Site # O 4; W/E/S/CATV; all pull-thru sites; lake front with docks and ducks, and boat ramp; spotless and superior laundry building, function room, and shower facilities. There is also a small chapel on site with services Sunday mornings followed by a free buffet in the function room. There is also a calendar of daily activities geared for the predominately senior campers. All this for less than $40 a night!
This park-like area is in the middle of the campground. We were lucky enough to have it as our view from our dinette.
I have mixed thoughts about this campground. The facilities were top-notch, including ten large home-like bathrooms – each a private room that includes sink, shower and lavatory. It also had the cleanest, prettiest, and cheapest laundry room we've been in – period – like being in some nice country kitchen. Considering all the features listed above, this should have the highest rating for a campground and absolutely the best bang for the buck. And, if you are here to chill out for the winter, or get away from it all this would be an ideal location. In fact, we saw very few transients. Most in the park were staying for weeks or months. The overwhelmingly senior campers were extremely friendly and engaging.
I would label this as a relax-and-stay campground (and possibly fish) in a country atmosphere. My only reserve is that there is not a lot to do outside of the park. That being said, I think we made the most of it, had an adventure, took a road trip to the beach (not terribly long by our standards), and got to meet an old friend.
Chatting up the neighbors, the dog walkers, and other passersby was a major activity at Sunset King Lake. We saw groups of lady's walk and bike around the multiple loops, and several dog walkers who would kindly let us meet and greet their pals. In fact, I looked forward to the man who brought by his dachshund every morning and afternoon. This friendly black and white little pooch was very excited to see me, pulling on her leash to sat hi. The owner (never remember the owner's names, just the dogs), said that it was a rare breed that goes for thousands of dollars, but he found his advertised and bought for around four hundred dollars I think. When he got to the sellers's house, he saw it was in complete disrepair, a shack of a house, barely standing. It was a bleak picture that said he was glad he was rescuing the dog from there and satisfied that his money was sorely needed by the sellers.
The Lake / Fishing.
For those considering this campground for it's access to Kings Lake, be forewarned. It is a very pretty lake with multiple coves and stories of big bass. The problem is that this is a man-made lake with the remains of trees poking their limb-less and rotting tops several inches above the water. Even worse are the hundreds of trees that lie just a few inches below the surface. With an inflatable kayak, I was timid in going out, but a neighbor with a plastic kayak gave me some advice to stay in the cove in front of the campground and that he had not explored into the northern-most cove. I decided to hug the opposite shore, go slow, and see if the unknown cove would be better.
Going into an increasing wind of 10-15 mph, I hugged the far shore and could see grasses or black water beside me, depending on the depth. I could not see in front of me. When I reached the far point I started across a wide part of the lake. That's when I started to see tree top after tree top within 6 inches of the surface. I did not want to tear up the kayak, so I returned in the general direction I came. However, just feet further off shore from my previous path, I was now encountering stump after stump. One large spear was no more than two inches below the surface and could have damaged the bottom of my boat had I hit it. I nervously made it back.
The area around the campground was quiet enough where I did a few short rides. There were no bike lanes on these two lane roads, but I stayed on the more rural routes – past modest and sometimes dilapidated houses. All dogs I encountered were fenced in. This area does have hills, especially leading to the lake. For simple biking as exercise, the campground is a nice option with it's many loops.
Panhandle Oprey, Crestview FL.
This 38 year old tradition provides a coordinated program of music on alternating Saturday nights in a community built barn-like building that has 200 stadium style seating. Note, that I used the term “music”. Nowhere in their program notes do they mention country, bluegrass, or Christian, and yet in this rural, predominantly farming community with local performers, the music is sure to encompass a mixture of all these influences. Giveaway – the one younger “group” performing were named Pickle Jar. Love the name,
The Panhandle Oprey.
Typical for us, we entered this foreign venue with nervous anticipation – would we stick out like the obvious northerners we were, would we be welcome, would we like what we heard, and could we get out discretely if we didn't?
Walking five feet into the building a man in a cowboy had stuck out his hand and greeted me as Sandy went to a counter to pay our $9 each (senior!) admission. The master of ceremonies / singer Gordon Porter was a joking, likable country guy with a distinct Willie Nelson-like voice. Our favorite performer was Buddy Lawrence, who appeared to be the elder statesmen of the performers. Standing to the far right on stage, his deep and crackled voice brought us right into the heart of this country setting.
A couple city folk enjoyin' the show.
The audience was very appreciative and attentive, listening intently and applauding enthusiastically after each song. Heads were bobbing and feet were tapping discretely as were mine.
If in the area – don't miss this experience!
While we planned to go to Falling Waters State Park on our trip to Chipley, we never made it as we were enjoying our talk so much and it got rather late. Alternatively, we drove back on scenic and fast route 90 into DeFuniak Springs with its rare round pond and stately, but modest homes surrounding the perimeter.
Again – my favorite part of the camping/traveling experience.
Using Facebook for its main useful purpose, I was able to connect with Paul Goulding, an old high school buddy who I haven't seen since sometime around 1971 – 47 years! Turns out he is living in Chipley Florida, 40 miles to the east of DeFuniak, where we were staying. Interestingly, I had contemplated staying at Falling Waters State Park around this point in our trip months ago, but I did not know Paul lived in the same town as the park at the time.
Me and Paul. Old Friends. Good Friends.
I hesitated for two days before calling Paul, fearing he may: not want to get together, think I'm a stalker, or diminish my request by saying that high school was a long time ago, he's moved on and get on with my life type comment. Far from it. Paul was happy to meet and what we scheduled for a morning meet and lunch turned into an all day yak fest where I learned about his businesses, met his lovely wife Debbie, and shared children and grandchildren photos and stories. This is why I reached out to begin with. Not to learn all the facts, but to share in our good fortune. I get an emotional high from seeing old friends who are happy and successful and more importantly, are sharing their lives with a wonderful family. Makes me feel elated!
A short bit on Pauls' business because it is so interesting. Paul owns and runs The Goulding Agency, under which he also runs Real Florida Magazine which includes producing a magazine, radio show, and local access TV show. Paul and Debbie document and promote local businesses, events, and politicians in these forms of media. They also do fashion photography, have a recording studio, a radio station, and use a drone in their videography. Paul was able to parlay his experience and talent into teaching at Florida Panhandle Technical College, which has given Paul a large area to house his studio. Paul teaches photography, videography, suing a green screen, doing interviews, and other aspects of careers in photo and video media. Very impressive. When talking to Paul you realize he is doing what he loves which breeds an enthusiasm and ability that make him and Debbie very successful. I wish them continued luck.
At the campground we met Bob and Lynne from Oakham Massachusetts! We hit it off immediately. Turns out Bob's best friend was also a friend of my brother Bob's when they were in high school together. I remembered the name from my brother mentioning him those years ago. Bob and Lynne had two gentle and nicely quiet dogs – Penny and Molly. Bob drove a 35 foot fifth wheel with his Dodge truck. With pull-outs opposite each other, they had an envious amount of living area. Because we all liked to walk, we kept bumping into each other and walking the park and even outside it to the causeway on the lake. Penny the beagle was such a quiet and mellow dog until she caught sight of a rabbit. Then she was ready to go! Funny. We really hope to keep in touch with Bob and Lynne.
Bob, Lynne, Sandy, Bill
Our next door camping neighbors came back to their site one day with buckets and buckets of plants. Turns out they are gearing up for their move in their newly purchased house in Chipley (again, Chipley). This retired Army vet told me that they were moving there from Georgia for the quiet area. I think he was paying around $250,000 for a 1980's house that needs considerable updating. The house is in a golf course development. He was told that his updates could bring the value of the house into the $400,000's. Really nice guy full of RVing tips. I wish them well.
Florala Alabama Road trip.
Bob and Lynne told us they took a pleasant road trip to Florala Alabama, just over the state line on Route 331 so we copied them a day later. The ride is pleasant, scenic, and the road fast and well maintained like most we've seen in this area. The town was cute with some old gas pumps and an interesting sign that Sandy spotted. I had to take a photograph and told Bob about it later when we returned. He laughed and said he had taken a picture of the same sign to send to his pals back home.
Downtown Florala's billboard.
One stop shopping. Gets your drugs and ammo here!
Another sign on the main drag caught my eye.
There was a nice little park with a fighter jet (no explanation given) on Lake Jackson. We walked up to a boardwalk on the lake, but Bob told us later that it extended along the shoreline and was a nice walk through air plant adorned cypress and live oak.
No explanation given for this jet on the shore of lake Jackson. I'd guess this is what they had to pay tribute to the armed services.
We had lunch at Monterey's Mexican restaurant as did seemingly everyone getting out of Sunday church services. Fajitas, pork burrito, drinks and the ubiquitous salsa and chips totaled $15.38. And it was pretty good!
However, the excitement lay ahead.
Our intention leaving Florala was to travel east on Rt 54 making an alternate way back to visit the town of Ponce DeLeon and come back Rt 90 to make a loop. I missed the first proposed turn from the GPS, and like many times before, decided just to take the next right turn. Well, I quickly learned I was not in New England any more.
This was on the paved road - before it got more rural and interesting.
It has taken Sandy and I several minutes to pinpoint on our smartphones, exactly where we ended up. Suffice it to say we went from one clay road to another, each a little more narrow, with larger drainage ditches and greater erosion cavities crossing the roads. We've travelled on many interesting back roads before, full of washboards and ruts, but nothing like this. Some of the drainage ditches were easily three feet deep. Even my elevated truck would not get out of one. More troubling were a few jaw jarring ruts crossing the roads from previous fiercely running water. I've never seen any that deep or severe before. Even some of the drainage ditches were filled with freshly washed down red clay, smoothly half filling round culverts under side farm roads like a poured red cement.
We were nervously going quickly because the road was very narrow and I questioned whether we could pass another car or more likely tractor.
If you would like to follow us, our route went from Rt 54 to Frank Mill Road going due east. The road I missed was Rt 79 in Alabama (181 in Florida - adding to the confusion). My next turn was red clay Doyle Morgan Road. This road curves slightly south to hug the state border. Eventually we came to a fork with the first building we saw in miles - Eightmile Creek Church with a cemetery along side.
We took the right, Line Road, towards and immediately came upon a wooden bridge spanning Eightmile Creek. This was a wooden bridge with lateral beams spaced a little tighter than railroad ties, but still giving a great view of the creek 20 feet below. Boards were placed purposely to provide a path for your tires across the beams.
The problem was that every piece of wood on this bridge looked splintered and ancient. The metal sign before the bridge extolling the weight limits for the different class of vehicles was rusted beyond legibility. Sandy was not excited about the prospect of going over. I got out of the truck and jumped up and down on the bridge. I had no fear of other traffic at this point. I also made sure my wheel lined up with the boards to cross.
Lining up the tires.
That one ahead doesn't look too good.
Not the finest or most recent craftsmanship.
The bridge looked a little splintered to me!
View over the side of the bridge.
I suggested to Sandy that she get out with her phone in case she had to call for help, should I go in, but like a trooper she stuck with me. I actually thought she was making a mistake, as I inched and then set the gas pedal down a little to get over as quickly as safely possible. I had ample time to get out of the truck again to take a couple snap shots, but I wished I had done so before I crossed as I was lining up the tires.
This road became Alpin road as it entered Florida. But, it is called 8 Mile Cemetery Road as it goes back into Alabama in just a few yards. This was the worse conditioned road as I wsa describing earlier. There is no way we would fit, should another truck or tractor approach from the other direction. Within ¼ mile of the bridge we came upon a cattle pasture with the most picturesquely dilapidated house I've ever seen. I could see right thorugh the front wall through holes giong out the back.
8 Mile Cemetery Road - with a storm coming at us
Just moments up the road we saw a young bull running up the road beside us trying to get out of our way. All her mates were on the other side of the fence. Unlike most cattle fields, these actually en masse stopped what they were doing to watch us go by. I don't think these cattle were used to big red trucks from Massachusetts or any other strangers.
On the wrong side of the fence.
After 4 miles of this mud track we made it to paved road and headed south. Then it got even more exciting as the sky in front of us was a black as it gets. A quick look at our weather app confirmed that a severe thunderstorm was immediately ahead of us and coming at us. Thank God I was off the clay roads! I took a right and drove right back in front of th eMexican restaurant in Florala Alabama. We hit some heavy rain with visibility down to 100 feet or less for just a few minutes, but we did a good job of avoiding the worse of it.
At the point we hit pavement from 8 Mile Cemetery Road, this idyllic farm lay across the street.
Needless to say we didn't get to Ponce deLeon and subsequently feel we aged a little on that trip.
As mentioned in our stay at Live Oak Landing, we loved Grayton Beach and our return dinning spot The Bay, so we made a day trip to do both – though I think Sandy's desire for the beach was strongly influenced by the promise of dinner at The Bay after. Our trip to the beach was interrupted by a little rain. Not to worry, we had our books and sat it out in the truck. We weren't going home early and miss diner! When it cleared we went for a short nature walk from the beach parking lot, which was pleasant going into a thick grove on a pretty substantial sand dune.
The dunes at Grayton Beach.
Eventually it was late enough to substantiate going to The Bay which I describe in our Live Oak Landing post. Great dinner again. This time we sat in the main dining room under a great mixed-media painting. The block letters at the bottom of ht painting say "Take me to the river."
Main dining room at The Bay.
Here are a couple cute summer houses reached by walking south on Grayton Beach.
On the road again. Heading east...