On our last leg of the trip, we realize state park camping is our favorite way to RV camp. Since we have no reservations for the trip home, I start researching possible spots to land.
Santa Rosa State Park looks good. It hits all of our hot buttons. Hiking trails, electric & water hookups, a dump station & it is almost empty. We are finding state parks usually have some kind of hookups, great hiking trails, a dump station and are quiet.
Santa Rosa State Park
By staying at a state park campground with a lake, you are almost always going to see waterfowl. We pull into Santa Rosa State Park on a Friday night and find it about half full. Our spot has a great view of the lake and we decide to do a short hike before dark. But where does the trail start? Let’s ask the camp hosts.
Most state parks have hosts who live at the park in their RV for 2 weeks to several months. In return for a free spot to park, they work about 20 hours a week keeping the campground clean, helping novice’s like us & even selling firewood.
Our hosts are an older couple and we learn they have been there for almost 2 years! The pandemic hit, the park closed to all traffic in & out & they just stayed. For almost a year, they had no visitors! They point us in the direction of our trail & off we go.
Cactuses or cacti?
While we don’t see any waterfowl, yellow tree cholia, cane prickly pear and desert Christmas cacti compete for our attention on our hike. But is it cactuses or cacti? It turns out both words are correct although the word cacti is used more often in written form & cactuses is used when speaking. Now we know!
So how do we identify all these varieties? We use our trusty “Picture This” app on our phone. We have tried a bunch of plant identification apps, but we like this one the best. It is 95% accurate & gives us some info about each plant. Plus you can save the plant to look at later.
One of the only cactuses we have in North Carolina is the prickly pear. And yes, it is native which surprised us. It turns out the prickly pear cactus paddles have a chemical much like antifreeze which keeps them from freezing in the winter in colder climates, like ours.
But back to these desert cacti. The yellow tree cholia is spectacular. And what about the spines on the cactus. Do they serve any purposes except to keep us from touching it?
Of course, Mother Nature has it all figured out. The spines do keep predators away, like us, but they also help the cacti keep cool, drink water & reduce evaporation.
Incredibly, each spine provides a tiny bit of shade for the cactus helping keep it cool in the hot desert sun. And the spines collect dew which drops to the soil so the cacti can drink. Pretty cool. For more info, read 4 Reasons Cacti are Spikey.
In pursuit of white pelicans
A friend of ours from Tryon is about a week ahead of us in their RV. Since she knows we are looking for wildlife, she texts us “white pelicans at Foss State Park”. It sounds perfect for our next state park camping.
But the pelicans must have just left as there are none to be found when we arrive. So we find katydids instead. And what exactly is a katydid? With over 6,000 species, they are most closely related to crickets & grasshoppers. And who counts all these insect species? 6,000 is a lot of bugs to catalog.
The katydids are named for the noise they make which sounds like katy-did, katy-didn’t over & over. Since they mostly eat plant leaves, some consider them garden pests. We love them for their color and sounds. And I wonder if Crayola ever named a crayon after the green color, katydid green?
Eufaula State Park
During the late fall/winter season most of the state park campgrounds will let you ride around & pick your spot. At Lake Eufaula State Park in Oklahoma, I call ahead and they will be closed before we can get there. “Just find a spot & come pay for it in the morning,” says the ranger on the phone.
This is both a good and bad thing. Good in that we can have any vacant campsite we want & bad because it takes us forever to find the right spot. I’m sure people wonder why these idiots keep driving around and around the state park campground.
We evaluate each campsite: too close to the bathrooms, not level, kids are yelling in the RV next door and/or the playground is just feet away. We finally settle on our first 2 story campsite which is very cool and away from everyone else.
Should we have a campfire or not?
Having only our third campfire of the trip seems strange since we are almost home. But is a campfire a good thing?
Certainly, smelling the wood as it burns is wonderful & to sit around and chat is so relaxing…However, not to be a buzzkill, but things to consider.
A fire does release carbon dioxide into the air.
Wood gathered at the site may have been a home for some critter.
Bringing your own wood can transport insects such as the emerald ash borer which kills ash trees.
Some wildfires are started by campfires.
What about all those stars overhead?
We love a good fire so we just suggest not transporting wood between locations & making sure your fire is out before turning in for the night. Plus you might see the Milky Way or a shooting star without a fire!
An Airstream only campground?
Our last stop on our 6-week trip is at an Airstream-only park, the Tennessee Cumberland Plateau Campground. Having never stayed at a campground that only allows Airstreams, we don’t really know what to expect.
When we arrive, we see all sorts of airstream trailers, some vintage & others brand new. Each one is parked next to a porch or some kind of outbuilding. Almost all have patios.
Welcome to the timeshare world of campgrounds. Most people own their lot, leave their trailers at the campground & visit whenever they can.
Tonight, we were the only motorhome visiting & it turns out all the visitor spots are full. But no worries, they will find a spot for us.
While not the levelest site we have had, we are tucked into the woods next to a patio. If the dead plants on the patio were removed, it would feel a little homier. But the guy next door stops over to see if we need anything and we spend a quiet, restful night.
There is no place like home!
I am not sure who is the happiest to be home, Dale or me. But I know Gibbs is ecstatic. He gets out of the Underdog & is full throttle running through the house. This is heaven for him, space to run & run & run!
Everything looks the same. The garden is a little overgrown, but the trees are a blaze of oranges, reds & yellows. We are home just in time for the fall colors. Ah, there is no place like home!
Next up, Florida with red wolves, manatees & more state park camping. But first a break for the holidays.