Permanent Vanlife is still about one year away, so I decided to get a feel for it, by planning multiple one-week trips in the van, throughout the US Southeast.
Part of a 7-day trip to the Florida Panhandle in my Ford Transit Van Build. Day 5
Besides enjoyment, the goal of these multi-day journeys is also to get a sense of Vanlife and to add or change part of the setup in the van, if necessary.
As it started to rain persistently during the night, I left my Blackwater River campsite around 5AM. This early start allowed me to be earlier at the next destination.
Baker Block Museum
In fact too early as this museum and former General Mercantile store opens at 10AM; fortunately the main attraction is located behind the museum, where a dozen historic buildings from the early 1900s found a permanent home. I strolled along an early pioneer Post Office, a Tool Store, several former homes, sheds and machinery.
I make a note to come back here at regular hours to visit the museum itself and hopefully the interiors of the buildings outside.
Dead River Landing Campground
The next stop I made, was at this boondocking location. You have to make an online reservation to be able to stay here, but that is usually quick and easy.
The campground is suitable for large rigs, but has only access to the river. No easy hiking opportunities here. A kayak or small boat can be launched here, for a day on the water.
Today’s grey and rainy weather (it’s February when I visited), accentuated the name of this park. The river as almost grey and all the Cypress trees looked dead.
Restored Old Gas Station
I wasn’t disappointed, when I arrived at this Florala, Alabama former gasstation. Someone had collected the numerous oil, gasoline and tire signs, that decorated several exterior walls around the station. Nicely restored gas pumps remind you of the past and a vintage truck is parked outside under the canopy.
The interior is fairly small, but that is to be expected and is decorated according to the times. Just a little gem, that beckons for your visit.
Pitt & Sylvan Springs
These springs have only limited parking, but additional space is available just down the road. I was here during the winter period and like so many other places, practically the only person around. During summer though, you can expect long lines and according to the police signs, perhaps a less desirable public.
Of the two springs, Pitt Springs is most accessible with concrete steps that lead into the water of the spring. With a flow of between 6-60 million gallons per day for the entire spring group, the water flows into the Ecofina river and ultimately finds its way to the public as drinking water.
Besides swimming, this park also has hiking trails.
Garden of Eden Trailhead
This was the best hiking trail, that I wanted to do on this trip. Unfortunately, I had to turn around; dogs were not allowed!
The Garden of Eden trail is a strenuous hike in the highest parts of Florida. The 3.75 mile hike leads you through the Apalachicola Bluffs and Ravines Preserve, where you have to descend and ascend into and out of the ravines multiple times.
As an area with trees and plants that grow only in this habitat, the conservancy manages this natural area.
Greenboro Depot Railroad Museum
Built in 1907, the Greenboro Depot Railroad preserves part of the local history of the twentieth century.
Restored Old Gulf Gas Station
The town of Quincy in northern Florida is the home of an unexpected gem in the form of an old, restored Gulf Gasstation. Except for the pavement, the exquisitely restored building has several Gulf signs outside, including original pumps, tire inflator and other gadgets of the time.
It houses a small office, filled with the original interior decorations, like you step back in time. I still remember those days. Around the corner, two signs with ‘Ladies’ and ‘Men’ beckon you for some relief. The building also houses a beautifully restored vintage vehicle and a Tanker truck in the Gulf colors.
All-in-all a great stop, while traveling through the Panhandle.
Apalachicola National Forest Campsite
I manage to arrive at my planned boondocking spot near Tallahassee before dark. Contrary to other days, I had enough time clean up the site by picking up several beer cans and other paper and plactic objects, that littered the place.
But before it was time to make dinner, I found out that rain was again in the forecast and decided to move out to a concrete boondocking parking spot at one of the big stores in town. Don’t like to get stuck in the mud or at a minimum have mud all over the van.
- Baker Block Museum ➜ 30.7974, -86.6819
- Florala Gasstation ➜ 31.0052, -86.3277
- Dead River Landing Park ➜ 30.5420, -85.8905
- Pitt & Sylvan Springs ➜ 30.4323, -85.5429
- Garden of Eden Hike ➜ 30.4545, -84.9704
- Greenboro Depot Railroad Museum ➜ 30.5709, -84.7435
- Quincy Gulf Gastation ➜ 30.5863, -84.5676
- Apalachicola NF Campsite ➜ 30.3890, -84.4103