On the morning of February 16th, it was time to leave Williston Crossings and head for our next destination, Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park in White Springs, FL, another short hop of 79 miles.
Pulling out of Williston Crossings around noon via the rear (6th St.) entrance, we picked up FL-121, heading north towards Gainesville, eventually getting on I-75 N. After approximately 60 miles, we took exit 439 to SR-136. SR-136 took us through Lake City and finally to the very small town of White Springs (population of about 819 in 2000) located on the Suwanee River.
We passed through the town and saw the main entrance to Stephen Foster but Rob had looked at the satellite image in Google the previous day and thought that there were a lot of low hanging branches at that entrance so he decided that we should head for another entrance that was closer to the campground.
Well, that didn’t work out so well! Both gates at the other entrance were closed and there was no sign of anyone there. After a phone call to the campground, we headed back to the entrance that we had passed which was the only one currently in use – it turned out not to have any obstructions. We parked the beast and headed into the ranger station. Only one guy at the desk and boy was he busy! Not only checking in campers but collecting fees from the steady stream of cars just visiting for the day and answering the phone. I think we ended up waiting about 20 minutes before it was our turn when we were greeted with apologies for the wait. There was another family in line behind us.
With check in finally done around 12:30 pm, we headed towards the campground passing by the Stephen Foster Museum and the Carillon Tower. We stopped to unhitch the toad in front of the Museum. What a beautiful place!
Besides the campground, this park has a lot to offer – the Stephen Foster Museum and Carillon Tower which feature exhibits about the tubular bell system and tower construction and dioramas from Stephen Fosters songs plus an unusual and unique display of antique pianos and artwork.
There are picnic pavilions, a playground, Craft Square where working craftsmen stationed in small cottages demonstrate cultural arts and traditions (quilting, blacksmithing, weaving, pottery, home canning and much more) and the Cousin Thelma Boltin Craft & Gift Shop which sells regional foods, crafts, gifts, handmade items by local artists as well as Stephen Foster memorabilia. There’s also the Nelly Bly kitchen which wasn’t open while we were there. And last but not least a gazebo with a lovely view of the famous Suwannee River and miles and miles of hiking, biking and equestrian trails including direct access to the Florida Trail. The Florida Trail runs a total of about 1100 miles throughout Florida, skirting the banks of the Suwannee within Stephen Foster State Park – it is one of eleven national scenic trails in the US.
We were told by several people we met that there was a lot to do here and they certainly were right! Day use fee is $5 per vehicle. And if that isn’t enough to keep you busy, you can always take a trip over to the Big Shoals State Park also in White Springs which features the largest whitewater rapids in Florida. We didn’t have a chance to get there but according to the Florida State Parks website, the 80 foot limestone bluffs above the banks of the Suwannee River create outstanding vistas not found anywhere else in Florida. The rapids earn a Class III Whitewater classification when the water level on the Suwannee River is between 59 and 61 feet above mean sea level. Who knew Florida had rapids!
As we entered one of the loops at the campground, we were amazed at how spacious the sites were. Many weeks ago we we had only planned on staying one night and had chosen a pull thru site (#44) but then we decided to change our date so we could stay longer. So glad we did – the pull thru sites were okay but definitely not as nice or as private as the back in site (#5) we were able to snag for our longer 3 night stay.
The campground has 45 sites ($20/night – $10 for FL residents over 65) and 5 cabins ($100 per night) adjacent to the Suwanee River, a playground, two bath and laundry facilities and a dump station. All camp sites have 30 amp electricity (4 sites have 50 amp service), water (no sewer), fire rings, ground grill and a picnic table. Site #5 was 56 feet long, was fairly shady (oh, oh, no satellite again!) and surrounded by palmettos. Although there were RV’s across the road from us, there had to be at least 70 feet to the next campsite on our passenger side and just undisturbed woods behind us. Backing in to the site was easy, although there were some slightly challenging twists and turns required to get into the loop.
This would be our first stay ever in the Entegra without 50 Amp electrical service and given the cold weather that was predicted, we weren’t sure how things would work out with only the 30 Amps that were provided at our site. For those of you not familiar with the electrical service details, 30 Amp service actually only provides 30% of the power provided by 50 Amp service. Huh? Hows that? Well Rob tells me that 50 Amp service is “split phase” providing two “legs” of 50A each, so that’s the equivalent of 100 Amps at 120 volts. 30 Amp service is just a single “leg” and is, well, just 30 Amps at 120 volts – so there is a much bigger difference between the two than their designations would seem to indicate.
Anyway, despite our Entegra not having an Energy Management System like our previous Fleetwood Discovery did, we had no problems with overloading the 30 Amp service and popping the breaker at the pedestal. Even running our household style fridge, electric fireplace (for heat) and using the electric element to heat our hot water. We were also able to use the clothes dryer, toaster and coffee maker – we just had to be aware and make sure multiples of these high power devices were not used at the same time. Rob said the only adjustment he made was to set our Magnum battery charger so it could only draw a maximum of 5 Amps from the shore power, leaving more juice available for all the other stuff.
Once we were settled in, we sat outside for a bit, enjoying the beautiful weather. Since we didn’t have a sewer hookup, we were in conserve water mode which can sometimes make meal planning a little challenging – don’t want to cook any big meals which results in a lot of dirty pots/pans and dishes.
Also we hadn’t had a campfire in a long time and needed firewood so we decided to buy some at the ranger station and then go to a market to pick up some hot dogs. Getting the firewood was no problem but stores in White Springs are most definitely not what you would call well stocked – you have to drive to Lake City for most things.
A small local convenience store that we had passed on the way in, Munchies, looked promising but it ended up they didn’t carry hot dogs (or much else besides beer) so we went to a Shell gas station convenience store, where bingo, we were able to pick up some dawgs (although we never did have them that night because we found some Italian Sausage in the freezer and grilled that up instead). Since it was supposed to be a little chilly (by Florida standards), my trusty firemaker got the fire going early which we enjoyed until the sun set and the cold began to settle in. The rest of the evening was quiet.
More on what we did at Stephen Foster in our next post!