The Great Migration

Birds fly south to escape the harsh winter. V-shaped formations and the cacophony of squawking is the sign. And when they arrive, they join the droves of Florida wildlife who bask, eat and recreate, causing the native species much dismay.

On the road again

And after the winter’s sun bath, when the scent of spring wafts in from the north, they pack up fat and happy and fly home to nest. Only they’re not so fast. The flocks vie for space along the narrow 3-lane passage north. The powerful blue and white plates of the Pure Michigan Tiffin jockey to get ahead of the lumbering blue and yellow tags of the Pennsylvania Keystone, cutting off the shiny tiny green and white markings of the Vermont Airstream Bambi. On a 400 mile jaunt to get out of Florida, we were smack dab in the middle of the Great Snowbird Migration.

Not Love

Ok, you got the joke right away. Snowbirds are real. Some homesteaders call them homewreckers cause they crowd up access to everything good about Florida – golf courses, beach parking, state park campsites and waterfront dive bars. Still others befriend and embrace them – business owners, restauranteurs, pick-up pickleballers – those Canadians are serious about their play. They didn’t really affect us, cause we were once like them, invading to evade the cold or heat, embrace a change of pace, soak up a new scene.

Build them and they will come

Our plan was to skedaddle Florida as quickly as possible. After 16 months of living in our new home state, we did not need to see anymore of it. Gator country is bigger than it looks and after 8 hours of driving with two hours of Snowbird crawl baked in, we were still in Florida, halfway across the Panhandle. Four hundred miles changes climate. The last time we saw 53 degrees in the daytime in the middle gulf was a two day cold spurt in January that had everyone digging through their closets for their long lost coats. Travel from the edge of the tropics across the frost line to Ocala horse country with a left swoop into panhandle pine scruff led us into a central US weather pattern and time zone. It’s a subtle change. It’s still Florida, but it’s not the postcard from Miami.

Fallingwater – Florida style

Our overnight destination was the grand sounding Falling Waters State Park, home to the highest waterfall in Florida. Visions of same name Frank Lloyd Wright architecture and the towering Comet Falls of Mt. Rainer National Park danced in our heads. The boardwalk scaffolding to get to the fall is most impressive and can accommodate Disney-sized crowds pushing toddlers in strollers to the feature presentation. Similar to finally boarding the Disney Dumbo ride, the actual event of seeing the falls is underwhelming. The water descends 10 feet of so off of some rocks to eye-level, and then drops another sixty feet into a sink hole. That is a total of 70 feet which is technically kind of far just like the Dumbo ride is technically kind of fun — if you are three years old.

Main stage

Falling Waters is an overnight en route to a destination. Nestled in a pine forest, it has suitable amenities like electric and water, clean bathhouse, dishwashing station, picnic table, fire pit, 48 over-the-air tv stations and zero internet connectivity. Everything you’d want for $18 a night. Plus a $6.70 reservation fee. And a $7 utility fee. Both fees new now that Florida has abandoned the big box and shifted to it’s own web service which seems to be excellent at thinking up add-on charges. $32 isn’t a bargain, but we had paid double that for a super shady Quality Inn South of the Border (the Carolinas border, that is) where we slept with one eye open, gripping our pillow tight. In the big picture, February 9 was our lucky day to snag the last site available for the annual Rock The Falls festival. True to pandemic form, the campground sign said FULL upon arrival and a quarter of the two dozen sites were still empty when we went to bed.

Three ways to waterfall

Not quite out of Florida, but close enough. Falling Waters was a good stopping point for our run to New Orleans the next day.