about six weeks in which time more than 700 men - out of a population of over 10,000 - died due to insufficient rations, inadequate housing, damaging exposure, and poor medical care. The camp was abandoned and the prisoners moved on November 22, 1864, four days before Sherman’s troops marched into the area.
The earthworks of the fort are the only evidence left of the camp. Small artifacts excavated in 2010 by Georgia Southern University students are exhibited in history center. The park also has a campground and trails but we did not check them out.
The history center is accessible. Stop at the park visitor center to get a key for the center door.
Tuesday, December 5, 2017
The center traces the history of the Augusta Canal, built over two years from 1845-1847 and enlarged in 1875. During the Civil War water from the canal powered the two mile long Confederate States Powder Works. Textile mills, saw mills, grist mills, and an ironworks were also powered by the canal. The textile mills began closing in the 1960s and the canal suffered from neglect. Fortunately local citizens and federal and state governments worked together to clean the canal and the tow paths which now support guided boats tours, paddling, and kayaking in the canals and bicycling, walking, and running along the trails.
The mills provided housing and preferred large families because the children could be put to work at low wages.
The Discovery Center is located in the Enterprise Mill building(now a thriving office, retail, and residential center) which was in use for over 100 years. The center offers daily boat tours. The history exhibits are free with a boat tour or tickets can be purchased separately.
The boat tours are not accessible due to steps. The exhibits are accessible. Follow the sidewalk along Greene Street, at the north side of the mill, to access a paved section of the canal trail.
A small parking lot is located on the west side of the mill building, close to the center entrance. This lot is not large enough for most RVs so it’s best to park in the east lot. Center 33.47834, -81.98269