Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Too Early for Magnolia Springs

March 5 – March 10, 2021                                 Most Recent Posts
Magnolia Springs State Park                             Many Trails at Silver Springs
Miller,  Georgia                                                     Mostly Monkeys      

March 5I left Silver Springs headed North on March 3.  I don’t usually leave Florida until early April but this year I was unable to get campsites in any of the Florida State Parks I checked for the month of March.  I was actually rather surprised.  I know March is difficult in Florida because it is “Spring Break” month for both high schools and colleges but I thought covid would perhaps make it easier.  However, it is also true that I wanted to get to Virginia and take Winnona in to RV Service of Virginia in Ashland whom I trust to finally fix the problems I’ve been having.  And I haven’t been able to get the covid vaccine in Florida moving around every two weeks as I do so I hoped that with a longer stay in Virginia I could get it.

So North I went.  First stop, Camp Walmart at the Georgia Border.  I like camping at Walmart for an over night since all I’m going to do is sleep.  I have better things to spend $35-$65 dollars on.  With Solar and propane I lack for nothing and it’s easy.

IMG_5222Next day after 180 miles of driving, I pulled in to Magnolia Springs State Park and got set up in site 19 which was wonderfully level and very near the bath house.  I’ve definitely left Florida too soon.  I don’t do temps in the 30’s and it was 32 this night, 29 the next and 28 the next night.  I knew I might be in trouble when I found the bath house was heated.  But that’s nice for taking a shower since I didn’t hook up my water until it got over 32.

My second problem was lack of signal.  I have two phones, on two different networks.  My sprint phone had no signal and the verizon signal was so weak I could not watch my hometown basketball team beat Louisville for the #1 spot in the ACC.  That puts a big hammer on my potential for being able to reserve any sites in Florida State Parks for next February while I’m here.   This reservation thing is so irritating.

I was beginning to feel that with the RV problems I’ve had, my inadequate internet set up and the impossibility of getting reservations for next winter perhaps I’m being pushed to give up this way of life.  At this moment I have no reservations from January 16 2022 to today 2022 that’s nearly 3 weeks.   I clearly need some help with these three things.

IMG_20210306_163058180With one bar of service it was probably silly of me to continue to play the Reserve America lottery every morning at 8am knowing I would lose.  What a way to start every day.

When I pulled in, I saw that my neighbors had a nice little bounce house for their children to play in.  Next morning after our freeze over night it looked quite different.


IMG_5244Magnolia Springs has a small network of trails all very wintry looking but conveniently leading off from the campground which is very nice.

On the map, the campground is the gray loop to the right of the bottom of the lake.  Things are much farther apart than they seem on the map.  My first day I took the tiny looking trail out of the campground to the Beaver Trail and around to the boat dock at the bottom Magnolia Lake.  I think the map is large enough for you to see all of this.

Trail map

Along the Beaver Trail was a viewing deck at the upper tip of the lake where I suppose one would see Beavers but I didn’t.  Too cold for them?  I doubt it with their coat. It was 50 degrees out and windy so I was glad to be in the woods and warmly dressed.


I stayed a while and watched for Beavers but couldn’t see their lodge or them.  Still it was a nice quiet spot along the water.



IMG_5235I ended up at the boat put in on Magnolia Lake but sadly it was far too chilly to kayak over my days here.  I headed back up the Beaver Trail spur from the lake to complete the Trail circuit.  I later learned that one could not head out kayaking from the lake either north or south on what is known as Spring Hill Branch due to the swampy nature of the branch feeding into the lake and the damn dam on the southern end.  So, though I would certainly have kayaked around the shore of the lake, I wasn’t too terribly grieved.  The cool places were inaccessible.

IMG_5258On another day I took the spur trail out of the campground going the other way and hiked by the walk in tent sites which are very nice.  I know when I was a tenter and backpacker, which I was for many many years before Winnona, I really appreciated not having to be by those people who weren’t really camping but just had brought their house with them.  

Very nice flat tent pads.



The spur took me onto the Lime Sink Trail which is blue on the map.  I was walking along admiring the long leaf pines.  Their needles always amaze me at  at 8 to 15” long.  



Listening, I heard talking up ahead.  I really hadn’t seen more than one person on the trails up to this point so I was surprised at what sounded like a group.   And that’s what it turned out to be.

I wondered what in the world this group of people was doing in the woods off trail and then I saw the flags.  I was standing watching them when one guy looked over and waved.  I waved back and yelled  Archeology??   He smiled and said yes and next thing I know his professor from Georgia Southern University came over and told me all about what they were doing.  Professor Ryan McNutt was wonderful to take so much time for me.


Isn’t his mask fantastic?  I asked him if it was his face and he said no, it was General Grant.  Wonder how the folks in the former Confederacy feel about that.


He said he and his students came every Tuesday and Thursday for field work as they were investigating the area around the Civil War Fort Lawton which I hadn’t even known was here since the Visitor Center is closed due to Covid.  There sure were a lot of flags everywhere.  Red meant one thing and blue another.  They used a metal detector to place the flags and then investigated more carefully each marker.   What a surprise find to come upon an archeology investigation on a hike in the park.


From there I walked on to the Woodpecker Trail where as with the Beaver Trail I saw no woodpeckers.  But it was a nice trail that started near the bridge over Spring Hill Branch (see map)

From the bridge I could see the turtles and fish swimming near what must be the spring based on the color of the water there and how amazingly clear it was.  No way to put my hand in and see how warm it was. 


There were large mouth bass here.  I don’t know if they allow fishing.  I didn’t blame the turtles for lining up on the log to warm up in the sun.  The bridge reflects in the water in the picture below.    It’s a lovely spot and the clear water allowed me to take this video of the turtles and fish.



From there I walked along the part of the loop trail next to the Spring Hill Branch which connects the Lake above to the Spring below.  It was a lovely branch and probably my favorite part of all the trails.

To remember it,  I took this little video of the water flowing down stream.  Listen for the Pileated Woodpecker.

Along the way I found some more shelf mushrooms with pink lichen on the side for you Paul.

After finishing the loop, I walked on beyond the spring to the dam where I found the one of two gators I saw here as well as the “waterfall” at the dam.


Notice the gator bottom right.




IMG_5288And from there, back to the Lime Sink Trail and home.  I can see that I can put together a daily walk that will amount to 10K steps and not require that I walk on the park road except to cross it.   And that’s what I did every day thereafter.  My routine was to go around the Beaver Trail to the Woodpecker Trail and back the Lime Sink Trail to the campground.

IMG_5329Except that is for the last day when I extended my route to the Camp Lawton Trail at the lower edge of the map in yellow. 

Fort Lawton was the site where, in the latter months of the Civil War, a gigantic stockade of 42 acres was erected to contain thousands of prisoners of war held by the Confederates at the infamous and over crowded Andersonville Prison in South Carolina. This site was chosen because of the abundance of clear water provided by Magnolia Spring and for its proximity to the railroad at Lawtonville.  The stockade was completed in October 19 1864 to house 40,000 prisoners but was abandoned November 17, 1864 one month later after only 10,300 prisoners were transferred here.  Sherman came to town.  I wondered how in the world they could not have known the war was coming to an end.   I learned this minimal information from the kiosk below since what looked like a very nice museum (above) was closed as was the Visitor Center.


The kiosk actually  had a reasonable amount of information on its 4 panels including this map of the facility.  The sun was no help in my photographic efforts.

Originally, prisoner camps on both sides were erected as temporary since neither side expected the war to be a long and bloody conflict.  The number of deaths in the camps was high over time – 30,000 Union soldiers died in Confederate camps and 26,000 Confederates died in Union run camps. Captain Henry Wirz, the camp commandant at Andersonville, was tried and executed for war crimes.  One of Camp Lawton’s most famous prisoners was Sergeant Boston Corbett who would later be recognized as the man who shot Lincoln’s assassin John Wilkes Booth.

The only things left of the camp or the fort are the earthworks constructed to guard the prison and its approaches.  Also remaining are these sketches made by Union prisoner Robert Knox Sneden.   With the archeology going on here perhaps there will be many things to add to the museum.  I wish I could have visited it.

The trail goes through, around and over both the Breastworks and the site of the Redoubt

Longleaf pines have taken over as you can see.

5365 68 70


BIG pine cones. A real handful.


It was hard to capture the height of the Breastworks from on top even in what must be a very warn down condition after nearly 160 years.

I walked back down to the branch before heading back.   There’s always something interesting near or in the water.  Today it was a second alligator surrounded by turtles while sunning and a killdeer along the shore.




While I can’t say I’d return here to Magnolia Springs  and certainly not until later in the spring.  It was a nice 5 days before heading even further north.   Tomorrow I’m leave for South Carolina and Poinsett State Park.  I hope I don’t go back in time to the freezing night time temperatures that were here 4 out of my 5 nights.



  1. Ah darn...you are making the best of it all I would say, although those cold temps and bare trees really don't look all that inviting. Sad about the Florida thing. Whatever will you do? Really makes me sad inside that the nomadic way of life is fading. At first it was the frustration of having to make reservations all the time, now it is the frustration of not even having the opportunity to do that. We are heading for some back country east side desert next week, and are not making reservations. I'll let you know how that goes. But at least it is May and not March so that helps. In March the place where we are going would have been covered in snow and ice.

    1. There are more people than ever RVing now which is the biggest part of the problem so I'd say the nomad way of life has really caught on. I'm sorry to see the early carefree days disappear when people would ask us where we are from and we'd say we're full time RVers and they'd say, "what is that"? Now they say, "us too". Perhaps it's not so bad west of the Rockies. But I know the National Parks are over run and booked out.

  2. Thanks for the picture of the mushrooms. You're spoiling me, don't cha know? ;c)

    I'd be interested in what the student archeologists find. I'm a big Civil War buff and would have loved to be there.

    1. You are welcome Paul. I think Magnolia Springs would not be too far from you. When the VC and the museum open up perhaps you take the RV and spend a few days there. You might run into the Archeologists yourself. They'll be there for a long time I imagine.

  3. Your shot of the lone turtle looking your way is my favourite.

    I did not know that about Boston Corbett. Given how crazy he turned out to be, frankly it might have been better if he'd bought the farm in a POW camp.

    1. I always appreciate hearing which photo you like the best William and I'm glad I could provide some information for you that you didn't know. Thanks so much for your comment.

  4. I love the combination of nature and history with the time to enjoy both. Those fungi are so pretty, like mint candies! This park looks much browner than the Florida ones you were, but still lots to see. Hope you've found your vaccines and solved your RV issues by now.

    1. It was much browner than Florida but of course I'm so far behind that this was actually in March as you can see by the date in the header. It's probably bordering on too hot by now. HA!! Glad to see you back on the road.

  5. It's so much fun watching the turtles swimming around and, yes, that water was very clear. You got a great close up of the alligator's face! Love pines- Beek always makes fun of me because I like them so much! The sound of water flowing is one of the most relaxing sounds.

    1. I'm glad you like the videos Pam. I'm with you on loving the sounds of water and the long leaf pines. Not so much our Virginia Pines because they are so likely to come down in big storms. Hope to see you soon.

  6. I lived the videos and this is an interesting park. Too bad it was so cold! Everything was nice except the 🐊! 🙄

    1. I really am going to have to get you to come visit so you can see alligators are really not threatening. I'm glad you liked the videos. It was only really cold at night and of course this was the first week of March.

  7. just freaks me out those alligators so close.. hope you are using a telescope and not really that close to them... of course we have NOTHING like that where i live, so NO experience.. lots of cool turtles tho!! always so good to see an entry from you...

    1. Loree, the picture of the gator at a distance that I showed makes him look further away than he was but still I used my zoom lens for the closer pictures. I love my camera but its wide angle lens distorts distance. Always so good to see you in the comments.

  8. What a great stopover on your way north. How cool to see archeology at work! I feel your pain with no internet. One of the problems of road living. We used to go to a fast food place with our laptops to find internet.

    1. I've done the fast food thing too and it gets very tiring very quickly. It's not really no Internet it's such slow internet that I can't compete on ReserveAmerica.

  9. Despite it being cold, that looks like a great visit. I love that turtle picture and that you got to talk with the professor in the woods. Great pics also of the alligators and birds.

    1. It was actually a pretty nice stop although I wish both the visitor center and the museum had been open. That would have made it more interesting.

  10. I tried florida with advance planning over a year. Its crowded and expensive. There are many boondocking opportunities out West for the winter. We always loved Florida, but after 1 winter out west, it just doesn't compare.
    Tucson, Camp Verde, boondocking near Yuma, Why and Ajo. Just over the border, California abounds with boondocking and places near Palm Springs are great.

    1. Thanks so much for your comment and suggestions Dave. I really appreciate it. I'm about ready to throw in the towel on Florida especially since I understand they are going to increase their State Park prices considerably. I'm really glad to have some specific suggestions for winter in the West. Thanks so much.

  11. That looks like a nice park, and even though it was chilly, you made the most of it (as you always do). Seems like you explored every inch of the park! Your nature sightings are always my favorite, but it's so interesting that you happened upon the archeology project. That mask on the professor, LOL!
    I'm so sorry that you're having so many problems with reservations. Makes me not look forward to when we start making trip plans again...

    1. It was definitely the best of the 3 I'd chosen to stop at on my way north. So glad you were able to work out the comment problem. What was it?

  12. Yup, March seems early to head north but your reasons all make sense. You know I sympathize with the cold. And I don't even want to talk about weak signal. The forest does have a brown wintery look but those pines are quite nice especially with those huge pinecones. The arch site and prof were a bonus. The springs seem magical. Hope your safely home and the RV is repaired.

    1. You and I are birds of a feather in many ways. As for safely and repaired. One out of two so far.

  13. Go, General Grant — that's who my dad was named after :)


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