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 6

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

Airport Cemetery

On this last day of my trip to the Florida Panhandle, I got up early, to visit a special place with a view. It was still dark, when I entered a narrow corridor that led to a small area, at the end of the runway.

Known as Airport Cemetery, it is believed to be a former pauper’s graveyard, around which the airport built its runways.

In recent years, new burials have taken place on the north side of this cemetery, with the older, unmarked graves on the southern part, only marked by numerous sunken depressions.

9/11 Whale Sculptures

One man’s grief over the national tragedy has manifested in a pod of homemade whales on his front lawn. The owner of the property designed and built these sculptures, after the terrorist attacks of 9/11.

It has become a place of remembrance, specifically on September 11th of every year, when a memorial event is held on the property.

Ghost Town of Ellaville

Founded in 1861, when George Drew, businessman and first governor of Florida, built a home on the banks of the Suwanee river.

Here he built the largest steam-operated sawmill, which eventually attracted the Florida Railroad to serve this growing place. His career highlight was in 1876 when he became governor of the State of Florida.

After the mill burned down in 1898, Ellaville slowly disappeared from the map. The mill was rebuilt, but the abundance of pine to harvest was gone. Subsequent floodings and the Great Depression, made it all worse.

The Drew mansion was abandoned and eventually burnt down in the 1970’s. Only the Hillman Bridge remains in place for foot access, after it was replaced in 1986.

This day I explored the bridge and a small park, adjacent to it. A short trail leads to the location of the former Drew mansion, but with so much overgrowth, I could not find any of its foundations. Only history remains.

Falmouth Springs

At a short distance from Ellaville, I hike the short trail to Falmouth Springs, the so-called “world’s shortest river”. The 450 feet run between the points where it appears and disappears, is in fact a karst window: an unroofed portion of a cavern that reveals an underground stream. It is called a first magnitude spring, with a daily water flow of around 65 million gallons.

The short walk leads to several stairs, going down to both ends of the “river”. Not an incredible location, yet worth a 10-minute stop to see this phenomenon.

White Sulfur Springs Ruins

This former resort got its fame by proclaiming the health benefits of its sulfuric spring water.

Between 1835 and the 1930’s a dozen luxury hotels were built around the spring and many more boarding houses. In 1908, the simple bathhouse was transformed into the four story building, that still stands today.

The prosperity and popularity of the spring diminished gradually after the 1930’s and the 72˚F water from this 47 million gallons a day spring, ultimately dried up in 1990. Only the building remains.
When I visited, access to the building was blocked for repairs, but it is visible from the main road.

VISITED LOCATIONS

  • Airport Cemetery ➜ 30.3907, -84.3260
  • Yard Whale Sculptures ➜ 30.4849, -84.2294
  • Drew Mansion TH ➜ 30.3851, -83.1747
  • Ghost Town of Ellaville ➜ 30.3830, -83.1739
  • Falmouth Springs ➜ 30.3632, -83.1340
  • White Sulfur Springs Ruins ➜ 30.3299, -82.7605

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