We finally made it! Over four years of planning and saving and we drove into Montana to start our first workamping job in West Yellowstone this week. We will officially start our jobs on the 25th. Most businesses are still closed here due to Covid-19 but they expect things to be opening up soon. Because of the restrictions due to the virus, we were unable to do much exploring at most of the stops we made on the trip but we were able to do self guided tours. More to come on those stops soon.
Before we left, we estimated our cost for traveling and we ended up pretty close to our estimate. Gas prices were much lower most of the way but because we couldn't stay at COE or state parks we paid higher prices for camping than we had anticipated. We took a total of 12 days traveling from North Florida to West Yellowstone so we were able to have a few rest days with no driving. With our stops, we drove about 2800 miles.
Here are the costs for gas and camping on the way out. Gas - $522 RV Hookups - $402
Ravine Gardens State Park is in Palatka, Florida about 45 minutes east of Gainesville. The park has two ravines and formal gardens. We hiked the strenuous Azalea Trail in and out of the ravines. This was very steep at points so be prepared for lots of climbing and stairs. We did find a couple of spots on the trail where it was confusing which way to go so make sure to look for the red blazes on the trees. There is also a paved walkway the view the gardens without having to climb in and out of the ravines.
This Christmas marked two years in our full time journey. I love everything about this life. I still wake up every morning grateful and in awe that we actually did it and cannot wait to see where the road takes us.
When we first decided to take the plunge three years ago, we immersed ourselves in everything RV. We watched hundreds of videos, listened to every RV podcast out there, read so many blogs and joined all the FaceBook groups. We worked feverishly to save up a down payment, found the perfect RV and downsized our life to fit into it. I had a direct sales business that had blossomed into an excellent income and we were set to travel the country selling our wares. Within a few months of moving into the RV, that business took a turn for the worse. At six months, I was selling the product for less than I paid for it. We still had our Etsy shop and we both found jobs locally so we buried our heads in the sand and continued living as if nothing was wrong.
I knew we were getting into debt, but it upset me every time we talked about it so we just didn’t talk about it. My business failed, my plan didn’t work and it hurt. Facing the mounting debt meant facing my failure. When I finally got the courage to add up the numbers the first week in January 2018, it was more than I’d imagined. We immediately decided to make a change and turned to Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University. We made a budget, stuck to it and paid off over $12,000 in debt in just 6 months. We are currently working on building our emergency fund. This was the missing part of our original plan! An emergency fund is the umbrella that covers you while you work a new plan.
This year we plan to focus on expanding our business and explore the southeast region in short trips while we continue to work locally.
The Mill Creek Preserve is a 1230 acre conservation area in Alachua County, Florida with over 5 miles of hiking trails. We hiked the yellow to orange trail which was 3.3 miles. This was a mostly covered trail with lots of markers to identify the trees. There was a short time where we walked in the direct sunlight so be sure to take a hat. We missed the turn from the yellow trail to the orange and had to backtrack so make sure to watch for the orange blazes.
Maps and trail descriptions are posted at the trailhead.
The yellow trail was an easy walk with lots of tree coverage most of the way.
There were several resting benches along the way.
This covered bench was on the part of the trail that was sunny.
We heard bird songs all along the trail!
We walked slightly off the trail to see if this was a karst window but it seemed a bit mucky for that.
I love all the markers identifying trees! This is one you didn’t want to have to find when you were in trouble with mama.
What a joy to come across this amazing bridge in the middle of the forest!
This preserve includes the southernmost forest of American Beech Trees.
There were lots of ferns along the forest floor and living in trees.
This is the view from a reflecting bench along the way.
Another metal bridge across the creek.
The moss created a beautiful walkway on the orange trail.
We wanted to check out a short trail yesterday and came across the Santa Fe River Preserve just north of Alachua. There are two entrances with separate hiking trails in this preserve. The south and main entrance has plenty of parking and a 1.5 mile hike called the Gracy Trail. This is a fun loop trail but you will walk through some mud and there are lots of stumps along the way.
A map of the trails and information about the wildlife corridor and preserve are posted at both trailheads.
One of the boardwalks along the Gracy trail.
We saw lots of fungus and moss along the trail.
The Santa Fe Creek provides drainage along the river.
A quiet place to rest along the trail.
The Blue Trail is just over a mile and located at the north entrance about 1.5 miles north on 121. There is minimal parking right in front of the trailhead. Please be careful here. There was trash in several areas along the trail including glass.
We came across huge patches of lichen in sandy areas along the trail.
You walk a short distance along the Santa Fe River.
There were lots of different mushrooms to see along both trails.
This meatless version of roasted chicken works great in a number of classic comfort food dishes like Cuban chicken and yellow rice and chicken noodle soup. The recipe makes a double batch for us or about 8 servings.
Fresh jackfruit will not work for this recipe. Only use the green jackfruit in water that you can purchase in a can. We buy ours at a local Asian grocery store or on Amazon.
Start by rinsing your jackfruit in a colander and squeezing as much of the can water from the fruit as possible with your hands or a potato masher. Add the jackfruit, 4 cups of Not Chicken Broth and your favorite chicken seasoning to your slow cooker. Edward & Sons Not-Chick’n Cubes work great for us because it takes up much less room in our small pantry cabinet.
Set your slow cooker for four hours on low. We love our Ninja Multicooker because we can set it up on a table outside so it’s not taking up our minimal counter space. It also works as a cooktop and oven so it’s our all in one outdoor kitchen.
Once it has cooked four hours on low, drain the remaining liquid and spread the jackfruit out on a parchment lined pan and broil for five minutes . We do this in two batches because our RV oven is small. Be sure to watch it closely as roasting turns to burnt very quickly. This step gives the jackfruit a more meaty texture as it dries out some of the liquid. Voila! Your jackfruit is ready to add to your favorite chicken recipe.
Roasted Jackfruit Chick’n
2 cans of Green Jackfruit In Water
4 cups of Not Chicken Broth (we use 4 cups of water and 3 Not-Chick’n Cubes)
1 tablespoon of any chicken seasoning
Drain and rinse jackfruit making sure to squeeze out as much water as possible. Add the jackfruit, broth and seasoning to your slow cooker and cook on LOW for 4 hours. Drain any leftover liquid from the jackfruit and spread it on a parchment lined pan. Broil in the oven for 5-10 minutes watching closely not to burn the jackfruit. Add to your favorite chicken recipes. This makes 8 servings. About 45 calories per serving.
Here’s some of my favorite dishes using the Roasted Jackfruit Chick’n 😋
Buffalo Jackfruit Chick’n Wrap with Follow Your Heart Bleu Cheese Dressing