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Florida Keys September 2014

Saturday, December 29, 2012

New Years Camping at St. Joseph’s Peninsula State Park

Date: 12/29/2012 - 1/2/2013
Location: St. Joe, Florida
GPS Coordinates: 29.774579, -85.406412
Julie and I wanted to have a quiet New Year Eve and decided that a camping trip was the best option. We had been wanting to try some of the campgrounds in the panhandle of Florida. Many have very few openings at this time of year, but we were able to find some still available at St. Joseph’s Peninsula State Park. Driving to St. Joe from Gainesville took a little over 4 hours. There’s not a whole lot of development as you drive up that way working our way through many, many miles of pine forests.
St. Josephs Peninsula is a very nice area of the panhandle. The very southern section is an Air Force base, followed by a few miles of beach houses and then you come to the campground. The park takes up all of the central and northern part of the peninsula.
There are two campground loops, Gulf Breeze is the closest to the beach as its’ right behind two rows of sand dunes. Some of the sites are a little close with not much vegetation between them. There are some (especially the lowest numbers) that have decent privacy. We spent 2 nights in site 31 and then moved to site 5 as it was larger and more secluded. The second loop is Shady Pines. As the name suggests, it is a more wooded than Gulf Breeze and the sites are a little larger also.
There’s a lot of activities available at this park. We did a lot of bike riding and hiked the main trail that runs up through the park towards the north point. The trail is very nice, but a little tiring as it is loose sand.
We also did some kayaking in the bay. The water is very clear and also very shallow!! Be sure to check out the tide charts before heading out!
The time we were at this campground, the weather was a little cool and windy. But this would be an awesome place to spend some beach time during warmer weather. There’s miles of beach and you can sure to find an area that is away from the crowds.
Here is our Review of this campground:
Campground: St. Joseph’s Peninsula State park
Website: http://www.floridastateparks.org/stjoseph/default.cfm
Site Number: 31 & 5
Date visited: 12/29/2012 - 1/2/2013
Rating (1 = low, 5 = high)
Campsite size: 2 (average site on the small side. Some in the Shady Pines loop are a little larger)
Campsite space between sites: 2 (Most a little close, but some are ok)
Campsite privacy between sites: 2.5 (Gulf Breeze loop is fairly open and the Shady Pines has more foliage between sites)
Campsite level: 3 (a few sites are not very level, but most are ok)
Campsite parking: dirt
Campfire permitted: yes in fire ring
Campsite picnic table: Wood
Campground Facilities: 3.5
Campground access to hiking: 4
Campground access to water (kayaking, fishing, swimming, etc): 5
Campground access to biking: 3.5
Overall Campground rating: 3.5
Site #5
The salt marsh behind the campground


Many deer running around

Some bike riding:
St. Joseph's Park Biking at EveryTrail
Hiking the main trail though the park
St. Joseph's Park Hiking Trail at EveryTrail

And this is where we did some kayaking
St. Joseph's Bay Kayaking at EveryTrail

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Anastasia State Park Camping

Date: 11/10/12 – 11/12/12
Location: St. Augustine, Fl
GPS Coordinates: 29.866680, –81.275344

This is out second trip to Anastasia State Park. I guess we must like it!! Not going to write another review of this campsite, but to see the previous trip report click here.

Campground: Anastasia Beach
Campground Website: http://www.floridastateparks.org/anastasia/
Site Number: 111
Price: $28 night
Date visited: 11/10/2012 - 11/12/2012

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Camping at Santeetlah Lake

Date: 10/2/12 – 10/5/12
Location: Santeetlah, NC
GPS Coordinates: 35.370826, –83.911037
After spending a few days camping in Tennessee, we moved on to North Carolina. Around the shore of Lake Santeetlah are many dispersed (boondocking) spots. We were lucky enough to secure one of the sites that I had found while surfing the web. This site (J9) is amazing as it sites on a point on the lake. You are surrounded by water on (almost) three sides and there is a stream coming out of the mountains that empties into the lake right at the site. The spot for the camper is right next to the road, but there is so little traffic that this is not a problem. We did a lot of kayaking on this lake and the is almost no other boats on the lake. It may be different during the summer, but during the fall you almost have the huge lake to yourself. There are many coves to explore and we could have spend a lot more time exploring this lake.
Near by is the Joyce Kilmer Forest where there are some huge trees and great hiking. Joyce Kilmer is the poet who wrote the poem
I think that I shall never see
A billboard lovely as a tree….
Also, close by is the Cherohala Skyway drive. I would highly recommend this drive as it lends itself to some great views and more hiking trails.
Here is our Review of this campground:
Campground: Santeetlah Lake Dispersed Camping
Campground Website: http://townoflakesanteetlah.org/index.htm
Site Number: J9
Price: $0 night
Date visited: 10/02/2012 - 10/5/2012
Rating (1 = low, 5 = high)
Campsite size: 5
Campsite space between sites: 5
Campsite privacy between sites: 4.5
Campsite level: 3
Campsite parking: dirt
Campfire permitted: yes.
Fire ring on each site
Campsite picnic table: Yes
Campground Facilities: No hookups
Campground access to hiking: 4. Lots of hiking close by
Campground access to water (kayaking, fishing, swimming, etc): 5
Overall Campground rating: 5

Our boondocking camping site
Lake side site good for water sports
Some great kayaking
Relaxing at the camp site
Beautiful lake to paddle

Here’s a like to some more pics on Picassa

One of the longer paddles that we did
Lake Santleetlah Paddle at EveryTrail

Hiking Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest
Joyce Kilmer Upper Loop Trail at EveryTrail

A shorted paddle on the lake
Horse Cover Creek Paddle at EveryTrail

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Camping at Chilhowee Campground

Date: 9/30/12 – 10/2/12
Location: Ocoee, TN
GPS Coordinates: 35.152011, -84.601587
This is a campground that Julie and I camped at back when we were in high school. Oh, about 30+ years ago!  So, after some research I was able to locate this campground again and made it the first stop on our fall camping trip. This location sits atop a mountain which requires a 5 – 6 mile trek up a mountain road with several semi-steep climbs. Keep this in mind if you are pulling a large trailer.
There are two separate camping loops with a small pond/lake between the two. This lake has a swimming beach and can be used for fishing and kayaking, but again it’s pretty small in size. Both loops have many very nice campsites, large in size and with good privacy.
Being on the edge of the Great Smokey Mountains, there’s plenty to do in this area. There’s may white water rafting companies on the main road that leads towards the campground. Also, at the campground there are many very good hiking trails. One of the longer trails leads partway down the mountains to a nice waterfall.
Here is our Review of this campground:
Campground: Chilhowee Campground
Campground Website: http://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/cherokee/recreation/camping-cabins/recarea/?recid=35078&actid=29
Site Number: ?
Price: $20 night
Date visited: 9/30/12 - 10/2/12
Rating (1 = low, 5 = high)
Campsite size: 4
Campsite space between sites: 4
Campsite privacy between sites: 4
Campsite parking: dirt
Campfire permitted: yes. Fire ring on each site
Campsite picnic table: Yes
Campground Facilities: 4.5
Campground access to hiking:3.5
Campground access to water: Kayaking 3.5 (bottom of mountain). Nice small lake/pond for swimming near campground
Overall Campground rating: 4

Fall leaves in the stream by the waterfall
Waterfall on one of the hikes
A rainy day on the mountain
An evening by the campfire
Our hike on the Huckleberry Knob Trail
Huckleberry Knob Trail at EveryTrail

Gazebo Overlook Trail at EveryTrail

Chilhowee Campground Hike at EveryTrail

Benton Falls Trail at EveryTrail

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Biking the Nature Coast Bike Trail

Location: Fanning Springs, Fl
GPS Coordinates:
29.591828, -82.930342
Date: 8/26/2012

We rode the Nature Coast State Trail starting at the Fanning Springs trail head. We traveled through Old Town and continued on to Cross City which is northwest of the starting location. At around three miles from the start the trail crosses the Suwannee River using an old railway bridge. This location gives you a very good view of the river, both upriver and downstream.
Since the bike trail was built on an old railroad bed, there’s just about no elevation change along the trail (no hills!!). The trail is wide and well maintained and they have covered benches at about every 2 miles along the trail. All trail heads have parking and bathrooms. Many sections of the trail run through areas with many trees which give good shade, however both ends of this section of the trail are fairly open and sunny.
As a note, there is a hole in the wall BBQ place right next to the Fanning Springs train head. This makes a good place to visit after a long, tiring bike ride. Also, in Cross City there was a Dairy Queen right next to the trail. We didn’t stop, but sure crossed my mind!
Information on this trail can be found at: http://www.dep.state.fl.us/gwt/state/nat/default.htm
Old railroad bridge crossing over the Suwannee River
2012-08-26 12.45.17
Looking north upriver at the Suwannee
2012-08-26 12.45.33
Julie taking a water break and checking out the view,
2012-08-26 12.45.48
This is the hole in the wall BBQ place that is right next to the trail head. It’s got some pretty tasty BBQ and sure hit the spot after riding 27 miles.
2012-08-26 13.40.23
Here is the GPS track of our bike ride.
Nature Coast Bike Trail at EveryTrail

Friday, August 3, 2012

Camping weekend at Lithia Springs

Date: 8/3/12 – 8/5/12
Location: Lithia, Fl
GPS Coordinates: 27.869287, –82.224526

We found this campground that is real close to our oldest daughters new home. Lithia Springs is a Hillsborough County park. The campground is nice with a few of the sites sitting next to the Alafia River. The main draw to this park is the large spring with a beach area surrounding it. We were there in early August, so the weather was still warm and as a result the springs were packed with day visitors. If you want to claim a spot near the spring for the day, then get there early. I’ve read other blogs about this park during the cooler weather and it sounds like things are much calmer during the cool months.
There’s not much hiking at this park, but there is a canoe and kayak launch if you want to do some paddling on the Alafia River. This is a quirky campground in some of the site layouts. Some of the sites are very unlevel and many  have their water and power on the wrong sides or far away from where you would park your camper.
Here is our Review of this campground:
Campground: Lithia Springs Campground
Website: http://www.hillsboroughcounty.org/facilities.aspx
Site Number: 25
Price: $24 night
Date visited: 8/03/2012 - 8/05/2012
Rating (1 = low, 5 = high)
Campsite size: 3 (varies by campground loop chosen)
Campsite space between sites: 3 (varies by site)
Campsite privacy between sites: 3 (varies by site)
Campsite level: 2. Most sites not very level. Also, some of the water and power hookups are not well placed
Campsite parking: dirt
Campfire permitted: yes. Fire ring on each site
Campsite picnic table: Yes
Campground Facilities: 3.5
Campground access to hiking: 1. No defined hiking trails
Campground access to water (kayaking, fishing, swimming, etc): 4. A large spring for swimming and a river for canoe/kayaking
Campground access to biking: 3
Overall Campground rating: 3. A nice park, but a little quirky in places!

Our site, #25, was very large and nobody close by!
Hanging out at the camp site
Looking at our site from the road

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Camping near the beach at Anastasia State Park

Date: 5/17/2012 – 5/20/12
Location: St. Augustine, Fl
GPS Coordinates: 29.8730651, –81.277546

If you are looking for a campground near a uncrowded beach, then Anastasia State Park could be one to try. Although the campground loops are a lengthy walk from the beach, it’s well worth the effort. There’s also a large parking area near the beach access if you want to take the car. This campground has many loops off a main road. Some of the loops are for tents and very small RV’s only. Other can accommodate larger RVs with no problem.
There a few short hiking trails that make their way through the park and there’s plenty of bike trails to explore. My daughter and I did some fishing in the bay. We caught a few small fish , but nothing worth writing home about!  I’m sure it was the lack of fish and not the questionable ability of the “fisherman”.
Here is our review of the campground:
Campground: Anastasia Beach
Campground Website: http://www.floridastateparks.org/anastasia/
Site Number: 62
Price: $26 night
Date visited: 5/17/2012 - 5/20/2012
Rating (1 = low, 5 = high)
Campsite size: 3 (varies by campground loop chosen)
Campsite space between sites: 3 (varies by site)
Campsite privacy between sites: 3 (varies by site)
Campsite level: 4
Campsite parking: dirt
Campfire permitted: yes. Fire ring on each site
Campsite picnic table: Yes
Campground Facilities: 3.5
Campground access to hiking: 2
Campground access to water (kayaking, fishing, swimming, etc): 5
Campground access to biking: 4
Overall Campground rating: 4 Notes: If you like the beach, then this is the place to go

The boardwalk leading over the dunes to the beach

One view of our camping spot

The salt marsh between the beach and the campground
Of course there has to be at least one beach picture!

Lots of turtles (tortoise?) around

Friday, April 13, 2012

Another trip to Ocean Pond Campground

Date: 4/13/12 – 4/15/12
Location: Osceola National Forest (Near Lake City, Florida)
GPS Coordinates: 30.239501, -82.436620

This is out second trip to Ocean Pond Campground. Not going to write another review of this campsite, but to see the previous trip report click here.
Fresh bear print we found on a hike through the forest
Bear Track - Floria Trail Osceola NF
A hike down an old dirt road
Florida Trail - Osceola National Forest
Our site right next to the lake
Nice relaxing spot for the day
Julie relaxing at the lake
Another huge site at Ocean Pond
A nice Cypress Tree on the edge of the lake
Another nice pic of the lake shore

Here is one of the kayak paddles that we took:
Ocean Pond Kayak at EveryTrail

Took a hike on the Osceola Nature trail. Is is here that we came across a very fresh bear track
Florida Trail - Osceola National Forest at EveryTrail

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Cedar Key Paddle around Atsena Otie Key

Location: Cedar Key, Fl
GPS Coordinates: 29.137184, -83.029331
Date: 4/1/2012
I’m going back and collecting some of the trips I had been adding to Everytrail & Wikiloc and including them in this blog. 
Julie and I wanted to get out and do some kayaking so we decided to take the hour drive to Cedar Key and see what short outing we could do there. We put in at the Cedar Key public beach area and paddled the approximately 1 mile to the sandy beach just north of the old wooden pier. Docking our kayaks, we headed out on the trail across the Atsena Otie Key. There is an old cemetery on the south end of the island. Many old gravestones can be seen in this area. Back in out boats, we continued counter clockwise around the island (key). We decided to try and cut though the island instead of completely circling the island. The inland waterway was very calm, with lots of birds, including several bald eagles. We went at high tide, but still struggled at times over the many oyster beds in the area. You should check out the tides before you attempt to cut across the center of the island.
Atsena Otie Key was the original location of the Cedar Key settlement. There was a few businesses located on the island, with the most prominent being a pencil company who used the many cedar trees on the island for their product. In the late 1800’s a powerful hurricane hit the area and produced 10 foot waves which destroyed almost everything on the island except for a few homes. In the early 1900’s the island was purchased for a small sum of money  and turned into a wildlife refuge. Later the Atsena Otie Key was sold to the Suwannee River Management District which manages and protects the island at this time.
Here is one of the beaches on the East side of the island.

Here’s Julie hiking along the beach on the island

Looking back through the marsh towards the town of Cedar Key

We docked our kayaks on the North West section of the Island (key) to do a little hiking.

On the island there’s an old wooden dock that is still standing, but it’s it pretty rough shape. You can walk out on part of the dock, but there’s no using it for boating access.



There is a hiking trail that leads from the beach area to the south side of the island. This is the trail that leads to the old cemetery which still has many interesting tombstones.
These pictures are of the cemetery used by the old inhabitants for the island. It’s only about a quarter mile walk from the beach where we docked out kayaks.,




And finally, here is the GPS track of the kayak paddle and the short hike we took on the island.
Cedar Key Kayak at EveryTrail

Friday, March 2, 2012

Alexander Springs Camping

Date: 3/2/2012 – 3/4/2012
Location: Ocala National Foresr
GPS Coordinates:  29.076640, -81.583269

Many years ago (before kids!), Julie and I used to do a lot of camping around the state of Florida. We would frequently camp at the many campgrounds in the Ocala National Forest since it was relatively close to Gainesville. Probably the most visited campsite for us in this area was Hopkins Prairie, which was a location with no water or electricity at the sites. There used to be a “lake” that surrounded this area where we used to canoe, but the water level is down quit a bit and now the area is pretty much dry.
Since we now have a trailer (no more sleeping on the ground for us), we decided to give the Ocala National Forest another try. It has only been 25+ years since our last visit. We took off Friday after work, but being in the early spring, the days were still short and we didn’t get to the campground until after sunset. This would be our first time setting up in the dark. There are no hookups at the sites, so we had to take on water first and then locate our site. With a little difficulty backing into our site we finally got situated.
This campground is nice and has a beach and canoe/kayak launch on the Alexander Spring run. Unfortunately, we didn’t bring our kayaks, so couldn’t check out this river. There are a few short hiking trails, but nothing too strenuous. 
Since it had been many years since we had been to Ocala National Forest, we decided to take a ride around and check out some of the campsites and do a walk down memory lane for the places we had been before. By the end of the day we had decided that there were not many campgrounds that we would be interested in coming back to camp at. They really can’t compare to the Florida State parks.
We also did a long hike at Farles Prarie (see map below) where the Florida Trail crosses through the forest. This was a good hike along some wetlands and ponds. But be careful in what roads you take to get there.Most roads are sand and several require four wheel drive. We almost made the mistake of taking a road where we would have definitely gotten stuck. We did make that mistake many years ago in this area and it took us hours to dig our way out.
Our Review of the campground:
Campground: Alexander Springs
Campground Website: http://www.forestcamping.com/dow/southern/ocalcmp.htm#alexander%20springs
Site Number: 61
Price: $21 night
Date visited: 3/2/2012 - 3/4/2012
Rating (1 = low, 5 = high)
Campsite size: 4
Campsite space between sites: 4 (varies by site)
Campsite privacy between sites: 4 (varies by site)
Campsite level: 4
Campsite parking: paved pad
Campfire permitted: yes. Fire ring on each site
Campsite picnic table: metal
Campground Facilities: 3.5
Campground access to hiking: 4
Campground access to water (kayaking, fishing, swimming, etc): 5
Campground access to biking: 4
Overall Campground rating: 4
Notes: Campground is very nice. There is a road that runs parallel to the campground and some car noise can be heard at some of the sites. Especially site #61 (our site). There's not a lot of traffic, but car noise can be heard.
Alexander Springs Run



The hike we did on Farles Prairie
Florida Trail - Farles Prairie at EveryTrail

Friday, February 3, 2012

Camping with Mickey Mouse

Date: 2/3/12 – 2/5/12
Location: Fort Wilderness. Disney World. Orlando, Fl
GPS Coordinates: 28.409021, -81.556007
Normally camping at a place like Disney World wouldn’t be our go to location. Julie and I normally like to camp in quiet locations, with some of our most favorites being out boondocking by ourselves,. But for something different we decided to give Fort Wilderness a try. Disney is certainly a well run facility. We arrived well before the stated check in time, but we were welcomed by one happy “cast member” and allowed to head right to our site. The sites are pretty close together, but Disney does put a lot of effort into planting some vegetation between each site so you are not staring right at your neighbor. Plus it seems that many of the sites are offset enough that although close together, you do have some privacy. Also, each sites a full hookups, with electricity, water and sewer. And everything is extremely clean and well kept. What else would you expect from Disney?
One of Julie and my pastime's while camping is walking the camping loops within a campground an checking out everyone’s rig and camping equipment. At Fort Wilderness, there are a ton of loops, so we had plenty to look at. But with things being so spread out, we had to use our bikes to traverse the entire campground. That is one nice thing about Disney, there’s a lot of bike trails around the campground. So, there was ample biking opportunities. The main thing we discovered while making the rounds, is that there are a lot of Disney Fanatics. Some of them have their campsites just packed with Disney paraphernalia, lights, figures, etc. It was pretty “amazing”…
There’s also a lot of activities, with one night attending the Fort Wilderness campfire and movie. We kind of enjoyed that, but were put to work when the movie was done. On two separate occasions, we had to help an older lady get their scooter out of the gravel. Who would have thought that would happen twice, but we did our good deed for the day!
Another evening we traveled the different Disney transportation options (boat and monorail) and checked out the different “lounges” at the many hotels. We had a beer and some munchies at each and that was a good time. Something that you don’t do very often.
Here is our review of the campground:
Campground: Fort Wilderness
Campground Website: http://disneyworld.disney.go.com/resorts/campsites-at-fort-wilderness-resort/
Site Number: 1413
Date visited: 2/3/2012 - 2/5/2012
Rating (1 = low, 5 = high)
Campsite size: 2
Campsite space between sites: 2 (varies by site)
Campsite privacy between sites: 2 (varies by site)
Campsite level: 5
Campsite parking: concrete pad
Campfire permitted: no (only if you have an industrial strength fire ring!)
Campsite picnic table: metal & composite material
Campground Facilities: 5
Campground access to hiking: 2
Campground access to water (kayaking, fishing, swimming, etc): 2
Campground access to biking: 5
Overall Campground rating: 4.5

Nice beach, but there is no swimming
“Marina” where you can catch the boat over to the theme parks
Looking across the lake towards Disney World. This is a good place to watch the nightly fireworks from Magic Kingdom.
One of the campers at Fort Wilderness that are really, really into Disney!!
Sitting  area outside our camper.
Our site # 1413