Gulf Islands/Fort Pickens

December 29th, 9 PM, 42 degrees with an expected low of 30.....not the way I planned to start the first post from sunny Florida.
But we can't change the weather, so I might as well embrace what we have.

Packing was finally finished and we got on the road heading south by noon on Thursday.  It was cloudy, cold and we were exhausted by the time the bikes, cooler, food box and kayaks were loaded.  By dusk we had found a wonderful COE park, Gunter Hill Campground, just west of Montgomery.  Recently remodeled, it had lovely wooded level sites, very nice, warm bathhouse and a sewer on site....all for $11 with the senior pass.  Sorry that I did not think to take a picture, we were too involved with trying to dewinterize the camper.

Debating back and forth about whether to keep the antifreeze or go ahead and dewinterize, we decided to go ahead because of the convenience of the sewer hookup.  (I was envisioning us trying to do it at a dump station with campers lined up behind us.)

We made it to Fort Pickens by midafternoon, finding lots of little white fiberglass trailers sitting under a gloomy overcast sky.  We headed for the beach, could not remember when I'd seen the ocean, but rain drove us back to camp within minutes of our arrival.

Last night the wind howled all night...I could have been out west with the way it carried on!  Just knew that my little ten dollar TV antenna would be out in the bay; surprised when I found it right where it was left, sitting on the spare.

Today has been one of survival....it may have gotten up to 50 degrees but the wind chill must have been around zero.... I am exaggerating, of course, but that's how it felt!  We drove over to the fort, looked around, and into town to buy canned chili for tonight's chili dump.  I did take a hike while David napped and managed to get a little lost winding up in the wrong campground!  Probably walked twice what I planned but it was good exercise.

It was great to see JerryC and Wanda again!  We both do love to take pictures...after reading his blog tonight, I'm amused that we are drawn to the same subject matter.  I do believe that this must be the same heron.

This is my expensive digital TV antenna....incredible that it stayed put!

It was too cold to stay long and explore the old fort...plan to see more of it on a warmer day.

This is our site and some of our neighbors.

After the sun came out, the water took on a special glow and my spirits lifted.

I have a few more pictures but Blogger will not cooperate and it is getting late, so they will get saved, for now.

Happy New Year to everyone!



Seventy days!  That's how long it's been since we took out the Casita for a trip, no wonder things do not feel right in my world!

But all of that is going to change within the next few days as we are heading south (and, hopefully, into warmth) sometime after Christmas.  Our plans are to join a small group of egg campers in the panhandle, celebrate New Years, and then decide where to spend the next few weeks before heading down to south FL.

Don't know why I drag my feet about writing a post...and when I delay, there are so many topics to discuss.  There has been the winter solstice, always very important to me, and the end of the world that did not happen.  I am one of those who want to believe that we are starting a new civilization, one of heart, love and peace, like the age of Aquarius we sang about in the sixties.  Also there is Christmas and my coping skills to just get through it, the end of the year review, the history of this blog and the life changing experience of camping in the southwest last winter.

So where do I want to start this?  
Twelve months ago, I started blogging, a big deal for someone who has never had the courage to share thoughts and feelings in print, did not realize that my life was changing. The blog was started to keep me off of Facebook while traveling the southwest.
The winter trip to Arizona was wonderful, blissful, spiritual, peaceful and exciting at the same time. We would be heading back this week if there was not another western trip on the horizon for spring.

So a year ago we were excited and scared, 2000 miles is a long way from home and anything could happen.  But everything that happened, we handled.  
I quit writing as soon as we returned...after all, there was only a handful of people following us.  But in July the blog got resurrected by adding "in the Mountains" to the title while we were camped up on the Blue Ridge Parkway.
This is when the blog started changing.  Sharon,(http://www.tinycamper.wordpress.com), sent me an email asking campground questions and we started emailing. Through her encouragement, I kept writing.  Thank you, Sharon.

And I want to thank all of my readers including my special blog friends...you know who you are...for being there.  Merry Christmas and may your new year be full of wonderful, exciting travel adventures!

2012 had the Chatta-Egg going out every month but two, March and August.  Thought it might be fun to document the year in pictures.

January and February

This rock towered over our campsite at Tortilla in the Tonto National Forest.  I climbed it!

View of Canyon Lake and our campground from the top of the above rock.

Our favorite campsite of the whole trip...12 days in January and 10 days in February.  At Tortilla Flatts.


Bald River Falls in Cherokee Forest
Tellico Plains, TN


Cumberland Falls, KY


Little River, Elkmont Campground, Smokies

Davidson River Campground 
Brevard, NC

Blue Ridge Parkway view
Turks Cap Lily


Farnum Creek gathering

Milford Lake, KS


Happy Holiday RV park, Cherokee gathering

Thanks, again, for stopping by and allowing me to share our year with you.


Treading Water (treading land)

I've landed in an airy limbo of not being ready to travel and not being ready to move on with life.  My commitments have been almost eliminated.  Work is practically non-existent, the rental  responsibilities have been vanquished.  The house is clean (for us) and we gave up on the yard two years ago.

The result is free time, almost too much free time!  And I am getting very restless.  It was all that I could do to not take off as I read Tiny Camper's blog about Ocean Pond. (www.tinycamper.wordpress.com)

Waiting for the time to leave is hard but we really need to be around the family at Christmas as my mom and step-dad are really getting up-there in years.  Other good reasons to stay home include David starting physical therapy and the camping bike being in the shop.  ( Trying to stay in the logical left brain when the right emotional brain wants to fly away.)

Hiking has been my mini-escape for the past two weeks.  Yesterday I got in over my head when I joined a seasoned group for an eight mile hike that was rated strenuous.  I did not die but I am sure that a few of them thought that I was a good candidate!

Another day my hubby and I rode our bikes on the river walk. The little Canon point and shoot has been going everywhere lately so I can fill up the blog with pictures.  I'll start with the Tennessee Riverwalk as it's a jewel right in the middle of town.

The Delta Queen has been docked at Coolidge Park since 2009 when federal rules declared her not seaworthy.  She is a magnificent old steam paddle wheel,  first used in 1927 in San Francisco, currently being used as a hotel.  She is in the background of the above picture.  Foreground is Tennessee River and the Walnut Street walking bridge.
Downstream from Chickamauga Dam

Another view of the Delta Queen
Biker husband and riverwalk art

This is Chickamauga Lake from Booker T Washington State Park. (sorry, no camping allowed there) It was a mostly flat 5 mile hike.

View from Signal Point
Yesterday we started from this overlook on Signal Mountain and hiked west along the ridge to Mushroom Rock where we descended, crossed a creek on a swinging bridge and climbed back up another ridge (mountain) and back down again to where the cars were waiting.
Hike route top right
View from Edwards Point
Mushroom Rock

Today has been a rest day, dreaming about the future day.

Tomorrow we have been promised rain and then winter weather with highs only in the forties for Tuesday.  
Goodbye to the 60's.  Welcome winter.  Please, no snow!


On a Quest

Things are shifting around in my life; I'm realizing that I am on a quest of finding a better way of living.

Last week I surrendered and signed over the management of the duplex to a rental company.  Difficult decision as the duplex on the mountain has been my baby as well as my previous home for 12 years.  The baby has been in tantrums this whole year with multiple tenants, some non-paying, and multiple repairs.  Trying to travel, camp and keep it up has caused sleepless nights, so I am ready to let go.....(at least for the next 12 months.)

The part time job is also almost gone.  I questioned my decision last fall to travel to Kansas for a rally as it was 800+ miles, one way, and rather costly in gas.  The decision to go was made, partially, to escape from my work.  Since retirement from full time work in 2009 I have been working as a substance abuse counselor, a job that I have enjoyed for the most part.  This year things changed and I became weary of dealing with the criminal thinking.....all the clients were from the legal system.  After the trip I gave up the group that I had been leading for almost 4 years.  Presently working less than 3 hours a week and unsure if it will continue.

Don't know what's next but feel that it's important to fill my time with positive people, positive thoughts and creative endeavors.
I am expecting that 2013 will be our year to dream big and travel far.

Mtn duplex
Some sort of sinus variety virus has made me puny this fall.  Probably let my immune system go down due to lack of aerobic exercise so I decided to get back into hiking.
Started out with a three mile Cumberland Trail hike with a local group who were very friendly....will definitely hike with them again.
They were doing an eight mile hike last weekend and I did not feel ready to tackle that distance, so I hiked alone, in a very safe area, on Raccoon Mountain and did 5.5 miles.

Possum Creek

Ganoderma reishi (?)

Due to falling three times with the Nikon in my hand and replacing one lens, I am no longer hiking with the good camera.  Using the point and shoot as it will be more replaceable when I land on it!

Raccoon trail

natural arch with tree assist

Trail crossed TVA transmission lines

Also walked along the brow road on Signal to get in another day with exercise.  (Most of my pictures of Chattanooga have been hazy lately.)

Tennessee River and Lookout MTN in distance

We are having very warm days with temperatures in the 70's, so unbelievable for December!

This seldom seen view greeted me from the kitchen window last week.  


Thanks and Kayaking

I believe that the shortest route to happiness is to conjure up feelings of gratitude.  But, at times, I just can't seem to do it, especially on gloomy winter days.  Today I am focusing on being thankful.

Most people start with the big items, family, friends, health and I am thankful for these things, but it's the minutia that makes life work. Sharing just a slice of mine....

Picking up the Casita this morning from the refrigeration man.  Thankful that we are not paying more than we have, thankful that he says the refrigerator is working fine.  I've got questions about this but choosing to stay with gratitude.
And thankful for the Casita which has brought us a whole new dimension of living, freedom and friends over the past few years.

Thankful that I live in the South where we have not encountered our first hard freeze of the year, just a little frost a few mornings.  My unkept red roses are still blooming beautifully in the front and back yard.

Thankful for the closeness of water, woods and mountains that provide a space to reconnect with myself.  Thankful when I can realize the need to do so.

Thankful for the warmth of the 30 year old gas heating system in our home.  If I keep sending it positive energy, maybe it will keep working!

OK.  Don't want to get boring, it's time to quit.  But must mention gratitude for the cats who make us laugh at their jealousy and ability to play ball.

Do I feel happy yet?  Gratitude wins!

We got in our kayaks last week, a first in a very long time!  When we go to the trouble of loading the boats and finally get out on the water, I wonder why we don't do it more often.  

We chose to put in at Raccoon Mountain, a TVA hydroelectric plant, that lies within the TN river gorge, downstream from Chattanooga and surrounded by wilderness.  The plant is an engineering marvel with a constructed lake sitting on top of the Cumberland Plateau that holds water drawn up from the Tennessee River.  When electric demand is high, the water is drained back into the river making more electricity than any of the TVA's nuclear reactors.  That is when things are working correctly. A trip to the visitor's center revealed that 3 of the 4 turbines are currently offline.

I also want to mention that the Tennessee River gorge is 26 miles in length and the fourth largest river canyon found in the east.  The Prentice Cooper State Forest is across the river from the pumping station making this put-in attractive for viewing wildlife.

We did not paddle far, just wanted to get out on the water and be away from civilization for a short time.  A few large boats and a barge came by providing us with huge rollers.  We traded our 63 and 75 year old selves for childhood while turning the boats into the waves and riding them out.

A fun day, probably one of our last 70 degree days until we get to Florida.

This is the TN River from Edwards Point (Chatt-town in background)

Our boats could not wait to get into the water!

View from the put in parking lot 

TVA barge taking a malfunctioning turbine up the river

View from the Visitor's Center at Raccoon Mtn


Life Between Trips and Harrison Bay State Park

We have been back from the Cherokee rally for over a month, a month without a camping trip!  Life, including bad weather and sickness, has conspired to keep us home.

It's strange how I switch gears after a few weeks in the house.  All the things that never seem to get accomplished, now they haunt me. So a few things have been done.  Started cleaning out the office and it was so bad.  Stacks of paper were on every surface and on the floor, boxes of more paper.

It's the shredding process that slows things down.  Why does our name need to be on every single piece of paper?  I want to throw it all in the garbage.  I think of living in the Casita, what would I save?

When we are off traveling in the Casita, I cannot imagine being home.  Home disappears from my mind, ceases to exist unless someone calls with a rude reminder of responsibilities.

Now, after a month at home, I can't fathom giving up the house that has the morning sun shining into the kitchen and reddish gold leaves falling in the backyard.  
That being said, I am still ready to head south as soon as the holidays are over.

We have been doing a little work on the Casita....got another good coat of polish on it and we have installed a new propane regulator for the gas tanks.  Our fridge has not been working on propane and someone mentioned that maybe we should replace the regulator as it was over 10 years old. We are not the handy dandy types but we did manage to get it installed. 

There's a small difference in the stove flame but the fridge is still broke on propane.  The next step is to take it to the local rv refrigeration guy.  Sure hope it can be fixed as new fridges are $$$.

The weather here has been gorgeous for the past two days.  I took advantage of it yesterday and visited Harrison Bay State Park....wanted to see if the campground had been updated.

Harrison Bay is the oldest state park in Tennessee turning 75 years old this year.  Unfortunately it is overdo for a makeover.  The old bathhouses are kind of grimy and the only open loop in winter was hilly with few level sites.  But the park sits on Chickamauga Lake and has miles of shoreline.  Great for fishermen and boaters!

The marina.

                   This is loop C which is closed in the winter.

                                Some winter residents.

                           View from one of the trails.

A little more info: sites are not reservable, only first come.  Winter rate is $16 which includes water and electric.  Mileage from Chattanooga is about 16 miles.

We camped there in our 13' a few years ago but did not manage to get a waterfront site. I think we'll try again in the spring.