The last two Fall seasons we spent time in the Central Florida region bouncing around between half a dozen of our favorite area parks. This year, two of them are closed (Trimble and Kelly County Parks) and one other is closed to swimming (Blue Springs State Park) all of this related to Hurricane Irma damage. This cuts every RVers options down, but particularly those of us that prefer the state and county options to the private parks and resorts in the region. It’s early enough in the season that weekdays are still quite easy to get at our remaining preferred places, but the weekends are booked pretty solidly way out.
So as we entered the fourth week of October we locked in a five day window (Sunday through Thursday) at Wekiwa Springs State Park, and a few days later we managed to snag the weekend on a cancellation and then extend another five days into November. This is one of the keys to getting popular state parks: keep checking for cancellations; they often occur in that last 48 hours. Wekiwa also seems to have a handful of sites that are not on the reservation system but that the ranger office can assign based upon in person “walk up” campers.
By the way, if you are googling around for Wekiwa you will find two spelling variations, Wekiwa and Wekiva, with the park, river, streets, and neighborhoods variously adhering to one or the other. I have heard two explanations for this:
- The right spelling and pronunciation is Wekiwa, deriving from a Creek-Seminole word for “spring” but transcription errors way back led to the river itself getting the Wekiva spelling, which stuck, and thus some other things in the area use that version as well.
- Wekiwa is the Indian word for “spring” and Wekiva is the word for “river” or perhaps “spring fed river” so they are both right. I suspect the first option is closer to the truth.
After a few days into our stay Dad and Stepmom Marcia arrived in the region and joined us at Wekiwa Springs for a week. The last time we were able to RV with them was when we accidentally ran into each other in Texas’ Balmorhea State Park. Since they will be wintering in various parts of Florida this year we will likely spend a lot more time in or near the same RV park.
Wekiwa Springs is fantastic place to RV, or just visit for the day. The spring itself is huge, crystal clear, and largely free of any shoreline vegetation in the generous swim area. This allows swimmers and snorkelers to enjoy the constant 72 degree water in ideal conditions without any real worry about snakes or gators (a fear that is largely overblown anyway.) The place gets pretty crowded on weekends, which makes RVing there on the weekdays even better, especially during the school year: you get the spring almost to yourself.
The spacious RV sites are a mile or so from the spring in a nicely wooded area, and sometime in the last couple of years were all upgraded from dry camping to a mix of full hook up and power/water only sites. The price is right at only $24 plus tax a night, though you still have to pay the egregious Reserve America fee for each and every reservation, which hurts when you have to string together several of them to make a decent stay.
Speaking of money, we began our Florida farmers and artisans market season in earnest this month. As I look back through our calendar I see a pattern of market dearth and surfeit, of scarcity and plenty. When we are travelling with any sort of speed we don’t have the time for them, often do to the approval process timeline; we have been approved for several markets only after we have left an area. Additionally some states, counties, or cities have strict rules (and fees) for licenses and the like, which often makes it not worth the time, effort, and money.
When we settle down in an area, however, we can usually leverage that time into getting the necessary research, approval, and paperwork done for several local events. Thus our time in Tucson, Whidbey Island, and the U.P. lead to months with 5 to 8 markets. Central and Southwest Florida are two additional market rich regions for us, and we expect to do as many as 25 of them before Christmas. We started things off right with that community wide yard sale at Grand Lake, and really kicked things into high gear during the last weeks of October.
Finally having a bit of a firm schedule, we had gotten ourselves approved for events in Sanford, Deland, and Sweetwater-Wekiva, which covers every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, with Sanford also offering the option for a Thursday evening vend at a local craft brewhouse. With our dance card as full as we could want, we closed out October with five markets. Sweetwater-Wekiva gave us one very solid and one poor result, but we will stay with it regardless because we enjoy the atmosphere, its quite close to the state park, and we have gained a lot good information from the other vendors and Shayna, the market manager.
The Sanford Thursday event was a total bust with almost no foot traffic and apparently not much local awareness. Sanford’s Saturday market was better, but not enough to justify the unnecessarily long hours and almost palpable sense of desperation emanating from some of the other vendors (including seven other jewelers.) We started looking hard at alternatives for Saturday, and lucked into a very solid market, more on that in a later post.
Lastly, we did Deland’s Artisan Alley night market, which was so great for us last year and did not disappoint this time around. It’s short, has lots of foot traffic, much of it coming out of local bars so the money flows a little freer, and just has a great vibe to the whole thing. The only down side is, as a non regular, we have to show up nearly an hour and a half before the official start time to register and get a decent spot. This is less of a pain that it sounds because we can kill that time having a beer at popular Persimmon Hollow brewery, and the official start time means nothing to the people wandering buy and ready to make purchases as soon as anyone is set up.
We closed out October with a couple of hours geocaching with Dad and Marcia, along the excellent Seminole Wekiva bike trail. There are several that are either missing or have become much harder to find as a result of Hurricane Irma, but we still managed to snag four during a nice afternoon of bicycling along this unique stretch of trail. Local artists have put a great amount of time and effort into painting hundreds of yards of dilapidated panel fencing along the route with every manner of pop culture oriented works. It’s definitely worth your time to see if you are in the area.