Thursday, July 25, 2013

Lush tropical 120' deep Sink Hole near Gainesville, Florida. The 'Real Florida'

Florida Oldscool Camper Rentals 

giving you a unique way to travel Florida!

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What is the first thing you think of when hearing 'Sink Hole'?

Lush & tropical probably is not the first thing that comes to mind. 
Or to walk down a countless steps to get to
 the bottom. Well, I suggest you plan a trip to Devil Millhopper. It is unique to say the least. 
This is a great park close by I-75 in Gainesville.

Devil’s Millhopper Geological State Park
86) 462-7905
4732 Millhopper Road, Gainesville,  Florida 326-955-2008

In 2010 Florida State Parks magazine featured park for the front page was Devil’s Millhopper.  
I could not believe this picture was taken anywhere in Florida! It looks to be taken in the Appaliation Mountains, which was just the fix I needed. Being a ‘Georgia Girl’ I truly miss the mountains.

While traveling home from a trip over to Ft Clinch we deiced to stop here on the way home.  It was much smaller than I imaged. For such a deep hole, the crater is only 500' wide. There is a half mile trail that circles the top of the sinkhole.  With a nice look over next to the stairs taking you down.  It was busy that day with college students walking the stairs for exercise, and what great exercise it was!  Like I said the trail is half mile and the sink hole goes down 120’… that is steep.  They have built gorgeous stairs and walkways leading down into the bottom.  What I would not do to have this spot all to myself on a slow day.

In the midst of North Florida’s sandy terrain and pine forest, a bowl-shaped cavity 120 feet deep leads down to a miniature rain forest.  Small streams trickle down the steep slops of the limestone sinkhole disappearing through crevices in the ground, and lush vegetation thrives in the shade of 
the walls even in dry summer weather.  A significant geological formation.  Devil’s Millhopper is a National Natural Landmark that has been visited by the curious since the early 1880’s Researchers have learned a great deal about Florida’s natural history by studying fossil shark teeth , marine shell and the fossilized remains of extinct land animals found in the sink.  Visitors can enjoy picnicking and learn more about this sinkhole through interpretive displays.  The park is open from 9am – 5pm Wednesday through Sunday.  Located three miles northwest of Gainesville on N.W. 53rd Avienue (state road 232).


The site was purchased by the state in 1974, and a set of 236 wooden steps, along with boardwalks and an observation deck at the bottom were completed in 1976.

The 120 foot (40 m) deep, 500 foot (150 m) wide sinkhole got its name from its similar appearance to the hopper of a mill, along with the bones found at the bottom, suggesting animals entered it on the way to meeting the devil

How a Sink is Formed

Limestone is the foundation on which the surface of Florida rests. Although this stone is very hard, it is easily dissolved by a weak acid. As rain water soaks into the ground passing through dead plant material on the surface, it becomes a weak acid. When this water reaches the limestone layer, small cavities are formed as the rock is slowly dissolved away. Water moving horizontally through cracks in the limestone also causes cavities to develop. This process continues over a very long time until a large cavern is formed. Eventually, the ceiling of the cavern becomes so thin that it cannot support the weight of the earth above it. When the ceiling collapses, a sink is formed.

The Sinkhole

These depressions in the limestone have a very moist climate. They usually support a unique mixture of tropical and temperate plants because of the lack of temperature extemes within the sink itself. Amphibians such as the salamanders, and invertebrates such as crayfish find refuge within the confines of the steep slopes, which often flow with seepage from surrounding areas. Vegetation around the upper rim of sinkholes is usually characterized by well developed stands of hardwood trees. Steeper rock walls are covered with mosses, liverworts and ferns.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

ft Desoto Park

Florida Olsdcool Camper Rentals 

is lucky to have Ft De Soto Park 
 in our back yard. It has one of the best campgrounds 
in all of Florida, with Shell Island & Egmont Key close by.

The great thing about this park is it has 7 miles of coastline,
where you can always seem to find a place to call yours for the day.

The great thing about taveling in a VW Bus... 
Once you find a spot you can dine with the view of your choice, 
and then take a nap at any of Floirda's great parks. 

Ft De Soto is the largest park within the Pinellas County Park System, It consists of 1,136 acres made up of five interconnected islands (keys). 
With over 7 miles of coastline, it is easy to find a non crowd spot to call yours for the day. 

These keys are home to beach plants, mangroves, wetlands, palm hammocks, hardwoods and scores of native plants. Each of these species plays a vital role in the preservation and protection of the natural environment.

Ft De Soto County Park with natural sandy beaches, Fort De Soto was named America’s Top Beach for 2009 by Trip Advisor, the world's largest online travel community. In 2005, “Dr. Beach,” named Fort De Soto the nation’s #1 Beach.

The view from Ft De Soto's south beach looking over Krazy Karl at the Sunshine Skyway Bridge.


This is an areal view of Ft DeSoto in the red. You can see just how large the park is. It is a wildlife paradise! This is the largest park in Pinellas County Park System.It consists of 1,136 acres made up of 5 interconnected islands (keys).

With over 7 miles of waterfront, includes almost three miles of beautiful white sandy beach. Two large swim centers including a food concession area located at the North Beach Swim Center a lifeguard is on duty 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. daily on a seasonal basis from March to September.

Ft De Soto has two fishing piers-each pier has a food and bait concession.
Gulf & Bay Pier Hours: 7 a.m. - 11 p.m.

Last Christmas and New Years we had the pleasure of renting the buses to this family. They had a wonderful fun filled vacation. They seen more of Florida in the 2 weeks of travel than many see living here a life time! This is at Ft De Soto at the end of their trip. When they pulled up to the shop they were late due to a wrong turn on a kayak! They jumped out of the bus with straw hats and bare feet. I loved it! A true vision of a great VW road trip!

Krazy Karl at Ft De Soto packed and ready for an adventure! We do offer kayak and bike rentals. Please ask when booking to make sure we have availablity.

Fort De Soto is great as many sites have trees that are perfect for a hammock. 
Could this have been planned?

Ft DeSoto Campground is one of the best. - 238-site family camping areas with facilities, many sites are waterfront, with large oak trees for shade and palm trees in between. They have a long bike/walking trail, a great play ground in the campground. Also, if you feel adventurous, they offer a ferry boat ride (extra charge) to Egmont Key, which once held Fort Dade. A lighthouse (not open to climb) with a brick road and trail that winds thru the island. Gopher turtles are very common as well as waterfowl.

Bay Beaches are located in the campground, but you would need to ride a bike or drive a short distance to the Gulf of Mexico Beaches. If you get a water front site, bring a float!

Fort De Soto has the only four 12 inch seacoast rifled mortars (model 1890 mounted on 1896 carriages) in the continental United States. Also at the fort are two 6 inch Armstrong rapid fire rifled guns. (model 1898) which were originally mounted atFort Dade, and are the last two guns of that model year in the United States.

Historic fort located in the Fort De Soto Park, with a short walk to beach. 

If you opt to drive to the beach, there are picnic tables and grills scattered all over the park. 15 picnic shelters, restrooms, and play grounds.

Here is a retro post card from the shack near the fort. It is a great little place with Panama Jack hats, food, ice cream, beach toys, sun screen, etc. The bike trail is right in-front of the resturant. They have bike rentals at this location.

This is to cool! I have never heard anything about a Jungle Tour on Mullet Key. Would love to hear from anyone who rode this train!

Multipurpose trail - seven miles of paved trail connecting North Beach, East Beach, the boat ramp and the camping area.

Fort De Soto has a great selection of kayaks and canoes for rent.

Ft De Soto has 2.25 mile mangrove maze canoe trail. Also, as you first enter the park you will notice
the boat launching facility is the largest in the county! With 800-foot long boat launching facility with elevn floating docks.

Ferry service to Egmont Key concession/snack bar/souvenir shop. Ft De Soto has
Ferry to Egmont Key.jpg

1-mile nature trail in the Arrowhead Picnic area, and a 3/4 mile nature trail in the Soldiers' Hole area provides a glimpse of some the native fauna and flora. Regardless of your physical abilities, 2,200 feet Barrier-Free Nature Trail is a self-guided interpretive trail providing access to nature for all visitors to Fort De Soto Park.

Dog park with doggie beach

Fort De Soto is a great park and offers a wide range of possiblities. There is a section of waterfront campsites in the area that allows dogs that is on the bay boarding Shell Island. There is also a ferry to Shell Island, with is a unihibatied island inbetween Fort De Soto North Beach and Pass-a-grille.

Most of the island is an bird sancuary to waterfowl that nest on the beach. Ft De Soto also offers primitive camping here, but you have to provide your own transpertation, tent and set up. All gear must be brought to the island by boat. Also, you must bring all your trash off the island. Leave nothing but foot prints! No bathroom, no showers, no running water. Just you, the beach, the birds and the surf. I think it is amazing! Tip-last time we camped there the sand spurs were horriable! Make sure you bring some shoe to protect your feet!

The top left hand conor is Fort De Soto. Egmont Key to me is one of the prettiest place in this area! When you cross over the Sun Shine Skyway Bridge, look west and you will see it in the distance. Follow the channel with all the boats and you will see Egmont Key! Egmont Key Was called Fort Dade back in the day. My faviorte story was one of the light house keeper. In 1928 when the great hurricane hit this area Egmont key went under water. He tied his row boat to a plam tree 15 feet in the air. Once the storm was over, he rowed to Pass-a-grille (old fishing town and sea port) and never looked back. I have been throught a few hurricanes in my time, and never one as strong as the great storm, and I could not imange being in a row boat and surrviving. I leds me to beleive that people were stronger back in the day.

Battery McIntosh at Fort Dade

Fort Dade dinning hall
Egmont Key
Right off the beach. Looks like an old bunker

Looks like an old bunker right off the beach.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Bahia Honda State Park

Florida Oldscool Camper Rentals #1

Bahia Honda State Park

Room with a view from your groovy VW Bus!

The best of the best...

                  Bahia Honda in the Florida Keys is a spot you 
should not miss at MM 37. 
I could not help but notice this spot my first trip to the keys!

 It has a section of the Henry Flagler Railroad bridge with a modern road on top. This is one of the deepest channels in all of the keys causing all different shade of blue.

The park, which encompasses 524 acres, includes one small island offshore on the southwest end of the park. 

Sandspur Beach 
Great deep water swimming can be hard to find in the keys.

The subtropical climate throughout the Florida Keys has created a natural environment found nowhere else in the continental U.S. 

Many plants and animals in the park are rare and unusual, including marine plant and animals species of Caribbean origin. 
This is near campsite 10 with the view of the bridge. This is the RV section.
Trees in the community include the yellow satinwood, gumbo limbo, remaining stands of the threatened silver palms in the United States.

 A specimen of the silver palm national champion trees. Also found on the park grounds is the endangered small flowered lily thorn. These and other natural wonders may be viewed along the nature trail that follows the shore of a tidal lagoon at the far end of Sandspur Beach. 

 The geological formations of Bahia Honda is Key Largo limestone. It is derived from a prehistoric coral reef similar to the present day living reefs of the Keys. Because of a drop in sea level several thousand years ago, portions of hits ancient reef emerged from the sea, forming islands. Bahia Honda is the southernmost key where the formation is exposed.

 Sunrise at Bahia Honda State Park on a rainy day

In more modern times, the park was part of Henry Flagler's East Coastal Railroad holdings. The railroad to key West was started in 1905 and was jokingly referred to as "Flagler's Folly". It was eventually completed in 1912 but later destroyed by a hurricane in 1935.

 The railroad remains were converted into what is known today as U.S. Highway 1. Presently, the old Bahia Honda Bridge services as a reminder of Flagler's dream. The bridge offers visitors a panoramic view of the island and surrounding waters.

Room with a view....
Florida Oldscool Camper Rentals

Since the initial purchase of the first 13 acres of the park in 1961, Bahia Honda has become well-known as a recreational treasure in the keys.

Our camping trip was full of rain, but with rain is gorgeous sunsets, and if you are lucky.... a rainbow :)

While camping at Bahia Honda, a lady bug landed on Autumn, which is bright orange. 
There were the same color!
The park has great snorkeling right off the beach. Don't forget you need a dive flag to be legal. If you do not have one, you can rent/buy one at the gift shop.

Great place to camp in the keys! They have everything accept for a pool. You can find a pool 15 minutes away at the Sunset Grill in Marathon under the 7 mile bridge.

The bus has great window with screens. Lets the nice breeze in, keeps the bugs out!

Electric & water hook ups

Oh, what a view!

Daisy came a long for the ride 

You can add a kayak package. It is a great way to see the keys. You have islands, including two state parks that are a short kayak from shore. 

Public bathhouse 

Dive shop offering snorkeling trip, rentals, and gear. The snack shop serves up hamburgers, ice cream, and other snacks. They all so have great wifi that works all night if you need to catch up on emails.

The snorkel boat, it was early in the morning on a rainy morning, so the picture is a little dark. 

 The crabs where very active in the keys. It had been rainy for days when we landed in the keys, so it seem to bring the critters. The crab was crossing under our bus at the campstie. 


  •  Snorkeling Tours9:30am & 1:30pm (Tour times are subject to change seasonal &              weather permuting)
  • Snorkeling or diving from shore must have a dive flag!
  • Beach Rentals - mask $4, Snorkel $5, Fins $4, Dive flag $6, Beach Chairs & umbrellas $6. Kayaks $12/hr single, $18/hr double, 
  • Snake Bar sells, sandwichs, cold drinks, subs, ice cream, salads, coffee, pizzas, shakes, snacks, limited grocery items.
  • Gift Shop, T-shirts, jewerlry, gifts, souvenirs, books, toys, swimwear, towels.


Thanks for reading our post!

Dixie & Mike
Florida Oldscool Campers