For the next stop on our Florida tour, we were looking for something to break up the drive between Florida’s Springs and the Gulf Coast. Max had researched an interesting area named Merritt’s Mill Pond near Marianna, FL which is a clear spring fed lake surrounded by large Cypress trees. It looked similar to the famous cypress tree swamps of Louisiana, but rather than murky water these waters were clear.
In the interest of saving money, Max reserved a campsite at Christoff Landing run by the Florida Water Management District which allows you to camp free of charge as long as you register in advance. We rolled into the campground after dark on a Saturday night and were surprised to find someone else in our campsite. That’s when we realized just how small the campground was with only three campsites in whole place. When I got out of the car to talk to them about it, a guy approached me and said they were surprised to see us too as they had never seen any other campers the many times they’ve stayed there. I wasn’t sure if that was a good or bad sign? Anyhow, since their crew occupied two of the three sites, they asked us if we could move to the only open one for the night as they would be leaving the next morning. We agreed, setup camp and crashed as we were tired from our busy day.
The next morning we woke up to find our neighbors gone leaving behind a smoky fire burning in their pit. Being a safety hazard, we went over to put out the fire and noticed all the trash they left behind. They had trash both in and out of the fire pit from beer cans, to McDonalds fries to soiled baby diapers. Gross! We then spent the next hour cleaning up their crap and putting out their fire. After we were done with the cleanup, we were feeling a little uncomfortable about the campground situation so we drove half a mile down the road to check out the nearby river. The very first thing we saw was a homeless man living out of his truck tucked into the woods and him making a small fire nearby. That didn’t make us feel any more confident about the place, but we still tried to stay optimistic.
Later that afternoon we headed over to explore Merritt’s Mill Pond. We launched our pack rafts at the public boat ramp and paddled around looking for good locations for Max to shoot that night. After we’d been out there for a few hours, we were exploring an area near some docks when all of a sudden we heard a big splash and a loud “clomp”! We were a bit spooked so started slowly paddling away from the area when we heard it again. After hearing it several more times we were pretty sure it was an alligator catching a fish, but never saw the actual alligator which was probably a good thing! We made it safely back to the boat launch that night.
The next morning we drove into town to find a coffee shop where Max could charge his laptop. We went to a local café that looked like a hole in the wall, but had really good reviews. We had only planned on getting coffee, but the prices were so cheap that Max & I had a full breakfast and coffee for only $12.00!
After breakfast, we drove to the laundromat so I could do laundry while Max worked (since we had no reception at the campsite). Up to this point, we had used the laundry facilities that were onsite at the various campgrounds we had stayed, so this was my first foray into the world of public laundromats and I was a wee bit apprehensive. The laundromat itself was located in a rundown strip mall of which all the other storefronts were empty. I brought with me $15 in quarters, but soon realized I had completely forgotten the detergent back at the trailer and would need to buy some. Additionally, the price per load was twice as much as I had been paying previously so I didn’t have enough money leftover after paying for detergent and washing to dry the clothes. Since it was a cash/coin only laundry, I asked the lady working there if there was an ATM nearby. She said there wasn’t one onsite, but gave me directions to one a few miles away on the other side of town.
As I was heading out the door to drive to the ATM, a man who had overheard my conversation asked how much I needed. When I told him I wasn’t quite sure (since the drying time was based on minutes per quarter rather than a set fee) he just handed me a whole handful of quarters and said “Use whatever you need”. I was shocked and touched that this complete stranger was willing to give me all of his extra quarters when in reality he probably needed them more than I did in the grand scheme of things. I told him how much I appreciated his kind gesture and said I would make sure to pay it forward! After finishing with the laundry, I was glad to see this man was still there as I was able to give him at least half of his quarters back. Nonetheless, the fact that he willingly gave them all to me and didn’t expect any of it back is what I’ll remember.
When we returned to our RV to drop off the laundry, there was a car idling in one of the empty campsites. There were four 18-20 year old looking kids in a sedan and they just sat in the spot without getting out of the car. Right away Max said “I bet they are doing a drug deal.” So we did what any other True Crime fans would do and put everything on pause while we watched through our window blinds waiting for the action. Just as we suspected within five minutes a truck drove up, parked window to window to the sedan, and passed a baggie through the window. During this exchange, one of the parties dropped the baggie on the ground, but since the cars were only inches apart neither one could open the car door to pick it up. The dealer car finally had to back up so the kids could open the car door and get the baggie. Needless to say, we already put our reservation request in for next year to ensure we get the same campsite again. What a gem! 😉