This review covers our most recent camping trip to Vogel State Park.
Campground: Vogel State Park
Nights Camping: 5 (July 8 to 13, 2017)
Nearest City: Blairsville, GA
Space Number: 34
Hookups: Water/Electric/No Sewer
Cost per Night: $32
Likes: Our spot was very private and next to a babbling creek. There were very few bugs and infrequent rain. The temperatures were in the 70s and 80s during the day and down in the 60s at night. Very clean with campsites well maintained. Absolutely stunning scenery!
Dislikes: First-come-first-serve check in process is not really fair to out-of-state campers with no local knowledge. The dump stations are not very sanitary because there are constant puddles around the drains and the hoses are not elevated off the ground.
Notes: There is a big lake for canoeing and fishing. The hike around the lake is about one mile. There are many wonderful excursions accessible directly from Vogel State Park including the Byron Herbert Reece Nature Trail, The Bear Hair Gap Trail, and the hike to the top of Blood Mountain on the Appalachian Trail. Within a short drive there is Helton Creek Falls. Blairsville, GA is a nice little town with places to eat. Bobby and Kathleen, Katie and Miguel, and Charlie all joined us for this vacation (Stevie was working). Kourtney, Tyler, and Ansleigh (our neice, nephew, and great neice) came to see us from Clemson one afternoon. We had a blast!
My son, Bobby, and I decided that we would take it upon ourselves to perform all the required maintenance on our 2015 Jayco Jay Flight 23RB Travel Trailer. We had difficulty finding a high-quality list of items to check so we surveyed the systems on the camper and developed our own list. It is my hope that we can help other camper owners finding themselves in a similar situation, and even add to this list next year based on comments and feedback received.
Here are some stats on our camper:
Years Owned: 2 years
Total Mileage: 4876 miles
Total Nights Camping: 79 Nights Camping
For the record, here is a list of all of the systems on which we performed preventative maintenance:
Configured backup assist
The backup assist on the F150 is useless. However, I really like the configurable blind spot detection
Removed Gear Rust
Used wire brush and Rustoleum rust reformer
Lubricated ball and sway connectors
Used standard grease.
Hoses, connectors, and tanks in good repair
Wiped down tanks, hoses, and fittings
Took tanks to ACE Hardware and had them “topped off” for $14.
Noticed some rust starting. That will need to be removed and painted next year.
Notices small holes and cracks starting in the seals. Will need to repair with Eternabond tape in the near future and definitely by next year.
Sealed all issues with DAP Clear. Also sealed down seam in front of camper. Used a full 10″ tube of DAP.
Some rust developing on stabilizers that will need to be dealt with in the future. Stabilizers will be difficult to disassemble. Considering replacing when these become unserviceable.
Sprayed liberally with silicone lubricant.
Painted rusted areas with Rustoleum Rust Reformer.
Sprayed hinges with silicone lubricant.
Followed recommended procedure to drain, sanitized, flush, and refill the fresh water system. I may write a separate blog detailing that process.
Poured iced in tank before pulling camper to campground. Used internal sprinker system until tank ran completely clear. Sanitized tank using standard process.
Wiped down all gear (hoses, fittings, storage box) with Clorox wipes
Hot Water (Gas)
Lit and ran hot water heater on gas
Cleaned using vacuum and compressed air
Lit and ran refrigerator on gas
Cleaned using vacuum and compressed air
Lit and ran stove on gas
Cleaned filter. Bobby disassembled the unit on the roof and we could find no other filters. Unit running well.
Sprayed with Simple Green to kill mildew
Some rust on screw heads, etc.
Sprayed liberally all joints and moving parts with silicone lubricant.
Inspected rubber, hubs, and suspension. No issues.
Dexter EZ-Lube hubs were easy to re-grease by following instructions on YouTube.
This review covers our most recent camping trip to Paynes Prairie.
Campground: Paynes Prairie
Nights Camping: 5
Nearest City: Gainesville, FL
Space Number: 46
Hookups: Water/Electric/No Sewer
Cost per Night: $23
Likes: Our spot was very secluded. We experienced virtually no bugs. Weather and temperature could not have been better. Lots of dogs for Sophie to meet. Very clean with campsites well maintained. Courteous campers. Weather was beautiful. Clear and cool.
Dislikes: Space 46 is difficult to back into. The water hose at the pump out station was not working so I could not run the internal black tank sprinkler. Also, the camp ground needs to arrange to have the recycling picked up more often.
Notes: Becca and I camped here in our Jayco Jay Flight 23RB travel trailer. We brought our Cairn Terrier, Sophie with us. Even though the spot was difficult to back into, I would choose it again due to the seclusion. The “kids” came down from Gainesville and we had a great time.
Human Impact: Heavy impact due to proximity to Gainesville, FL
Location: Paynes Prairie, FL
Start: La Chua Trail parking lot
End: La Chua Trail parking lot
Dates: April 9, 2017
Becca (my wife), Bobby (my eldest son), Katie (my daugher), Miguel (Katie’s boyfriend), Stevie (my 2nd son), and I hiked this very easy, but very interesting trail. The interesting part is that you can get VERY CLOSE to nature. The hike is an out-and-back that goes from the self-pay parking lot, out to an observation tower, and back. Parking costs $4.00 per vehicle on an honor system. Full disclosure on this hike is that you can get way closer to alligators than some people would feel comfortable. However, the wildlife on this hike is amazing. Here are some of the highlights:
Wild horses roam free and even walk on the trail with you. We saw several colts.
There were many many large alligators. One of the park rangers told us that there has been a recent rash of cannibalism. In fact, right before we arrived there one alligator had just killed another and was eating it as we watched. Note this is NOT like Bass Pro because there is no fence between you and the gators.
Here is a picture of Wild Horses and an alligator in the same picture!! If you increase the size of the picture you can see the alligator in the middle.
In the picture below you can see a lot of alligators basking in the sun on the bank.
We could see Bison off in the distance from the observation tower. We took this picture from our monocular.
On the hike out there was an armadillo on the trail. It did not seem at all afraid of us.
Likes: Nice and helpful staff. Clean. Courteous campers. Weather was beautiful. Clear and cool. No bugs.
Dislikes: Utility pedestal was on the wrong side so we had to use extensions. Also, this particular space was very narrow.
Notes: Becca and I camped here in our Jayco Jay Flight 23RB travel trailer. We brought our Cairn Terrier, Sophie with us. We hiked Scout Island and had a great time. I purchased a 50 ft 30 amp extension and a 50 ft hose extension from the Long Point store for $70. That was better than making the 1.5 hr round trip to Walmart on the mainland. Funny thing that my GPS showed Walmart as only three miles away, but you would have to swim to get there!
Notes: I embarked on my Foothills Trail adventure in early September. It was still quite warm in the Carolinas during the day so to avoid some of the heat my routine was to get up as early as 0430 and start hiking by 0500. Normally, I would start out hiking in the bottom of a valley I had camped in the night before. With all of the tree cover and no sun, the visibility in the early morning hours was horrible with real potential to lose track of the blazes and get lost. This head lamp was my first line of defense against getting lost. My second line of defense was my Garmin Fenix 3 HR GPS watch, but I will save that for another post. My third line of defense was my satellite messaging device (http://www.anthonygalluscio.com/anthony-galluscio-satellite-communicator/).
As my first line of defense against getting lost, this headlamp worked really well. Between the spot light, flood light, and dimmer controls I was able to have the brightness I needed when I needed it to find those hard to see blazes. I used this light for a couple of hours every morning and replaced the batteries only once towards the end of the hike.
Pros: Lightweight, comfortable to wear, configurable, water resistant, and very bright.
Model: Quark 30F Down Sleeping Bag, Long Size, Cinder/Citronelle
Weight: 27.875 oz
Notes: I embarked on my Foothills Trail adventure in early September. It was still quite warm with the potential to get cool at night. This was the perfect bag for that trip because it is comfortable to sleep in or on depending on your needs. On my thru-hike, it turned out to be rather warm and I found sleeping on this bag to be very comfortable. The bag packs up very small and does not add too much pack weight.
Since returning from the foothills trail I have had the opportunity to use this sleeping bag on a winter trip in the Florida Panhandle. You can see my blog from that trip at: http://www.anthonygalluscio.com/florida-trail-aucilla-river-hike/. On that hike it was rather cool at night (in the 40s F) and I was very comfortable.
Pros: Comfortable in warm or cool weather, light weight, very well constructed, packs up small.
Cons: May not really keep you warm under 40 degrees F.
Notes: Before I left on my Foothills Trail thru-hike, a friend of mine who is an outdoor recreation lover from the great state of Wisconsin, convinced me that I should bring a satellite communicator. She said that if not for my peace of mind, then I should do it for the peace of mind of my friends and family. I really can’t argue with that.
When you set up the device you can invite people to follow you on the map. So, I invited members of my family and close friends to track my progress. I set the device to send a ping every 10 minutes. It seemed to work well as long as I had a clear view of the sky. If I was on a trail in dense forest there would be a longer time between pings. However, my friends and family were able to track my general progress.
Another feature of the device, and the associated paid plan, is that you can send an unlimited number of up to three different static text messages. Those are messages that you design in advance. My three messages were, “Getting started,” Doing okay,” and “Stopping for the day.” I also had a max of 50 free form text messages that I could send. I went way over that limit communicating with my wife, Becca, and ended up paying fees. You can get all of the information on plans and pricing on the Garmin website. The device is text only with no voice capability.
One very important feature of the device is what I call the “come get me” feature. If you unlock the safety and press the button, the nearest emergency rescue team will be alerted that you are in trouble. Luckily, I did not need that!
I really did not want to take this unit along, but I am glad I did if it gave others peace of mind. The pros are that it is light, has good battery life, and allows you to stay in touch with friends and family. The cons are that if you don’t have a clear sky, not sending pings may alarm folks back home. Overall, I would rate the device as “good.”
Notes: I have now hiked over 100 miles using these Black Diamond trekking poles. Originally, when I was prepping for my Foothills Trail thru-hike, my daughter, Katie, had to talk me into adding trekking poles to my gear list (Thanks Katie, I love you). I don’t know why but for some reason I had put trekking poles in the same category as umbrellas and snuggies, neither of which you normally see Marines use. Wow, was I wrong! These trekking poles quite literally saved my life twice that I can think of when I was miles from nowhere. Also, these poles help me keep my balance when my spinal arthritis invariably flares up.
The first time these trekking poles saved my life, I was hiking along the foothills trail alone in the morning when the sun was just starting to break the horizon. I felt the pole hit something that moved rapidly. I stopped dead in my tracks as saw that I had just hit a copperhead with my trekking pole. If I had not had the trekking poles, I would have hit that snake with my foot and I probably would have been bitten. See below for a picture I took.
The second instance when the trekking poles saved my life is actually a category containing many instances where I would likely have lost my balance without the poles. There were many times when I was negotiating steps or a dead-fall on a steep incline. When I would lose my footing, I would invariably catch myself using one of the poles. Imagine taking a tumble down the steps below and waiting a couple days for someone to come along. With these poles I avoided that!
While the instances above describe when the trekking poles “saved my life”, I supposed that could be said for any type of poles. However, these poles are outstanding. The pros are that they are lightweight, adjustable for any hiker, easy to set up, comfortable, and very durable. The only con is that you have to make sure you have the tension set properly on the screws that keep the poles from collapsing or the poles will get progressively shorter as you use them. Once you overcome that, there is nothing else negative I can think of to say about these poles. These poles are excellent and I would not go hiking without them.
I met my son (Bobby), my daughter (Katie), and Katie’s boyfriend (Miguel) for a very scenic hike of the Aucilla River Section of the Florida Trail. The “kids” live in Gainesville, FL so I met them there and we caravanned to the Southern Trailhead where we left my truck. We then drove to the Northern Trailhead and hiked south from there.
We started out hiking down an access road. We missed the first trail marker and ended up hiking about a mile out of the way. However, once we got onto the actual trail the orange blazes were easy to follow. The only time it was at all difficult was at the very beginning when we were hiking through some controlled burn areas and some of the orange blazes had turned white. Once we realized that, it was not a problem.
The Northern Section primarily follows the winding Aucilla river. There are some beautiful views of the river and you are rarely ever far from the river.
About half way through the first day we came to some rapids that seemed bigger than other rapids I have seen in Florida.
One of the landmarks you will pass along the way is Burnt Bridge. You can’t miss it.
We decided not to camp at the South Aucilla River Camp Site. That camp site was quite littered with beer cans and paper. Needless to say we moved on up the trail to a cleaner campsite.
The next morning we got a late start because we only had 6.4 miles to go. This is where it really starts to get interesting. The river actually disappears under ground. We saw a large beaver here making its home in the driftwood and debris. Note there is a lot of trash that floats down the river and collects here. We marked this site mentally for a possible future cleanup.
Hiking the South section of the trail there are many many places where the river reappears, called “sinks.” We lost count of the sinks and the scenery on this section of the hike makes the hike worth it. Here are some noteworthy pictures.
The Aucilla Sink Campground is really nice. There is even a bench there!
After leaving the Aucilla Sink Camp site we hiked through some beautiful pine tree and palmetto forest.
We got back to my truck around noon on the second day. This was a good hike. We ended at Longsuffering Road. Hilarious!