Permanent Vanlife is still about one year away, so I decided to get a feel for it, by planning multiple one-week trips in the van, throughout the US Southeast.

Part of a 7-day trip to the Florida Panhandle in my Ford Transit Van Build.
Day 3

Besides enjoyment, the goal of these multi-day journeys is also to get a sense of Vanlife and to add or change part of the setup in the van, if necessary.

Florida Panhandle

Butcher Pen Landing campsite

I arrived at my free camping spot in the dark, so the next morning I was pleasantly surprised that Butcher Pen Landing was entirely unoccupied. I had it all to my own.

It was a small circle with campsites for tents or small RV’s like vans and a pier for river access.

It was 7AM on a cool February morning with patches of fog hovering above the water surface, the sun peeking from behind the horizon and the overwhelming sound of silence.

After a walk with Joey and a quick breakfast, I pack up and leave. Unlike yesterday night, I take the official road out to the highway and unexpectedly encounter several sizeable wet spots over the road that make me think twice of continuing. It works out in the end and soon I’m heading towards Pensacola and Alabama again.

St. George Island lighthouse

The sun is up when I arrive at the lighthouse. I am starting to get used to empty parking lots and lack of fellow travelers; instead, I have the beach to my own and while many attractions are closed for the winter, many of those are a hindrance when you travel with a dog anyway.

Fortunately, this is one of the few places where I can take Joey along for a sturdy walk on the beach and after half an hour of struggle with the wind and Joey’s plays with the constant movements of the seawater, we return to the van, to warm up and continue to the nearby trailhead for this mornings hike.

The Cape St. George Light is a 72-foot high brick lighthouse, which had originally stood for 153 years on St. George Island, Florida, until toppling into the Gulf of Mexico on October 22, 2005. The pieces of the lighthouse were retrieved, and in April 2008, the light’s restoration was completed, but this time a bit further inland.

East Slough trail

Planning to walk the Gap Point trail, a wrong turn led me onto the East Slough trail on the other side of the inlet, closer to the main road.

vanlife in Florida Panhandle

This 3.2 mile out and back hike features a series of boardwalks connected by a sandy, open forest path, with views of the inlet and dunes on the other side.

Along the way, you’ll find a historical marker and example of a Herty cup, where a piece of pine bark is removed and the resin is collected in a Herty cup. The resin was further collected and processed in the turpentine industry and used for caulking and rigging on early wooden ships.

Callaway Goat Farm

Since the 1950s dozens of goats have roamed free behind a low fence on a residential street of Panama City, eating whatever people give them.

I couldn’t resist to make a short stop and find out. It’s fairly large lot and no goats where to be found, but just a minute later several dozen goats appeared behind the fence, each pushing its way forward through the crowd, just to be first in line.

Joey allowed me to use some of his dry food and share it with my new friends. It did not last long, as you can imagine and after a while I said my goodbyes, to continue to the other side of town, where I would find my last location of the day.

vanlife in Florida Panhandle

Wonderworks & Ripleys

Both buildings stand out among their peers. The Ripleys building is appropriately fashioned like an impressive, but sinking old steamliner, which makes one even more curious to find out what more this museum has to offer.

On the opposing side of the street, Wonderworks teases your sense of creativity by turning a whole building Upside Down as if it tumbled to its final resting place during one of those hurricanes, that so commonly blow ashore on this art of the Florida coast.

The facade is mostly restricted to two sides, built with an astounding sense of detail. Palms, electricity poles and street lights hanging down from the top of the building and major cracks throughout. Funny and interesting travel stop.

With again too much on today’s travel list and with only about an hour of daylight left, I decided to drive as close as I can to the next location and use another Walmart as an overnight stay. Tomorrow morning will give me the best beach experience so far!

VISITED LOCATIONS

  • Butcher Pen Landing ➜ 29.8033, -84.9669
  • St. George Island lighthouse ➜ 29.6630, -84.8627
  • East Slough TH ➜ 29.7189, -84.7495
  • Callaway Goat Farm ➜ 30.1237, -85.5897
  • Wonderworks & Ripleys ➜ 30.1782, -85.7994
  • Walmart campsite ➜ 30.3648, -87.1694

TRAIL DOWNLOAD

EAST SLOUGH TRAIL

Dogs:

OK

Distance:

3.2 mi – Out & Back

Difficulty:

Easy

Download:

Description

Mostly a combination of boardwalks and sandy forest trail with several benches and views of the dunes and inlet.

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