We’re in Texas! From Hot Springs we headed south to Tyler, TX – the Rose Capital of the U.S. Although we didn’t see any roses in bloom, we did enjoy seeing some big cats, an awesome children’s museum, and a laid back local brewery.
We stayed at Tyler State Park, where we had the campground completely to ourselves. Although it wasn’t a huge park, there were numerous trails that were just the right distance for the kids to enjoy. This had the added benefit of allowing Rick to satisfy his compulsion to complete every mile of trail the park had to offer ::insert eye roll::.
Since we spent almost a full week there, we were able to explore the town of Tyler, which included Tiger Creek, a sanctuary for Big Cats whose owners finally clued into the fact that it wasn’t a great idea to keep a tiger as a pet. Liam and Cora Jean enjoyed getting up close to so many beautiful animals. The cats were all very well cared for in their new home, but hearing their stories was sad and a good reminder to everyone to consider the pets they are thinking about getting and the care they will need (this applies to everything from tigers to tabby cats).
We also checked out the local Children’s Museum, which was a big hit with the kids, particularly the life-size grocery store and café that they were able to play in. The museum also had a model court room that the kids were less interested in, though I caught Rick in it with a nostalgic look in his eye…
Serving up some eats at the children’s museum
Liam inspecting some beaver marks
When you have the whole campground to yourself, you can color in your underwear like CJ
CJ playing doctor, one of her favs
CJ shopping, her second favorite activity
After Tyler we headed for a quick stop over in Davy Crockett National Forest, before heading south to the Houston area. The campground was beautiful and spacious and the weather perfect. We passed the weekend away biking around the park, canoeing on the lake, and letting the kids swim at the beach.
Liam continues to meet playmates at the different parks we stop at and has really come out of his shell, feeling comfortable introducing himself and leaving us to go play on his own with his new friends. We’ve really enjoyed watching his confidence grow with each new interaction.
Our first month and a half has been spent in the sunny state of Florida and we’ve loved all our stops. The last two were some of our favorites though.
Cedar Key, FL
The sleepy town of Cedar Key has been described as “The Keys 50 years ago.” It’s laid back, artsy-vibe, void of any major commercial chains made for a relaxing trip. We splurged on a private RV park where we got a spot on the water to enjoy evening paddles with the dolphins and private sunsets each night. The kids loved watching the fiddler crabs, jumping mullet fish, and observing the changing tides right from our door step.
Close by was the Lower Suwanee River National Wildlife Refuge where we learned about bats, saw wild boar, otters and turtles. Liam didn’t get a new badge, but the ranger we met was so impressed with his knowledge of wildlife, he gave Liam the only ranger paraphernalia he had…an adult sized prescribed burn shirt. Needless to say, we had to pry it off Liam after several days of him walking around looking like he was wearing wizard robes.
Also while in Cedar Key, we enjoyed a paddle to Atsena Otie Key, the original settlement, which after being ravaged by hurricanes, now only houses a 100 year old graveyard and pristine sandy beaches. It felt like we were on a deserted island in paradise…which we kind of were.
I can’t write about Cedar Key without mentioning the incredibly kind neighbors we had, Nora and Craig. If you’re reading, thank you again for being so sweet with the kids, they enjoyed some massive ice cream cones at our following stop – St. Joe’s.
view from our site
St. Joseph’s Peninsula
We wrapped up our tour of Florida with on of the prettiest beaches we’ve been to, at St. Joseph’s Peninsula State Park. The skinny peninsula juts out into the gulf allowing visitors to enjoy both the bay and the beach without ever having to get in their car. The kids loved playing in the sand and clear blue water, and collecting sea shells, which were plentiful. Rick and I enjoyed a paddle out on the bay where Liam found sea urchins, sand dollars, crabs and other creatures (CJ of course took a nap in her customary napping spot…the canoe). The campground was a short stroll to the beach and the weather was excellent. We’ll definitely be going back!
beautiful shells from the beach
Liam was so excited to “surf”
Because a coonskin cap is clearly the right choice for the beach
After getting an 8:00pm departure out of Atlanta on Sunday night, we arrived at our first destination around 1:30am: the Wal-Mart in Waycross, GA. The overnight low was 26 degrees so it was a cool night in the trailer with no heat. The good news is that the freezing temperature inside the trailer motivated us to get an early start. After breakfast and grocery shopping we arrived at our first park, Laura Walker State Park, which abuts the Okefenokee Swamp. We had our morning coffee and watched the kids chase after dozens of Tree Swallows who were flying around us in search of their morning meal.
After lunch we took the kids on a 1.5 mile hike and while we didn’t see any wildlife we did observe a lot of scat (Liam insisted upon looking at every dropping with his magnifying glass) as well as a gopher tortoise burrow. Along the way, Liam learned that 250 species use abandoned gopher tortoise burrows for shelter.
Later in the afternoon we met the campground hosts, Matthew and Celeste, who are related to a friend of ours. They’ve been living in their RV full time with their two kids for the past 4 years. They were kind enough to invite us over to their Airstream to see their set up and let us pepper them with questions over beer.
Unfortunately, we were sad not to have been in Atlanta for the UGA game, but I think Rick felt slightly better about missing it after the Dawgs heartbreaking loss.
Next on the itinerary, paddling in the Okefenokee Swamp!
(Above clockwise: Laura S Walker was naturalist and our first stops’ namesake, Rick and the kids paddling in the Okefenokee, our only gator sighting and he was checking out the nativity scene, Liam showing off some of the huge pine cones he found, one of the many tree swallows that were zooming right past us as we sat by the lake, and finally, our campsite!)