We booked two nights in a row at another Florida State Park. We have been pretty impressed so far with the State Parks and figured they were all pretty decent. All of them except for Collier-Seminole State Park outside of Naples. The State Park itself was decent but the Campground was not too good. Very small sites. All on top of one another without a lot of shrubbery or anything to block or separate you from your camping neighbors. Plus a TON OF poison Ivy everywhere!! Just not good compared to the others. so much land and such a yucky campground. The bathrooms and showers, however were AMAZING!! Three brand new facilities! Amazing water pressure and very well maintained and spotless! If I had to rate the bathrooms, they would be a strong 9. The campsite, um, maybe 2. But it’s better than working. Hahaha. Inserting the pictures, realized neither one of us took a picture of that tiny campsite. You’ll just have to take my word for it. It was super small.
Next day we did a boardwalk hike down the road from the State Park. There are some photos above of that hike among the Cypress trees. From there we headed into town to check out the Bass Pro Shop to see if they offered RV parking overnight in their lot. Unfortunately they didn’t because they didn’t own the land that the building is on. Most other times Cabellas and Cracker Barrel’s and most Walmart’s will allow overnight parking for a night. We wanted to stay in town because we were headed to the movies and didn’t want to be worried about where we would camp after the movies cause it would be dark out. We have always been situated for the night before dark. Anyway, we noticed a Pilot Travel Center was nearby the movie theater do we decided in that. First we had lunch at an amazing Seafood Place.
We then headed to the movies to see Nomadland, which is a movie about a movie woman that lives in her van. A few of the people in the movie are people we follow on YouTube so that made it even better. We both really liked it! There were so many great messages to take away from it. If you haven’t seen it yet, I highly recommend it. It’s in theaters and also on Hulu.
The a pilot Travel Center that we stayed at was a little Janky. It was fine and nobody bothered us but it had a Janky vibe so in the morning we headed to a nearby park called Billy Bowlegs Park. From there we headed over to Sanibel Island. We heard about the crazy amount of shells in the beach so we wanted to check that out. The causeway going over to the island was amazing because there were beaches on either side that we could pull the van right up onto. We hung out for a bit and walked the beach I. Search of some cool shells. We found tons of them. I have never seen so many shells in my life. We spent some time on the beach then traveled to the island. The island didn’t impress us as much as the small beaches on the causeway so we went back for the sunset. We even saw a giant Manatee swimming along the shoreline right in front of us.
We made Quesadllias at Sunset and then headed out to The Loves Travel Center to sleep. The only problem was there were one hour parking signs up and No overnight parking so we headed back to the Janky Pilot cause we knew we wouldn’t get the knock knock from the Po Po.
The next day was our birthday so we wanted to do something special. We heard about a great restaurant on the tip of Pine Island on the water called Captain Cons. It was perfect. Not too many people and laid back outdoor dining with a great view. We both got the fish special and enjoyed a nice day on the island. And I finally got to see a Pelican up close.
Then we headed to the Babcock Web Wildlife Conservation Area. I think we were here last weekend for a night but this time we figured we would do the two nights so we booked two nights online which is basically a free permit to keep track of the people. As we entered the area, there were three Rangers blocking the road. We just figured that they were either checking the permits, which we had or we were an hour early. Check in is suppose to be 5 pm on Fridays and it was like 4. Also we thought because they were doing a prescribed burn in the area that sections of the park would be closed. Anyway it seemed a little excessive to have three of them in the street to stop us. They explained that they were training a new officer so the new guy asked me a few questions, I showed him the permit which was on my phone and then the head honcho came over and took over from there. Apparent I was supposed to deposit $6 in the “Iron Ranger” that was at the entrance to get in here. We didn’t even see it which I explained to the guy but also a lot of these Iron Rangers have been taped up because of the COVid and everything has been switched to online which I just assumed was the same here. This main guy was kind of a jerk and he didn’t really want to hear any of my excuses plus he was training a new guy so had to act all serious. He took my license and they went back to their truck to put me in the system with a warning violation. It was completely absurd and we had to do everything in our power to not release the Long Island on these guys. The trainee guy came back with my violation warning and said Ms. Esposito, I said yes and he handed me the ticket and said Happy Birthday. At that point I had forgotten that it was my birthday so the whole thing was kind of comical. So now I have a birthday souvenir from the wildlife Rangers.
After that fiasco we picked out our spot and then road the bikes back to the Iron Ranger and paid the 6 bucks. By the way, an Iron Ranger is like a metal tube that you deposit your envelope into. When we got back to the campsite there was a big eagle sitting on a tree which was another great birthday present from Mother Nature. We had a nice fire and a nice Birthday Sunset as well. All in all, even with the Ranger situation, and an entire fraternity partying up all night, our birthday was a good one.
The next day it rained all day long. We stayed in the van and caught up in some Youtube.
Then we were off to visit my cousin Maureen. Our plan was to go on a boat road and have some lunch at a place called Get Away. However the winds were ridiculous coming over the St Petersburg bridge and there were waves and whitecaps in the bay. I was so happy when they cancelled the boat ride. I’m not a big fan of boats and I’m definitely not a fan of waves of any kind. So instead we drove right over to the restaurant. We enjoyed a nice lunch on the sand. This was a fun place to have lunch. Afterwards we went back to their place, gave them a van tour and caught up on old times and current events. My cousin Ali, (Maureen’s daughter,) is also an avid camper so she gave us a few recommendations that we will check out in Florida while we are here.
When we left Tampa we were planning on camping at a park on the bay called EG Simmons. But when we hit the road, the GPS took us on to the other side of the bay. We have the DUMBEST GPS in the world!! And probably the most expensive. Before we left Raquette Lake we invested in the Garmen RV GPS. It’s made specifically for people like us. Supposedly it’s top of the line. If I could do it all over again, I would never had bought this one. It really is terrible. We ALWAYS have to double check it’s route and the one time we don’t, it takes us completely out of the way to where our destination was. So we changed our plans and headed to Palm Harbor again where Greg’s parents live. By the time we figured out that the GPS was confused (again) we were only 20 minutes from them. They made room in the driveway and Greg and his Dad were able to fix the motherboard of our roof fan. It’s so nice to have that fan working again. They took us to the Lucky Dill for dinner which was like The Carnegie Deli in the city except fancier. It was a great place. We stayed with them a couple of nights, which gave us time to defrost our freezer. It really needed it!
We are currently at Hog Island Campground. We got a nice spot. Spot number 9. Very secluded and spread out campground. It’s part of the Florida state Forest Campgrounds. I wish every park was like this one. Plus they had a decent shower which is an added bonus. I think it was 18 bucks for the night. Well worth it considering 7 of that goes to Reserve America’s fee. Grrrrrr
Today, March 10, we drove to the Ocala National Forest area. This is different than a State Forest area and different than a State Park. A National Forest offers dispersed camping. We found a spot at Alexander Spring Campground. There’s a Natural Spring here that fills a lake sized pool but it’s crystal clear. It’s pretty spectacular and there’s an area that goes down to where the water is coming up from the spring. They are like underwater caves and they are as blue as can be. People wear scuba gear to go down there exploring. Looks pretty cool. The temperature of these springs is a steady 72° year round which must be amazing in the heat of the summer. A few people were swimming but it was not warm enough for me. I’m a bit of a baby and Greg’s worse. Lol
In the morning we went to another one of these springs. This one was called Salt Springs. We just paid for the day pass. It was $16 for us to go check out the park. We saw some huge fish and huge crabs swimming among the people. Kind of freaky but they seem to enjoy it. We stayed about an hour and then headed out to search the Ocala National Forest for a place to stay tonight. We had done some research last night so had a few locations that were hopefully open and available. Our first stop was at a place called Lake Eaton down a very sandy road. We put the van into four wheel drive and headed down the road only to come to a closed sign on the campground gate. There was a volunteer campground host that explained how they have been closed since March 21st of last year. They keep telling him that they are gonna be opening soon but yet he still waits. He’s been there since October. The Florida parks system have great volunteer Camp Host. This guy though has the easiest gig of them all. Anyway, he suggested Hopkin Prairie Campground which is similar to the one he hosts at. It’s off the beaten path and very primitive which is what we love. That usually means less people, less families and more space. So we took his advice and headed there. I also had added it to our map page last night after watching a YouTube video about it. It was only a half an hour drive from the closed camp. We didn’t even have to put the van in four wheel drive for this place. It was perfect!! I have a feeling we will stay here for longer than expected. We’ll see how the bugs are tonite as well as the generator’s. There’s no electric, it’s primitive camping so there’s a pretty good chance people will be blasting their generators at some point. We are totally spoiled with the solar power.
This place is great. Lots of trails to keep us busy and so many birds. On our hike today we saw a huge hawk with a giant fish in his talons. He landed in one of the oaks right by us and had his lunch.
The people here are very friendly. Sometimes you hear stories about the meth-heads taking over a campground like this but this one is filled with nice friendly campers just like us. Unfortunately there is no running water here but for us that’s ok cause we heated up some water in the sun today. We have this 5 gallon black bag that heats up the water so quickly just sitting it in the sun. When it came time this afternoon to take showers, the water was a little too hot for me, I had to add some cold water to my bucket. Greg used the hot water just as it was. We have this portable shower head that runs on a battery and pumps the water out of the bucket. It’s so amazing. Now we are both totally clean and can stay here another 3 or 4 days atleast. I use about 2 gallons to shower and Greg uses around 4 gallons. That’s why when we get to a place with hot showers, we get very excited! It’s nice to be able to use unending amounts of water.
So we spent 5 days here for 44 bucks total. Worth every penny. I put up a drone video on Instagram. But here’s a drone photo of our spot.
The Sunsets here are amazing and the mornings are so pretty here as well.
Today we head out of the Ocala National Forest and we head into the Osceola National Forest which is just 2 hours north of us. We need to restock our food and water before heading in there. so that’s it for this 2 week blog. I can’t believe how fast two weeks goes by when you’re retired and enjoying life.