“Travel is a Privilege.” Nomadic Matt
Over one week into our trip, we finally drove out of Florida. Our first campground in Alabama was a very nice one on Lake Eufaula (also known as Walter F. George Lake). Our site gave us direct access to the water and an easy shoreline for Vivian to launch the kayak. Investing in a 1-week Alabama fishing license, she would for the first time on our trip, use the inflatable kayak and do some fishing. While the lake was nice enough, the view was interrupted by power lines and buildings along the shoreline. I was not inspired to photograph it.
Living on an island surrounded by a national park, Vivian and I are wilderness spoiled. From our home in Outdoor Resorts, we can overlook the very large Chokoloskee Bay that surrounds the island and see only wilderness. No development will ever interrupt our view of the Ten Thousand Islands.
Within minutes of home, we can paddle our boats into Everglades National Park where sharks, dolphin and manatee share the waters. I can drive a couple miles, launch my canoe and be totally isolated in Big Cypress National Preserve with the alligators. A 5-mile drive to the Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park is where the coveted ghost orchids bloom. We paddle through the nearby Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge with our canoes for several days at a time, primitive camp on the islands without the service of cell phones, running water or electricity. We are at home in the wilderness. To us, the RV is the antithesis of camping.
But it is with the RV that we have the privilege of traveling through the United States. Alabama is one of 48 (maybe 49) states that will contribute to our experiences in the rich diversity of American culture and ecology. During a week in Alabama, we camped on two lakes located at opposite ends of the state, Lakes Eufaula and Guntersville. While there, I learned that Alabama is the second largest in inland waterways with a total of 1500 miles. It is also among the top in the nation for its range in biodiversity of flora and fauna.
Despite the recognized waterways and biodiversity, I struggled sometimes with the lack of pure wilderness. At both our campgrounds, I saw more signs on large trucks displaying “Roll Tide” than I did wild animals. On Lake Eufaula, our camp neighbor’s drone was one of two objects flying over the lake, the other was an osprey. Buildings and docks lined much of the lakeview there. On Lake Guntersville, utility towers interrupted the sunset view. Powerboats were plenty on both lakes, but we did enjoy a small herd of deer that hung out near our campsite. I had to finally accept that traveling in an RV meant redefining “wilderness camping”.
On the other hand, there is something to be said for parking your home on waterfront property. Vivian enjoyed the mornings fishing on the water while I explored the surrounding land. Nature photography was relegated to spiders in the woods, but I loved that I had all my camera equipment available, and on a whim could grab it and go hike around a small parcel of wilderness looking for something, anything to photograph.
Vivian could have her kayak on the water within seconds of our campsites, although there were no fish caught. At Lake Guntersville while Vivian paddled out on the large body of water, I hiked straight up to the overlook where I had a panoramic view of the large lake where a tiny speck that was her boat could barely be seen. I had my camera, she had her fishing rod. It wasn’t the Everglades, but we did not wish to be any other place on earth.
We believed ourselves to be privileged to have an RV and a truck to tow it to these locations. The places we park our home give us access to pieces of America that we otherwise would never have known if not for the RV. Sitting outside in our camp chairs one evening in Alabama, our view of a sunset over Lake Guntersville where powerboats raced to get back home before dark was blocked by several RVs. Facing the opposite direction, we toasted Alabama while enjoying the view of a herd of deer grazing nearby on an empty RV site.