We are on our way to Jeckyll Island for a few days of camping! I’m so excited to ride my bike and just soak in the beauty of this quaint little island!
There is a beach here called Driftwood Beach. I love it! It’s one of the most beautiful beach scenes. This beach is the only reason I wanted to come here. At least it was when we came for the first time last Summer. It was a quick getaway for just my husband and I. It’s almost shocking when you walk down the path that leads to the beach and see all the dead trees on the beach. They are enormous. All the bark is stripped. Roots are exposed. Some still stand upright but most are scattered along the beach laying horizontally, just where the storms blew them many years ago. The salt has preserved them. How can this be so beautiful? What draws people to come to this place where dead trees are scattered on the shoreline? I believe there is so much to be revealed here in this place.
There is something so beautiful about a tree. Have you ever just stopped to look at a tree? At a really large tree with roots growing near the surface? Some have deep roots and some are very shallow. What makes them grow in such a way? The beautiful Southern Live Oaks found along the coastline, can endure some amazing wind speeds and flooding. They are securely planted by the immense root systems that provide stability and life giving nutrients to the tree. Stepping out onto the beach, taking in the scene before me, I was careful to not overlook the details of the trees. Each one is so carefully carved. The largest of the trees had enormous root systems. Some were interwoven with other trees and they had fallen together on the shore. The largest root systems had kept their tree upright, even as the entire root system was exposed.
All of this reminds me of what the Bible says about roots and being rooted:
Ezekiel 31:7 (NIV) It was majestic in beauty, with its spreading boughs, for its roots went down to abundant waters.
Romans 11:18 (NIV) do not consider yourself to be superior to those other branches. If you do, consider this: You do not support the root, but the root supports you.
Ephesians 3:17 (NIV) so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp howwide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ,
Colossians 2:7 (NIV)rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.
I want this so much for my life, for my children, my friends and for you: To be rooted in the abundant waters of the Lord’s unfailing love and mercy; To be humble with others, allowing God himself to lead, strengthen and establish His work in you all your days; And to be strengthened in your faith until you are overflowing with thankfulness.
Today, I am thankful for a few days at the beach. I am thankful for time to reflect on the goodness of God as I soak in the stunning scenes of His creation that surround me in the peaceful place. I am thankful He is near. There is so very much to be thankful for. And that is something beautiful.
Last summer was full of adventure for our family! Our summer began with a mission trip to Belize and ended with a surprise trip to Texas. My husband’s job required that he travel to Texas for at least a month, so he loaded up the RV and headed to Texas with our two dogs. Noah and I had to be home for classes on Mondays so we flew back and forth to stay with Jamey. 14 hours away from home for almost two months working in the heat of Texas summer with fire retardant clothing, gloves and a hard hat. I am thankful Noah and I could visit. Truly. But this was so, so hard. Home doesn’t feel like home when Jamey’s not there. And when we were in Texas he was working 10-12 hour days with no time off. So behind the beautiful, fun pics is just a family trying to make the most of a rough time. Things aren’t always what they seem. We were thankful it worked out that we could still be together as a family even if we didn’t get to see him much, as he was working to cover two shifts every day at the job site.
This was our first trip to the Texas coast. We stayed at Blue Water Rv Resort located on the Blue Water Highway, just south of Galveston Island. Here is the link: http://www.bluewaterrvpark.com – Location was the reason Jamey chose this Resort. It was fairly close to the job site. There’s no shade to speak of here. The park has Canal front, Wetland view or Ocean view sites available. They also have a few “cabins” for rent. The Wetland view is nice- the water comes up with the tide and the sunrise is lovely with this view. The Ocean view is right on the highway so we didn’t stay in one of these sites. We stayed August- September so there wasn’t much traffic, except weekends and Labor Day, but I’m sure summer is packed. They have a traffic counter when you cross over the bridge and only allow a certain number on the island at a time. Locals said that in the summer the wait to get back on the island can be long.
We loved staying on the Canal! We had a little dock to fish from and the sunsets here are stunning!
The Rv resort has a nice canal front swimming pool, covered picnic area by the pool, a game room with ping pong/ game tables/ TV and a decent little restaurant onsite. We did our school work in the shade by the pool on most days.
Beach access is just across the two lane Bluewater Highway. There are several places along the highway where you can access the beach by car! We are so accustomed to super soft Florida gulf sand- it was a real treat to drive on the beach here! We saw several people with their RV or tents on the beach camping. According to the county beach rules, you can camp FREE on the beach. No water, electricity or sewer available but it would be fun to spend a weekend camping on the beach. We drove on the beach a couple of times. Once we had a campfire and played Bocce Ball. Noah and I taught our dog Lila to swim in the waves! Taking the dogs to the beach was great fun and the RV resort had a nice dog wash area in their dog park so we could rinse them off on our way back each day. There are lots of golf cart rentals in the area too. They will even deliver them! You can drive golf carts on the beach and most of the access ramps will accommodate golf carts. We planned to rent one but Jamey only had one day off during the trip so we spent that day in Galveston Island instead.
My two favorite things here were riding bikes on the beach and fishing. I LOVE fishing! The men in the park were probably annoyed with me because I asked them all what they were fishing for and what they were fishing with. I met a nice older gentleman in Walmart who gave me some great tips on where to fish and what to fish with. Turns out we were in the perfect location to catch Red Fish, Sea Trout and Blue Crabs! I enjoy fishing even when I’m not catching anything. It’s so peaceful and relaxing! Blue Crabs were abundant in the canal so we had crab cakes too!
I did finally catch a decent sea trout, so we had to cook it for dinner. It was delicious! It doesn’t get any fresher than straight from the sea to the frying pan!
Jamey finally got a day off! We headed to Galveston Island to check out the historic area known as The Strand. The lovely architecture has endured many tropical storms and even hurricanes. I highly recommend a visit to LaKings Confectioners Shop if you are in the area. There are so many great restaurants and museums in the area. With limited time here, we missed out on some of the things we wanted to see but we had a really great day!
Our trip ended abrubtly two days before our scheduled departure due to an incoming tropical storm.
The winds were horrendous at the onset of the storm. Our RV shook in the storm. Hour by hour I became more and more nervous about staying on the island as the canal began to flood. Jamey decided it was time to leave. We packed everything as quickly as we could in the torrential rains. We headed home within an hour of the decision to leave. Shortly after leaving we learned that the storm had been upgraded to a hurricane and was named Imelda. The storm made landfall near Freeport, Texas and caused 5 billion dollars in damage. We made our way safely to Louisiana for the night, then continued on to Tennessee the next day. Home never looked so good! So thankful for God’s protection over us as we traveled home!
I would definitely visit Freeport, Texas again. Galveston Island was a little too crowded for my taste but another day trip would be nice! Maybe next time we will just go for fun and even stay a few days in our RV on the beach!
Psalm 121:5 The Lord watches over you—the Lord is your shade at your right hand; 6 the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. 7The Lord will keep you from all harm—he will watch over your life; 8 the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.
Throughout my childhood, my family spent a week or two camping in this park every summer. The hot summer days were spent swimming in the Gulf of Mexico with our “campground” friends. We met families who camped at the same time every year. They became my pen-pals and we looked forward to seeing each other every summer. One particular family, from Louisiana, became great friends. Between my family, my cousins, and our friends from Louisiana, we had a group of 16 kids riding bikes, playing cards or swimming together for endless hours. We camped in our van, in tents, in a camper- just whatever we had to do to get there. After dinner each night, we would drive to the parking area and lug all our fishing gear to “the point” to go fishing. Some summers we all caught our limit of Red fish. Our friends from Louisiana liked to crab so between our fish and their crab we had quite a feast!
I could go on and on about the great memories I have of this place! Just look at that white sand and emerald water! The sand is so soft, it’s like powder between your toes! And the water- it’s almost always crystal clear. Because it is part of the National Seashore and a National Park, you have to pay to enter the park. This helps keep the crowds down. When we go in Spring, we basically have the entire beach to ourselves.
Fort Pickens National Park campsites are available through this site :
They offer tent, rv, and group campsites. There is no sewer at this park, but they do have clean bath houses with showers available. A few years ago the park was hit hard by a hurricane that took out the roads and most of the trees. There are still some trees but nothing like before the storm. They rebuilt the entire infrastructure. There are great little bike/walking trails between the camping loops. One trail goes all the way to the old fort and the fishing pier. Another trail goes in the opposite direction to a boat launch and picnic area.
There is so much to explore here! Fort Pickens really is an old fort full of rich American history. I highly recommend going on a free guided tour of the fort. The structure itself is something to behold!
The final recommendation I have for this area is actually a 45 minute drive from the park, but it is so worth it! This is my favorite museum- it’s so much fun for kids! They can climb in the cockpits of airplanes, helicopters, and even a retired Blue Angel jet! Check out the website to see when the Blue Angels are home because you can even go watch them practice! Their flight pattern is right over the beach and campground at Fort Pickens so even if you don’t go there to watch them, chances are you will get to see them if they are home.
Remember the early days in your marriage, when you cherished each moment together? I believe you can hold onto that! My husband and I have been married for 26 years. We have definitely had our ups and downs, but we have WORKED to stay close. One way that we accomplish this is “running away together”. Sometimes it is a spontaneous trip, but most of the time it is something I plan. It doesn’t have to be elaborate! Sometimes we just go camping for a couple of days without the kids. Sometimes we go on a 3 day cruise. Sometimes we go to a cabin in the Smokey Mountains. The important thing is to get away together! There are so many distractions in life and we need to take time to cherish each other. We haven’t always been financially able to do this, but even in our early days we would just go for a drive or hike to get away for a few hours together. Go on an adventure together- be silly and spontaneous and laugh and love each other the way God intended! The most important investment you can make for your family is in your relationship with each other.
Last summer we visited Jeckyll Island, Georgia. I’ll never understand why I have never been to this wonderful place! We stayed at Villas By the Sea for under $110 per night. It is a nice resort with condos ranging from a studio (like the one we stayed in) to 3 bedroom units. It is located in close proximity to Driftwood Beach which was the primary reason I wanted to visit this place. It was amazing! Although we had lots of rain, we ventured out on our bikes to explore the island via the bike trail that borders the entire island. I love to ride bikes. Usually I get bummed by rain but this time we just rode in the rain- we were caught in a torrential downpour at one point! It was so refreshing to just seize the day!
We did drive to St. Mary’s, GA to take the ferry to Cumberland Island National Park where you can visit the ruins of an old plantation and see wild horses that live on the island. This is a place I have wanted to visit for several years. I love history, beaches and wildlife so when I read about it I knew we had to go! We took our bikes and a picnic lunch to spend the day on the island. August is probably not the best time to go, since it was extremely hot and muggy. We took the trail to the beach first. We rode our bikes down the beach and along most of the trails on the island. I can’t imagine walking instead of riding, as it was a long way. We visited the plantation ruins and read about the history, we saw the beautiful, wild horses. We picnicked and laughed. It was a wonderful day!
Jeckyll Island has a wonderful historic district. I loved riding our bikes through the streets, looking at the historic home, shops, and restaurants. The old oak trees are thick with moss, their branches reaching to the ground in beautiful arches. I’m really not sure which area on the island was more lovely. Between Driftwood Beach, the gorgeous marsh, the historic district and the beachfront- it was all a wonder to behold!
On our last night, we decided to try the Wharf. It’s a local restaurant on the marsh side of the island and located in the historic district. We rode our bikes 5 1/2 miles to eat dinner, planning our time to insure we would be riding back before dark. Much to our surprise, we were seated in a reasonable time. The sunset was remarkable!
The Wharf did not disappoint in their cuisine. We enjoyed a delicious dinner! Much to our dismay, it took so long to get our food that our plan to bike back to the condo before dark disappeared like the setting sun. So on our last night, we embarked on one last bike adventure. We didn’t have a bike headlight. And in case you didn’t know, street lights are very uncommon on coastal islands. The lights interfere with nesting sea turtles so we had to find our way in the dark with our cell phone lighting the way. We found a shorter route to get back as quickly as possible. I wouldn’t change a thing! Living this adventure called life with my best friend by my side is truly a blessing I cherish. I challenge you to plan a getaway with your spouse and cherish each other always!
Ephesians 5:25 (NIV)Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her
Ephesians 5:33 (NIV)However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.
I love to look for shells on the beach! It was my daughter’s senior year in high school and we had decided to take a girls trip to the beach. I wanted to make some pictures of Madison’s name in the sand with a few pretty shells around it for her graduation invitations. After a short search for shells, I set about writing her name in the sand and trying to take the pics quickly before the waves came and washed it away. Again and again the waves came and washed her name away. Again and again I would re-write Madison in the sand and try to snap a picture before it was gone again. It made me think of how satan tries to write on our hearts and minds with his lies. You know the one’s I’m talking about? You will never be enough. You are a failure. You’re not pretty enough, not skinny enough, not smart enough, not adventurous enough. Not good enough. Those are words you will never find in the Bible. God’s Word says in Deuteronomy:
Deuteronomy 28:13 (NIV)The Lord will make you thehead, notthetail. If you pay attention to the commands of the Lord your God that I give you this day and carefully follow them, you will always be atthe top, never atthebottom.
And in Isaiah:
Isaiah 40:31 (NIV)but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.
When we stay in the word of God by reading the Bible and flow in the Holy Spirit, those things satan tries to call us are washed away. The enemy tries to use circumstances and moments to change us but God is continuously washing the slate clean. How I wish we could really grasp this! Oh how HE loves us!
Philippians 4:8 (NIV)Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
My prayer for you today is that no matter where you are right now, that you would know that you ARE enough. You are the head and not the tail. You are blessed, beautiful, and loved by a God who sent his only son to die just for you. THAT is how special you are to HIM!
From Signal Mountain, Tennessee to Key West Florida- 12 days, 2233 miles, 3 private RV resorts, 3 state parks- what an adventure! Kayaking canals, mangroves and springs; manatee, dolphins, sea turtles, sea urchins, star fish, snorkeling, ferry rides to private islands, coral reefs, feeding tarpon, the best seafood, delish key lime pie, street performers, “Catman”, long bike rides, beautiful beaches, sunrises and sunsets! Oh the memories we made!
This was the first of many long road trips. While most people wait until they retire to explore our beautiful nation, we decided to just do it. We set a budget and I set to work planning when and where we will go. Please know that if camping is not for you, there are always hotels, condos, and other rentals available. We just prefer camping. We love to be outside, to explore the trails available at State and National Parks. Although it is a little more work, there is a beautiful simplicity to camping. On this trip we moved campsites every two nights, so we mastered a quick set up and tear down routine, with each of us assigned a specific task.
The first part of planning a trip like this is deciding the main destination- which was the Florida Keys, specifically Key West. Since there are so many wonderful places to visit in Florida I researched the east and west coast to determine where we would stop every two nights, except the first stop in Valdosta. This allowed enough time in each stop to do some exploring and relax a little too.
Valdosta, GA- Just an over night stay at a roadside RV park with easy access from I-75
Crystal Isles RV Resort, near Kings Bay in Florida- $84 per night for full hookups- I chose this location so we could kayak the canal to Crystal River in hopes of seeing manatee. We did kayak the canal to the Crystal River but the boat traffic in the River seemed risky in our kayaks with the kids so we just explored the main entrance and the little canal along the campground. The resort is also close to Kings Bay where several other springs are located, including the Three Sisters Spring. The only way to see Three Sisters Spring is by kayak or by private boat (which can only take you to the entrance where you will have to swim the remaining distance). Out of all the Florida Springs I have visited only 7 and Three Sisters Spring is my favorite. It was quite an adventure getting there because we just put our kayaks in at Kings Bay and used our GPS to direct us as we Kayaked our way there. It ended up being a long paddle to get there but it was so worth it. We saw so many manatee on the way in! There were lots of tour boats in the canals but we were able to get into places they couldn’t and even had some manatee surface right beside our kayaks! There is a sign at the entrance to the spring from the canal and a gate to ensure no motor boats can get through. The water became more and more crystal clear as we approached the 3 spring heads. Snorkeling is highly recommended here because the water is so beautiful. Tall, lush trees and vegetation surround the border of the spring. It was a remarkable experience- one I hope to repeat sometime soon! I will say there is a much better location to launch from: Hunter Springs Park or Pete’s Pier Marina. We found these on a return visit a couple of years ago. There are two more springs close to those launch sites that are great to visit. I will share more about those in another post. The final recommendation for this two day stay is Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park. I visited this place when I was a child and it is such a special place! I highly recommend it because it is family friendly and a very quaint, natural way to experience manatee. Try to stay for a manatee feeding where you can go inside the stationary submarine and watch the manatee eat underwater. Such a wonderful little park! Follow the link below to learn more. Here are some photos from the Spring!
3. Pine Island KOA Resort- This resort is not a destination ya’ll! It was the best I could find close enough to take a day trip to Cayo Costa State Park. I prefer to stay in state or National Parks because they usually have trails and something special they are trying to preserve by having the park in that particular location. While researching for this trip I found Cayo Costa and knew I HAD to see it for myself! You have to take a ferry to the park, as it is located on a barrier island in the Gulf of Mexico. There are campsites and cabins available but they are dry camps. I do plan to go there to stay at some point but for this particular trip we just made it a day at the beach to explore this remarkably beautiful place. It is so pristine! The ferry over was fun and informative- we really enjoyed talking to the captain about the history of the area. When we disembarked the ferry, we immediately hit the trail to take us to the gulf side of the beach. There is a little camp store and bathrooms are available on the island. The bathrooms are located in the camp area. If you plan to stay there all the information you need is located on the Florida State Parks website. There were so many shells and sea urchins everywhere! The kids loved it! Madison found live starfish, sea urchins and sand dollars. Stop #3 was a hit! Here is the link for more information:
4. John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, Key Largo, Florida- The drive from Pine Island to Key Largo is 4 to 4 1/2 hours. We chose to drive the longer route to see the Everglades National Park. I don’t regret the drive but I wouldn’t do it again. There is nothing to see. Seriously. The neatest thing along this route is the old Post office. There is an information/ rest area along the way that has some alligators onsite. It was just a very long, boring drive. The billboard ads for Airboat Tours definitely influenced our spontaneous stop to see the Everglades Alligator Farm where you can watch educational shows exhibiting some of Florida’s best known reptiles. The admission to the park includes an airboat tour of the Everglades National Park. There’s nothing quite like an exhilarating ride through alligator infested waters! I had no idea how fast those airboats can go! If you are in the area I highly recommend it. We were so happy we stopped to check this out! Here is the link to the one we visited https://everglades.com. They did have room to park our RV in the parking lot, which was important since we just stopped on our way to Key Largo. We arrived at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park (www.pennekamppark.com) to set up camp before dark. We immediately went to the beach area to check it out, finding that the beach is very rocky. It is actually made up mostly of dead coral. This park was easily accessible and best known for snorkeling/diving. I’m always amazed that the best snorkeling areas really don’t look like much from the surface. Even with the dead coral at the beach, it was a beautiful place to snorkel. We saw lots of fish and coral formations. We also booked a snorkel tour to take us to the only underwater National Park in the United States. Unfortunately, the current was too much for Noah that day so I stayed on the boat with him. The seas were rough that day too, so we were actually the last group they took out that morning. It was a beautiful place! We saw so many fish- even from aboard the boat! The next day we explored the mangroves in the canals around the park. There are endless places to explore in your kayak. We visited a local dive for dinner and to sample their famous Key Lime Pie. If you are ever in Key Largo you must stop at Mrs. Mac’s Kitchen! Try the alligator tenders and don’t miss out on the Key Lime Pie- it was the best I have ever tasted! Such a unique place!
5. Long Key State Park- http://www.floridastateparks.org – They were not kidding about ocean front campsites! This place was so beautiful! Views of the Sunrise on the beach were stunning! The only downside was that we couldn’t swim or kayak here. It was so shallow and rocky. We waded a little in our swim shoes but it was shallow for a long way out so we just enjoyed walking along the beach and enjoying the view. A friend had recommended we visit Robbie’s of Islamorada to feed the Tarpon fish and eat fresh seafood. This place https://www.robbies.com was awesome! The food and atmosphere were great, but feeding the Tarpon fish is something I will never forget! I think this is a MUST if you are ever in the area!
6. From Long Key State Park we had a day trip to Dry Tortugas National Park booked with a private airplane. The day before our trip they cancelled due to engine problems. We were so disappointed! Refusing to let that ruin our day, we headed to Key West. We took our bikes and rode the streets of Key West, exploring to our hearts content. What a charming little city! With a rich history, and unique architecture that has endured many hurricanes, we thoroughly enjoyed our day here. Noah said it was his favorite part of the whole trip! We visited the FREE aquarium and even went on a glass bottom boat tour. At the end of the day we headed to Mallory Square where street performers celebrate each night at sunset. We had heard about the Cat Man so we waited anxiously to watch the cats perform. After a lovely sunset, we headed back to Long Key State Park to rest. Key West was a day packed full of adventure!
7. Anastasia State Park- http://www.floridastateparks.org – St. Augustine, Fl was our last stop on our way north. A 6 1/2 hour drive north on the east coast of Florida, we traveled through Miami which proved to be quite the traffic jam. We were so happy to arrive at Anastasia State park! It was a bit challenging to park our 36 ft. travel trailer, not because the site wasn’t long enough, but because the campground road is a loop and the large oak trees that provide such wonderful shade also get in the way of maneuvering the rv into the campsite. After setting up camp, we were all exhausted! We enjoyed a lovely day at the beach the next day. The kids loved that the sand was soft. It was their favorite beach of the entire trip! We only wished we had more time to spend in this beautiful spot.
It is quite the task to plan a trip like this. I’m thankful for all the people who wrote blogs and recommendations so I would know great places to stay, eat and visit! I encourage you to go for it! It’s worth the time and effort! This was an amazing family experience! Get out there and make some memories!