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 1

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

Inglis Lock Recreation Area

I leave Central Florida and head northwest to the Inglis lock, near the Gulf coast.

This lock is part of the Marjorie Harris Carr Cross Florida Greenway, formerly known as the Cross Florida Barge Canal. The canal was never finished and the lock was finally closed for good in 1999, but it is open to the public and has several trails, that extend to Lake Rousseau.

Felburn Park

Not too far away is Felburn Park with similar trails and a former open pit mine; this mine ultimately flooded, which created a beautiful lake.

From here, you can drive about five miles to the coast on an unpaved road, alongside a paved bike path, closely following the canal. You’ll find covered picnic areas along the way, where you can have lunch or perhaps spend an afternoon with a fishing rod in one hand and a drink in the other.

At the end of the road and after a short hike, the canal flows into the Gulf of Mexico. A small pavilion provides some shade from the hot summer sun and offers views of the coastal wetlands.

Rosewood

What remains of the town is virtually one home on a road, in a still remote part of Florida. It used to be a general store, owned by John Wright, a white person in a prosperous and predominantly black community.

With the segregation under the Jim Crow laws, nearby Sumner was predominantly White, but relations between the two towns were good.

During the Rosewood massacre in 1923, the town was completely destroyed except for John Wright’s General Store. A lynching f a Black person, led to hundreds of Whites, forcing the Blacks out of their town, while burning down their homes.

Despite the violence arrests were never made and the residents never came back.

It took 70 years for the massacre to be acknowledged and reparations to be made. 30 More years for a headstone in the nearby Shiloh cemetery, for John M Wright, the White general store owner, who had saved the lives of so many of his Black friends.

Cedar Key Railroad hiking trail

Cedar Key had its own railroad since 1861 and the town flourished from its passenger and freight services until Tampa took over as a regional freight center. The line was slowly reclaimed by nature after it was abandoned in 1932. By 2000 a trail was established and the surrounding habitat was protected.

Another nearby hike is the Cemetery Boardwalk trail; this short hike leads you behind the cemetery to a point with great views of the surrounding waters.

Shell Mound

The mound of shells is perhaps two stories high and accounts for over 1500 years of Native American occupation. What were their recycled waste materials (mainly shells and bones), were reused to stabilize this swampy area.

Local anglers often occupy the long boardwalk along the bay and the shell mound attracts visitors. A third short trail leads to a protected area where birds can be observed.

It was very windy and cold on my visit in February and the boardwalk was quickly left behind me and replaced by the more protected mound walk, that still offered beautiful views of the bay. A visit to a third trail offers great possibilities for birding; when I was there, only a Great and Blue Heron made an appearance.

Finding Shelter

Bad planning on this first day of the trip, left me with little time to see much more. I managed to drive through the Lower Suwannee Wildlife Refuge, which appears barren during the winter season and a setting sun makes it more desolate. Perhaps still an area worthwhile to revisit.

With little light left, I have to make an unplanned overnight stop at a nearby Walmart. Just hoping to make up the time tomorrow.

In the few hours left, I managed to prepare a simple meal, of course, only after Joey got his. Then had to recharge the numerous batteries of my cameras and lamps and move all of today’s videos to a harddrive.

That left me with some time to reflect on today’s experiences and to make some notes for improvement.

Before I know, it’s time for an evening walk with Joey. After I return to the van, the Murphy bed is pulled down, Joey immediately takes the best spot on the bed and I reluctantly, accept my place in the hierarchy.

VISITED LOCATIONS

Felburn Park ➜ 29.0125, -82.6571
Withlacoochee Bay Trail TH ➜ 28.9971, -82.7291
Inglis Locks ➜ 29.0250, -82.6169
Rosewood ➜ 29.2388, -82.9321
Shiloh Cemetery ➜ 29.2349, -82.9820
Cedar Key Railroad trail ➜ 29.1447, -83.0326
Cedar Key Cemetery Boardwalk ➜ 29.1456, -83.0419
Shell Mound ➜ 29.2069, -83.0683

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