I was born and raised in the mountains and have always felt a connection to them. Although visiting the beaches of the Gulf coast was fun, I have been aching to see mountains again. The last time we were in the mountains was in Big Bend National Park before Christmas and to me that is a long time. The kids were a little surprised when we crested a hill and I saw mountains because I let out a joyous call. The forested hills of Georgia were very pretty, but these were mountains and I knew that soon we would be in the Great Smokey Mountains!
It is unusual for us to stay in only a single campsite when visiting a state, but in South Carolina one stop was perfect, we saw all that we had hoped to see. We stayed at an RV park called Barnyard RV. It was not great, but we made due for a week. The only good thing about it was its location. It was a quick drive into Columbia and less than two hours for us to get to the beach. Other than that it was noisy, the Wi-Fi was virtually non-existent, and the roads were littered with pot holes, just to name a few of the down sides. Despite the site being sub-standard we still managed to have a great time while visiting Columbia, South Carolina.
I have always enjoyed hiking in the forest and our entire time in Georgia was spent in the woods. Our campsite near Atlanta was a state park called High Falls. It was a beautiful place with a dam that created a waterfall as well as some more natural lower falls. The campsites were large with plenty of room for our rig, and some beautiful hiking trails we were able to enjoy. For some strange reason we had overnight neighbors come and go during our stay, but we had multiple empty camp sites all around us. That coupled with the huge grass area behind our camp allowed the kids to really enjoy running around in camp. The laundry and showers were just a short walk up the road and the end of the loop was empty of campers, so the kids could ride their scooters way further than we normally allow.
Savannah Georgia was our destination after leaving Florida. We were all excited to see this historical city, and we were not disappointed. The buildings and layout of the historical district is wonderful. It is easy to walk the entire area, but if walking is not your thing or you are physically unable to they also provide a free bus service with many stops all around the district. We first stopped by the visitor center where parking is free for the first hour only. They have many resources and friendly staff that were happy to answer all of our questions. We were there on a Friday so we parked at metered parking because it is free after five and on the weekends. We enjoyed seeing all the old buildings and just walking around.
Mosquitoes. Lot’s and lot’s of mosquitoes. Yes Everglades National Park is known for having mosquitoes, but all the other amazing things we were able to see and do while we were there made it bearable. We stayed on the gulf side of the park as well as staying at the Long Pine Key campground within the park boundaries. I don’t usually need bug spray, but I did have to apply it several times while staying in the park campground (we went through two whole bottles). There are so many things to do in Everglades, even if you don’t have a boat. We saw a ton of wildlife, walked several trails, visited the Nike Missile Base, and attended a ranger talk one evening. Of course a trip to the Everglades wouldn’t be complete without renting a canoe and rowing down a mangrove lined canal.
One of the greatest aspects of our adventure is seeing family that we haven’t seen in decades. We were able to see my aunt in St. Petersburg and the visit was wonderful. We took a stroll down memory lane and visited the gift shop my parents used to own at John’s Pass. We had our first dolphin sighting, which everyone was really excited about. During our stay we also took a trolley ride and the driver was hilarious, so everyone had a blast. The pool was a little cool as a cold snap had just come through, but there wasn’t any snow and the kids did brave going in for a little swim. It was great to get to reconnect with family and we were happy to be able to see my aunt.
It was a busy day inside the capitol building since we happened to arrive on opening day of the legislative session. The university was there with some interesting displays about the history and archaeology from around the state. We were all interested in learning about some of the different ways that the natives used shells for tools. After looking over the displays we decided to take the elevator up to the top. Like the capitol building in Louisiana, you can go all the way to the 22nd floor and look out over the whole town. It isn’t quite as tall as Louisiana’s but you can still get a great view of the city. They had some plaques around that labeled the different buildings in view and it was fun to try to spot them. After seeing the whole city we took the elevator down to wandered around some of the other floors. We got to see the House Chamber just after their session had ended for the day, and we also got a good view looking down on the state seal. It was a really nice building and we were excited to see what the old capitol would look like.
We rarely mention RV parks that we stay at on our blog, but the Sunburst RV Resort was so spectacular that we just have to talk about it. Although the pool was closed when we visited, the hot tub was still open so we took advantage of it, twice. After a long day on the road it was nice to soak away the stress. As an added bonus we met a nice couple from New York that we hit it off with. They met us again when we visited the hot tub a second time and they also loved the park. Both of our groups have extensive travel experience and we know it can be hard to find a great camp site. Although it was a bit of a drive to visit Pensacola from the park, it was well worth it because the manager truly cared about the people in the park. She was working non-stop to please someone the entire time we were there, yet she still found time to help the kids make hiking sticks and survival bracelets. She provided the materials and spent a few hours on two occasions doing crafts with the kids. Of all the campsites we have visited, she is the only host that we invited to dinner! The park was spotless and everything was in tip top shape, even the two swimming pools. This place was just amazing and if you are ever in the area, we recommend wholeheartedly that you spend sometime here. It is a short drive to the beach, the Naval Aviation Museum, the Gulf Island National Seashore and more. Our neighbor at the park was from Cape Cod and seemed super happy with the park. Yes when everyone at the park is smiling and in a good mood you know management is doing something right. Trish is a super star and one of the nicest managers we have met on the road! Good work needs to be called out and people like her that go above and beyond the call of duty are rare.
In order to see the Everglades while Rangers programs are still going on, we had to postpone seeing Alabama and Mississippi till later. Instead we just drove right on through to Florida and stopped north of Pensacola for a short stay. We found a campsite that was so great I will be doing a post just about them, so stay tuned. Pensacola was very pretty and everyone enjoyed our time in the area.
Things often work out in unexpected ways, like being in New Orleans for Mardi Gras. This was never in our plans when we decided to tour the country, it just kind of worked out that way. The Carnival celebration of Mardi Gras is often portrayed as being more of an adult type of celebration. People getting crazy, drinking, and other un-family friendly activities are what many people associate with Mardi Gras. These things probably do happen, but the Mardi Gras we experienced was not like that at all. It focused on parades, families, crowds, and good times being had by all. It is really about the floats and their themes. These floats are so cool and so well designed, it’s hard to believe they put so much work into them just for this one celebration. The parades were awesome and the throws were crazy, it’s like no other parade we have ever experienced.. They throw out so much stuff (not just beads)! We left after only seeing one of the parade krewes because we had bags full of stuff, it was so incredible. The kids were having so much fun trying to get the good loot that we couldn’t help but let them. All the people on the floats (krewes) wear costumes and masks or paint their faces. It was an amazing experience to be there and I am so glad that we somehow ended up being a part of it.