Back to Wekiwa Springs for Christmas

Wekiwa Springs can get hard to reserve in December, and the week directly surrounding Christmas and New Year especially so.  A couple of weeks in advance I had no difficulty securing five weekday days in mid December, but it was not until our three day stay in Lake Monroe that I was able to extend that another five days through Christmas.  This made possible, of course, via the tried and true “just keep checking the reservation site for cancellations” method.  I find that using the “date range availability” viewing option is the easiest way to spot openings for any Reserve America controlled campground.

Our second of two sites, full hook up, a few less trees.

PKM loves this park, the squirrel density is quite high.

Sunday morning we broke camp early in order to get the rig parked in the lot behind Sweetwater-Wekiva market with enough time to set up for the event, which gave us another decent performance.  Shayna, the market manager has worked to add special events to draw in more people, and this week included a puppy parade with free dog treats for all participants.  It’s rather strange how consistent this market is for us:  though it has limited foot traffic compared to the steady stream of people at Deland, the people that show up are much more likely to buy.  Works for us!

From there it was on to the state park just a couple of miles down the road.  We would spend the first five days in the “upper loop” at site #38 and the second half in the “lower loop” in #4.  I mention this because the loops are different in appearance and services.  Both have smooth, hard packed dirt sites with plenty of trees and other greenery, but the upper loop has noticeably more older growth oak and general forestry, while in the lower loop all sites are full hook up rather than power and water only (there are a handful of exceptions in the upper loop with full connections.)

I’m sure she would have come down on her own eventually, but when?

No time for these games, cat.

Our ideal site would be in the upper loop in one of the higher numbered sites with full connections, but for those that value their satellite TV, the lower loop is less likely to provide signal obstruction.  Regardless of site, the camping fee pays for the park entry, so anyone staying can enjoy the wonderful swimming area at the spring head.

About to take the plunge..

… and in.

Somewhere in the midst of all this I picked up Rosemarie’s Christmas gift and hid it in a locked storage compartment and kept the key on me, just in case.  This was insufficient to prevent her from sleuthing it out when she accidentally found and then accidentally read my to do list, which included, of course, picking up her Circut Explore One die cutting machine that is all the rage with the crafters this year.  And then her sister Dolores convinced her that, yes, it’s a nice gift but you really need to have the (more expensive) Circut Explore Air 2.  But of course.  Thanks, Dori.

Behold, the eventually decided upon Christmas present.

And part of our gift from Dad and Marcia.

In addition to our three final markets of the year occurring during our stay, we had a ouple of family gatherings to celebrate the Christmas holidays.  We managed to somehow avoid getting any pictures to prove these events occurred.  Mom and Tim joined us for one night in the park, meeting their “camping” quota for the year.  Jackson and wife Andrea joined Rose, me, Dad and Marcia for an afternoon cookout at Wekiwa Springs on the 23, and Aunt Judy hosted Christmas Day brunch for dozen of us.  This is the only big and consistent Christmas gathering we attend, despite my attempts to force a “gathering of the cousins” each year like we managed in 2016.  Ah well, 2018 will be the year, I’m sure.

Starting Christmas day dry…

… and ending it wet.

Back to Central Florida: Lake Monroe County Park again

Here’s the thing: Lake Monroe Park, located on the Volusia side of the Seminole-Volusia county line, and situated on the St Johns river where it empties into Lake Monroe (natch) is, as far as we know, the best value park for short term stays in the North Central Florida region loosely bracketed by Deland, Lake Mary, Wekiva, and Mount Dora.  Admittedly, that is a rather arbitrarily defined region directly north of Orlando and short of the Ocala National Forest, but it places us in perfect position to visit our CFL friends and family as well as a handful of markets in the vicinity.

Site 13, our usual assignment.

It is not our favorite spot in the region; that would be a toss up between Trimble Park near Mount Dora and Wekiwa Springs State Park. But it is affordable, beautiful, heavily wooded, and convenient, and has thus become one of our go to campgrounds, particularly on winter weekends when our other top options are often hard to reserve.

That said, it’s not for everyone.  The reservation system is strictly by phone during regular weekday business hours, and often requires a call back or two.  Unlike many, many county and municipal campgrounds we have visited, there is neither a camp host nor an honor system “iron ranger” deposit box to make payment if you just show up to try and camp in one of the open sites.  They have a one week maximum stay, and a 30 days total stay limit per calendar year as well.

Linda’s three sons with Rose

The gate is locked at dusk, so you better have made note of the combination lock contained in your reservation confirmation email if you are out past then.  The trains run regularly and into the night through nearby Sanford, whistles and all.  And there is some sort of industrial plant a few hundred yards away across the highway that produces hours and hours of… a steady sort of blow dryer sound, also deep into the night.

“The Plant”

Aside from the noise, most of those issues can be dealt with by planning ahead, and I find the train noises vaguely soothing in a nostalgic sort of way, but your mileage may very.  Regardless, at less than $17 a night all in, we use it regularly, particularly during this year when other favorites have been closed or limited.  So for our return to Central Florida, occurring as it did on a weekend, we locked in a three day stay in advance of our longer, through Christmas reservations at Wekiwa Springs State Park.

This would be a busy weekend.  Just as in November, we had locked in 10 markets for December.  We completed four in Naples across our Sanibel stay, but had six more to cover during the last two weekends before Christmas.  And in addition to the Friday Deland Artisan Alley market and the Saturday Lake Mary event, we also had to get Rosemarie to the airport for another trip up to Virginia to see Linda and the crew.

If there are two things all Linda sons know how to do well, it’s cooking fantastic food…

When we returned to Central Florida in November, our first Deland night market confirmed why we remembered it so fondly (we crushed it) but the following two Fridays had been just so-so.  We were pleased that this mid-December Friday returned to form with a great showing, which we partially attribute to some additional lighting we purchased cheaply at Harbor Freight.  The next day’s Lake Mary market was solid, though not nearly the extravaganza we had experienced in November, but still significantly better than the alternative Saturday event in downtown Sanford.

…and making beautiful kids.

We did a rapid market tear down after the Lake Mary event ended, swung back by the campground to refresh, and then it was straight to Orlando International for Rose’s flight.  Thankfully it was a weekend and thus we avoided the worst of Orlando’s horrific I-4 traffic, but it was still long ride there and back, where upon arrival I made preps for a complicated move to Wekiwa Springs State Park as well as a market the next day.