We left Key West early on March 17th on our way to the Manatee Cove RV Park at Patrick AFB near Cocoa Beach, FL. We had planned to make the trip in two days, but decided to make it a long day and do it in one shot. We arrived just before the office closed and were directed to a site in the overflow area. The sites are a little closer together than we would have liked, but after so much dry camping in Key West we were happy to have an electrical hookup.
We had camped at Manatee Cove in the past and had already done the normal tourist stuff of visiting the Kennedy Space Center and other tourist spots. We relaxed, did normal housekeeping activities, and just took it easy. A map of the area showed the Banana River Aquatic Preserve north of us, and we decided that would be a great place to explore. We gathered our kayaking gear, I downloaded some geocache coordinates to my GPS, and we were off.
What a beautiful day for kayaking! A light wind and sunny skies made it a pleasure to be on the water. One of the nice things about combining geocaching with kayaking is that you have a plan to follow while paddling. We paddled to some areas that we may not have otherwise explored. At one point we spotted a manatee eating the leaves off a plant on the shoreline of one of the islands, it was quite a show. We passed a couple of other groups of kayakers and told them about the manatee sighting.
Our next stop was the Kings Bay Submarine Base near St. Marys, GA. We had never seen a submarine base and this looked like a good opportunity. We arrived at Kings Bay after office hours on March 22nd. The camp host had all of our information and told us about the facilities and that there was to be an ice cream social in the community room the next evening.
Kings Bay is one of the nicest RV parks we have stayed in. The sites are roomy with full hookups, free bags of ice in the office and a free laundry room. There is typically something going on in the community room, at least once a week. The camp hosts were very friendly and helpful, just what we always hope for. There are bike paths all over the base, making it an easy place to get around.
Unfortunately the weather turned cold and we suffered strong winds and rain. The next day the weather moderated and we were able to drive into St. Marys to visit the St.Marys Submarine Museum. As home of the Kings Bays Naval Submarine Base, one of only two Trident submarine bases in the world, it is only natural that St. Marys plays host to one of the world’s most extensive collection of submarine memorabilia and displays. Extensive is right! I have never seen so many historical items relating to the “Silent Service” in one spot. One of the highlights of the visit was a video describing life in a nuclear missile submarine. Its target audience is grade school groups, but it was well done and was still interesting and informative for adults.
Across the street from the museum is the Visitor Center for the Cumberland Island National Seashore is right across the street. The Cumberland Island National Seashore includes a designated Wilderness area, undeveloped beaches, historic sites, cultural ruins, critical habitat and nesting areas. Cumberland Island is located seven miles east of St. Marys, Georgia, and is only accessible by boat. A concession operated passenger only ferry departs from downtown St. Marys. There are over 50 miles of trails and roads as well as 18 miles of beach. Hiking, biking, bird watching and beachcombing are popular activities on the island. We did not have the time to go out to the island on this trip, but promised ourselves that we would come back and stay long enough to explore it in detail. I did get a chance to tour the Cumberland Island National Seashore Museum, which had displays of the development of the island. It increased our desire to return for a longer visit.
Finally the weather cleared enough that we were willing to take our chances kayaking on the Crooked River. This is a tidal river with a ten foot change in depth between low and high tide, so you have to time your kayaking with the tide. The Crooked River State Park has marked kayaking trails on the river and provides maps of these routes. The paddling was easy, but even paddling with the current, it was a slow trip on open water, more like paddling on a lake instead of a river.
The next day, March 26th, we were on our way to Fort Fisher, NC.
The Fort Fisher Air Force Recreation Area is located in Kure Beach, just north of the North Carolina Aquarium. It’s a nice location between the Atlantic Ocean and the Cape Fear River. The RV sites were a bit strange as the electric and water hookups were on the front side of the trailer (wrong side) and the sewer was on the back (right side). Some of the sites had all of the hookups on the wrong side, although a couple of them were right. It appears these used to be mobile home trailer pads and that may be why the hookups were so strange.
The next day, there was a vintage car show at the Recreation Area and we had a chance to view some very nicely maintained old cars (and some not so nice!). We treated ourselves to lunch at one of the vendors and had funnel cake for desert – what a treat!
The weather was colder than normal and we sort of hibernated, and watched our MSU Spartans playing in the “March Madness.” Elisabeth and I combined our walks with geocaching and I was able to pick up several caches in the area.
Sunday night Elisabeth drove back to Raleigh. The next morning we drove to the Holly Point Campground at the Falls Lake State Recreation Area where we will be camp hosts for the month of April.