2013  HIKING, CYCLING,

& RV TRAVEL ADVENTURES

 

   
 
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   LAKESIDE CAMPING AT EAGLE HAMMOCK RV PARK
@ NAVAL SUBMARINE BASE, KINGS BAY, GA

THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 7

 
"We will be back. Three thumbs up to the staff and volunteers [at Eagle Hammock]. 
They go out of their way to please and provide a safe, happy, and wonderful place to RV!"
 
~ one of many positive reviews on the MilitaryCampgrounds.US website
 
 
This RV park has been rated as one of the finest military campgrounds in the country and now we know why. We have been here the entire month of February (I wrote this entry after leaving). It is very well run, attractive, and cost-effective, especially with its monthly rate.

We like it so much we've decided to come back again the last two weeks in March.


Scenic Lake D is next to the campground; our site is off to the left.

Because of the campground's popularity we were very lucky to be able to stay here for four weeks in one site, without having to move.

Jim found Eagle Hammock during an online search of military RV parks in November or December. The first time he called to ask about staying for the whole month of February, Matt (the MWR person on site) said there weren't any vacant sites for that period of time. We reserved a site for a shorter stay and Matt noted our request.


Our Cameo at Eagle Hammock

A couple days later Matt called to say someone had cancelled for the whole month of February -- would we still like to come then? Absolutely! We were very happy.

We lucked out even more because the newly-cancelled site was one of only ten next to the lake and not in one of the two loops farther from the water. From the photos we'd seen, we preferred the lakeside sites:


This view shows the last four of the ten lakeside sites. We're in #9. 
The blue water is a shallow half-circle channel on one corner of the lake.

We have thoroughly enjoyed this campground and our site next to the lake at the far end of the campground.

Although we are farther from the office and activity building/laundry room, it's usually very quiet and convenient for taking the dogs out to potty by the lake, at the nearby dog walk, or in the woods behind us.

The water is only about 50 feet away from the front of our site. We love being able to see clouds  reflected in the water and watch the nearby herons, egrets, ibis, ducks, geese, and other waterfowl.


Bench for enjoying the lake near our campsite


Beware the alligators!  We can't let the dogs swim in the lake
but they have lots of places to run and hike around it.


Pier near the lakeside sites; love those clouds!

That's the short version of our month at Kings Bay. For more information and photos, keep reading.

A WARM WELCOME

Not only has the weather been mostly dry and seasonably warm during the month of February -- mid-40s to mid-60s F. is average for this time of year -- but we also received a very warm welcome when we arrived the first of the month.

Matt Sparks, the MWR staff member on duty at the campground office on weekdays, is a very organized and personable young man who tries hard to please all his guests, whether they are here for one night or three months. He is full of useful information and quickly addresses any problems.

Fortunately, we haven't presented him with any. We're happy campers.

The two campground host couples and the volunteer who organizes social events are also a pleasure to know.


Black line = our driving route from Mayport Naval Station, FL to Kings Bay Sub Base, GA.
A = Kings Bay.  Yellow highlighted line = FL-GA border.  Map courtesy of Google.

Jim had already talked to Matt on the phone several times before we arrived. When we came in the first day he greeted us like old friends.

Despite some computer problems Matt got us checked in fairly quickly. I was impressed by the stack of ten green folders on his desk, ready for all the folks who were due in that day. We were the first newbies to arrive and he was OK with checking us in a couple hours early.

Each folder had the name of the person reserving a site that day. A detailed campground map stapled to the front showed our site and how to get there.

Inside the folder was a card with the campground mailing address, phone number, website, etc., a better map of the base than we often get at other military installations, rules and regulations, and lots of useful information about TV stations, restaurants, dining on and off base, indigenous flora and fauna, etc.

 
The campground office overlooks the lake.

The monthly rate for the ten back-in lakeside sites is $570-$600, depending on how many days are in the month. Since it's a short month we paid $560 ($20/day). The daily rate is $21.

The fifty back-in and pull-through sites in the other two loops farther from the lake range from $540-$570 per month or $19/day.

There are an additional seven overflow sites where extra RVs can pull up next to some of the end sites in the two loops and plug into the electricity and water. I don't know the cost of those. I'm glad no one can piggy-back onto the lakeside sites because it would impact our water and electrical use.


View of A Loop from the lake; some of those sites have a lake view.


Pull-thru sites in the A loop; back-in sites are in front of and behind them around the loop.

The sixty full-hookup sites have water, 30/50-amp electricity, sewers, cable TV (15 stations), and free WiFi. We have a good Verizon phone and MiFi signal when we need a secure internet connection.

A nice bonus here is "free" laundry, like at Mayport. Even though the cost is added into the site fees, to us it seems free because 1) we do a lot of laundry and 2) the sites here and at Mayport cost about the same as those at other military installations where we have to feed quarters into the washers and dryers.


Activity building/laundry/restrooms/showers, with B Loop in the distance

The laundry room and restrooms with showers are separated from the activity room (The Nest) by a breezeway. They are located in the center of the two loops. The office is in a separate wooden building between the first loop and the lakeside row of sites.

AT HOME IN LAKESIDE SITE #9

We really like the location of the ten lakeside sites because they are all large, fairly isolated, and next to a wooded area. Back here we don't have RVs in front of or behind us and we have a great view of the lake about 50 feet away. The views would be even better in a motorhome because the windshield would face the lake.

I marked our camper with an arrow in the picture below. The older fella in the camper to the left of us has an unusual travel trailer with a large living room picture window in the front. Our 5th-wheel is more typical, with the bedroom and no windows on the front cap:

 

Our Cameo has lots of windows on the door side (shown above) and back, however, and we have good views to the lake from our living area.

I don't know how he did it, but the guy in site #6 pulled his large Bighorn 5th-wheel in head first and somehow got his truck disconnected and out. He's here long-term so we'll never get to watch him try to get it hooked back up!

Each of  the sixty sites at Eagle Hammock has a concrete pad with picnic table and fire ring in a grassy area. The roads through the campground are gravel. Several handicapped sites near the activity building, laundry room, and restrooms have paved paths to those areas.

The two loops on the other side of the campground office are brightly lit at night. I like the fact that the lakeside sites don't have bright lights at night. We feel safe on base and are satisfied to have a short lamp post light at our site. The hose/sewer/and electrical connections are also lit at night in case we need to go out and make adjustments.

COZY CABINS

One of the advantages of our spot is being able to watch the final construction of two cabins just beyond lakeside site #10:


We're buffered from the cabin construction by whoever occupies site #10, which has been assigned to folks this month who are here for just a few days at a time. Some of the other lakeside sites (such as ours) are occupied by people staying one or more months at a time.

 
Digging trenches

I took the two construction photos above on February 1, our first day here.

The next picture shows some of the trenching that was done a few feet behind our camper on February 5. It was interesting to "supervise" the work from inside our RV. I took this and several other photos out our bay windows:

Work continued on the cabins throughout the month but the trench work for electricity, water, and sewer was completed the first week we were here and the orange construction fencing was removed on the gravel roadway.

After that, work on the cabins was quieter and less obvious -- skirting around the bottom of the two mobile units (stationary, but on wheels), wooden steps on the front, and interior work we couldn't see.

By the end of the month I was able to see inside both cabins when the campground maintenance host was working on them:

Above and below:  inside and outside the smaller of the two cabins.
The one to the right has higher vaulted ceilings and a loft.

The cabins are quite nice. I think they are a great idea for military families and retirees who don't camp but want to spend weekends or vacations at the lake. When completed in March they will rent for $60/night.

The only other noise we've had at this campground is logging being done in the forest west of the campground. The woods behind us usually buffer those sounds but some of the other campers have complained to management about it.

I think they need to be more thankful for what they've got here. Many of the military campgrounds where we've stayed had much more noise than this -- loud cargo and fighter planes at Air Force bases, helicopters and shooting ranges at Navy bases and Army posts, nearby trains, construction projects, horns, sirens, and so on.


Beautiful reflections in the lake

We can't complain about life by the lake at Eagle Hammock. It's mostly a quiet, restful place with calming views of the water.

SOCIAL ACTIVITIES

Through the years we've discovered that many snowbirds who stay for several months at a particular RV park -- whether military, public, or private -- want lots of organized activities. I guess they get bored by themselves or they aren't motivated enough to organize their own preferred group activities. Maybe when we're in our 70s or 80s we'll be that way, too.

Some military campgrounds provide social activities. In our experience, most don't. Perhaps Florida in the winter is different.

It appears to us that Eagle Hammock RV Park does a good job trying, although some other campers have complained about the lack of activities here. They seem to be the same curmudgeons that don't like the new cabins (they think there should be more RV pads instead), the gravel roadways through the campground (they want them all paved), the reservation system, the $1/day fee increase after none in two years, or the new limit on retiree "homesteading" in the campground for more than three or four months at a time . . .

We were pretty amazed at all the griping some people did when MWR had a two-hour feedback session for campground patrons the last night we were here. Thankfully, others like us spoke up with positive affirmations for the current MWR staff and policies.

I just don't get it. The petty complainers either need to go to some of the other military FamCamps that aren't run anywhere near as well as this one is, or do the rest of us a favor and just lease a winter spot at a private RV park in Florida where they'll pay many times the cost to find all the amenities they seek.

The volunteer who organizes social activities at Eagle Hammock RV Park this winter is named Betty. She's a retiree and lives in a small Class C motorhome two doors down from us in site #7. It's rare to find an actual activities director at a military campground, let alone one as enthusiastic as Betty.

She came into the office when we were checking in the first day. She quickly introduced herself, welcomed us, offered us an activity calendar for February, and encouraged us to participate in as many activities as we were interested. Guests can either pick up a copy of the monthly activity calendar in the office or look at the calendars posted in the office, the activity building (The Nest), laundry room, or the restroom. They are readily available to everyone.


View across the wetland to lakeside sites #7-10

There was at least one activity listed on 27 of the 28 days in February.

Some of them take place at The Nest, the building in the center of the two inland campground loops. They include ice cream socials and card games on Monday nights, pizza on Tuesdays, bunco and movies on Fridays, two wine and cheese parties, a Super Bowl party, a pot luck dinner, and a pancake breakfast.

Other activities are off-base, including several trips to St. Marys for bingo, Zumba, or historical tours, three casino boat trips, and day trips to St. Augustine, the Jacksonville Zoo, and the Woodbine Opry. Some trips are via car pool and some are in a large van with a small fee for the gasoline.

I've even read complaints in the online campground reviews about having to pay a small fee for gas to attend off-base activities . . .


General John Floyd House built in 1830 in St. Marys, GA

Jim and I never choose a campground based on the activities that are offered. We aren't party animals and we don't play bingo, cards, or do Zumba. We don't care to participate in the types of large group activities we've usually seen at campgrounds -- but we don't complain about what's offered. We just do our own thing or join another couple in activities we share.

We did participate in a couple ice cream socials and pancake breakfasts at Kings Bay and Mayport. That's one way we enjoy meeting other folks in the campground.

Our preferred method, however, is to meet other campers hiking on the trails around the lake, walking their dogs, or cycling -- activities we enjoy.

I'll talk more about those things in the next entry and give you a little tour of the base.

Happy trails,

Sue
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil, Cody the ultra Lab, and Casey-pup

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2013 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil

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