Gainesville-Charlotte Camping Reviews: Holton Creek River Camp

Overall, Holton Creek Camp is more than I ever expected from a free campsite: electricity, heated water, and a roof over my head. I was really pleased to have such facilities, especially after having to navigate the dirt paths for about forty or so minutes in the near-dark. I am glad certain Floridian wildlife offices are putting the effort and time to make the Florida Trail a real destination rather than a half-assed thing to do “‘cause every other state got it”.

On the first night of the “Blue Ridge Trail” biking trip (self-coined), I stopped at the Holton Creek River Camp, motivated by its proximity to Gainesville, FL as well as its free-ness, which I have prioritized during this trip (though it will become apparent that these priorities don’t seem to hold sway in Georgia). The camp is specifically for Florida Trail hikers and Suwanee River tubers, placed just a few dozen feet from both the river and trail – it also has a sign that deters overnight parking nearby; you will have to earn your way to this area in some shape or form.

Reservations

Reservations were very simple: I just had to call the Suwanee River Water Management District (800.868.9914) and ask if there are any availabilities for the day. Being a Monday, there was absolutely no one looking to reserve either the platforms or the tent sites, so I could easily snag one of the former. For more information, you can also check the WMD’s site out.

Don’t always trust Google.

Google Maps has an issue with directing to the camp: while it identifies exactly where the camp is located, it does not take into account the unpaved roads required to get to the campsite via bicycle – nor the Florida Trail, which would be a huge bonus if it were included in the future.

Google assumes that there is a magical bridge that goes from the south side to the north side; there isn't, just private property.
Google assumes that there is a magical bridge that goes from the south side to the north side; there isn't, just private property.

It was already past 19:30 when I arrived at the southern end, also called the “Sheriff’s Boys Camp” or something similar. I didn’t realize until then that Holton Creek Camp was located north of the river, not south. For the next hour, I rerouted myself to the 249, adding another 18 miles to the bike trip, and causing me to arrive at the camp after sun had set.

Feeling as if I was gonna get Blair Witch’d

It was a stressful experience to go further and further into the Floridian woods from 20:30 to 21:00. The sunset occurred at 20:36, and I was already past the highway and a mile or so into the forest. I did not want to be stuck in the forest, in the dark, alone, and without something already set up to sleep in. As a child, I put the covers over my head when I’m afraid that someone is in my room, or even as a teenager, camping alone. “If you can’t see them, they can’t see you.”

For the last fifteen minutes I had to turn on my bike light so I can see along the dirt path. The worst horror is to seek the image of something; my light flashed through the trees and into the distance, and the reptile-part of my brain just waited for some darkened silhouette to appear.

But moving along.

Holton River Camp is all that and a bag of chips

I was really suprised by the handicap accessibility.
I was really suprised by the handicap accessibility.

I had seen images of the platform online, and had assumed the five structures were simply well-made bug nets. However, when I arrived, I also found it (and all other buildings) to be handicap accessible, with internal and exterior lights, as well as a ceiling fan. The platforms could comfortably fit three small tents, or up to six people with only bivy sacks or sleeping bags (which I would not recommend: the weakest part of the structure are the small perforations in the otherwise high quality platforms, allowing for a few small bugs to find a way in).

Sleeping bag in the Holton Creek River Camp platform - the wood floors were even well-sealed, but I set up the tarp as a barrier anyway.
Sleeping bag in the Holton Creek River Camp platform – the wood floors were even well-sealed, but I set up the tarp as a barrier anyway.

The rain and the platform

The fifth of June had erratic behavior with regard to weather; earlier in the day I had been soaked by thirty minutes of rain, and then clear skies for the next seven or so hours. But by twelve in the morning, a pattering of rain had started, and would not stop until the afternoon of the next day (which dampened my mood and cycling speed). I worried that the “splash back” of the rain drops would get in through the net, but the roof had covered most of the ramp entrance, keeping drops far enough away from the site – perhaps I take this note because of the possible issues that tarp tenting can produce: torrential rainfall will bounce into the enclosure, causing things to get wet regardless of the roof over one’s head.

The bathrooms and showers

It was only a small trip to the bathrooms, which are segregated into disabilities/non-disabilities and men/women.
It was only a small trip to the bathrooms, which are segregated into disabilities/non-disabilities and men/women.

Only the next morning did I check out the bathrooms, which had lit up at night when I passed them; I thought they were small, rentable houses at first. But to my surprise, the bathrooms were fully furnished: working toilet, hot/cold water shower, and a sink with a mirror, with toilet paper already in place. Also cooled by A/C! I don’t know why they put so much effort into this place, but the Holton Creek River Camp had gone way beyond normal expectations of a free campsite.

Conclusions

Overall, Holton Creek Camp is more than I ever expected from a free campsite: electricity, heated water, and a roof over my head. I was really pleased to have such facilities, especially after having to navigate the dirt paths for about forty or so minutes in the near-dark. I am glad certain Floridian wildlife offices are putting the effort and time to make the Florida Trail a real destination rather than a half-assed thing to do “‘cause every other state got it”.

But be careful about Google Maps and attempting to read the official websites PDF map, as the former completely throws you off the correct street, and the latter is not to scale and can be confusing to figure out the actual entrance to the Holton Creek area (you can go along the Florida Trail, which I could not find a trailhead, or via the Northwest entrance).

Gainesville-Charlotte Biking Trip: June 4th, 2017

First thought: this town is a tourist trap. But these thoughts were met with regrets; my cynical sentiments were questioned by Cecilia, who had described the historical voracity of the walls of the tourist trap stores: they are made of the beach shells of St. Augustine. I thought they were veneers. I was wrong but concluded that it was still a tourist trap.

St. Augustine, FL -> Gainesville, FL

18:27 – The photoshoot turned out nicely. Cory pulled through with the faux-serious-ironic attitude that a more self-conscious Instagram account requires. Cecilia provided textural contrast with a glance away from the camera, as if the pose and photo were merely a small page in a much larger life to live. Dandelion wreaths adorned, the couple had been finally primed for a larger-than-life pose.

19:17 – Kody wouldn’t let up on his rising hairline. “I’m going bald” he would repeat over and over, fishing for a patronizing compliment from Cecilia. She would comply and the topic would be brought up again with each gust of the wind.

19:41 – They searched for shark teeth with no results. A middle-aged lady – with unparalleled confidence – told Cecilia that they would find such teeth in the piles of thicker sea deposits: the teeth would be sifted away from the finer grains of sand and shell. Another thirty minutes to no avail.

18:14 – First thought: this town is a tourist trap. But these thoughts were met with regrets; my cynical sentiments were questioned by Cecilia, who had described the historical voracity of the walls of the tourist trap stores: they are made of the beach shells of St. Augustine. I thought they were veneers. I was wrong but concluded that it was still a tourist trap.

23:00 (back in Gainesville, FL) – I hadn’t met up with Anthony before I left Gainesville. I will meet him at 9:00 tomorrow.

23:30 – Kody plays Sandstorm by Darude. I realize that the track will be the centerpiece of my eternally unrealized novel.

Degree Zero: Untitled 170524

It would be a dream to get the vox-only stems of Jaala’s latest album. Her shrieks and shouts and tempo changes and overall chaotic vocal beauty would be used extensively.

You can listen to it here on Bandcamp.

I’m pretty happy with what I was able to eek out of Jaala’s “Junior Spirit” (the lead vocals for the track), Motion Graphics’ “Vistabrick” (which produces that great echo-y crack and bass beat), and a small smattering of Death Grips’ “Anne Bonny”, the 160BPM heart of the track, providing a driving foundation for the slowed pace of the other parts.

Jaala’s voice is beautiful: seductive and rough; high-pitched but with the subdued energy of an alto. It’s not easy to extract some vocals from her tracks what with the band’s usual frenetic guitars and drums. But “Spirit” has some isolated vocals, and luckily it’s one of my favorite singles. I jumped on the chance to cut her voice up into something so different – to insert her voice into the universe of Motion Graphics.

I’m not good at mixing – it sounds terrible on portable laptop speakers and barely sounds together on better headphones. However, I still feel the “justification”: Jaala’s voice may not belong on a dance album, but is at home as a red-hot knife searing through ambient electronics. It would be a dream to get the vox-only stems of Jaala’s latest album, Hard Hold. Her shrieks and shouts and tempo changes and overall chaotic vocal beauty would be used extensively.