LIFE WHILE ON THE NEVER ENDING HAMSTER WHEEL, WHAT IS THE CORONA VIRUS….AND THE CHANGES THAT ARE UPON US….

I am not sure what week of my Weekend to Remember Series this is, as they are all blurring together and there is nothing new to talk about, which I am guessing is the new norm.  We are all on the perpetual hamster wheel of what we are calling life.   We are finally not under a stay at home order and things are starting to open up. This whole time  (besides not being able to hug the people I love-which I still miss) I thought I was missing being able to go to a restaurant, be waited on and drink a draft beer from a real glass and be able to leave the mess behind, however,  now that the restaurants are open, I am not in that much of a hurry, I am enjoying the space and used to just taking food home and eating it there.  It surprised me.  What I am grateful for, besides the obvious that all of my family and friends are healthy, is that I have a job and really never lost the job because of Covid.  I did get a new job during this time, which was weird in itself, to go to a job interview via Zoom and it all worked out.

Another thing I am grateful for with things opening up besides the ability to get a haircut is that our favorite brewery, 3 Daughters is now open for food and drink.  We were so missing  the ability to just go there and hang out.  A week before they officially opened with food and seats to sit on, we did our monthly 3 miles from 3D, (a monthly run) we got food from Chipotle, beer from 3D before they closed for the day (they were able to sell beer to go), went for a walk, came back and sat on the ground and ate our food in the empty parking lot. It was fun to do something that we used to take for granted.  I am super happy to report that they are now open, seats are spaced, and delicious food is being served and hard water, beer and ciders are being poured.  We couldn’t get there fast enough.  We did another 3 miles from 3D that first Wednesday they were reopened, while it was different it felt like going home.

State parks have begun opening, in this Phase 1 of the reopening of the country, for day use only at first and then on May 20, for camping.  We went for a great day hike on Mother’s Day, which was amazing to us, the smell of the fresh air, air not surrounded by concrete.  In “normal” years Florida has a short hiking season, where the temps are low or at least lower and the bugs are the least and the last few months were those months and we weren’t able to hike, but as soon as they opened up we were there.  We started off on beautiful morning, not too hot yet,  but as we returned to the car it was hot. We (my Mom, Mike, Jes, Chris, the four legged grands, Mark, Nancy, Nya and myself) did a nearly 5 mile hike, came back to a picnic lunch. The trails had people on it, all of us just trying to redirect our life on the hamster wheel.  I must say it was nice to be in the woods, get some fresh air and enjoy each other’s company. I got to hug my Mommy too.

Later that day we went to my inlaws, we stopped at Sonny’s grabbed some curbside pick up and brought dinner, watched a little YouTube (Traveling Robert’s Yellowstone, to be exact) and had a nice visit. We were even able to FaceTime Annette so she could wish Mom a happy Mother’s Day as well and be seen.

Some weekends we have been camping in our backyard since getting on this hamster wheel. We have been adding more stuff to the camper and getting ready for us to be able to hit the road.  Some parts of being on the perpetual hamster wheels have been ok, as we are able to concentrate on doing things to the house, camper and cabin that need to get done before we hit the road, which the date is coming up quick.

The normal hamster wheel looks something like this, we work all week, yoga Monday’s (oh how I miss yoga Monday’s), one Wednesday night a month, 3 miles from 3D, (we sort of made our own) one Friday am a month, dinner rides from our favorite bikes shops (Trek of St. Pete and ABC Bikes) (which they obviously had to be cancelled), oh how I miss those peeps, and for the last few years we have been camping at least one weekend a month somewhere not in our backyard.  So this staying home thing has enabled us to go to the cabin (we are self isolated up there, naturally), get some stuff done, to enable us to make it our future home base, work on the camper for things we want to get done and work on the house (which besides packing up some stuff not much has been done, yet). So staying at home has been somewhat productive.  But I must say it has been surreal.  

I went downtown a couple of weeks ago during the week just to get some photos of how things looked, during lunch time, during the week.  It was very strange.  It looked like we were expecting a hurricane, everything closed up, no tables out and pretty empty.  The few of us that were out were just walking or running for exercise but other than that it was empty.  Plenty of parking out there but of course nothing to do.

This past weekend it was a different story.  Saturday night Jes, Chris, Nick, the pups, Mike and I went to the dog beach at Ft. Desoto.  While I am no longer a huge beach person, I do love the sunsets and that night it did not disappoint.  It was crowded but again people kept their distance.  Sunday we headed downtown which was equally as packed but people seemed to be keeping their distances there as well.  We had breakfast at the Wooden Rooster, enjoying the outside tables as we are not ready to sit inside a restaurant just yet and besides the fresh air did us some good.

Some more positive outcomes with being on the hamster wheel  are changes that I have been making to assist us when we hit the road, I have upped my Zooming ability, which will assist me to be able to go remote,  working with someone on  a project that I can take anywhere (but can’t get started until all of this is over) I have decided to reopen my Etsy shop, and I have decided to become an Independent Wellness Advocate with doTerra. More about those changes to come. For now just trying to figure it all out and with all the extra time of not going out all the time having fun I am able to work on different projects that I have always wanted to get to.  

The thing I find most interesting about all of  this is the fact that the whole nation/world are all on the same hamster wheel, just trying to make it spin in the same direction.  We can speak to someone on the other side of the nation and ask them what’s going on and the answers are going to be about the same as what we are going through. It just proves that it is a small world and we are one in this world and fight.

Soon I will be able to get back to campground reviews and fun things on the weekends but for now it is what it is…. and until next time….

Keep spinning and stay safe….

Hope

Boyd Hill Preserve, St. Pete FL

THE NEW WORLD AS WE KNOW IT, EARTH DAY AND WEEKEND 16 OF 52 WEEKENDS TO REMEMBER

I believe all of us are sick of the Coronavirus and hearing speculations and confusing facts, I know I am. On Earth Day we can celebrate but not together from afar.

I went to the grocery store at lunch one day and after getting the gloves and mask on I headed in. The scene made me want to cry, everyone wearing masks and gloves and no one making eye contact with others, walking far away from people, avoiding isles so not to get too close. First thought was I have entered the twilight zone or the zombie apocalypse… it was surreal. It is interesting to know it’s not just happening here, it’s the whole world. Here in Florida we have our hurricanes and when we are shut down because of them people on the other side of the country don’t understand, just the same as we don’t understand what a snow day is. But I was speaking to tech support and the guy was in Arizona and we were able to relate with each other’s life because we were basically looking out the same window. I don’t believe we will go back to life as it once was, it will get better than it is, and hopefully we can stop dressing in hazmat suits to go to the store, but I’m sure it will never be the same, not necessarily bad but for sure different. There are certain things I miss, but mostly it’s the hugs. In person appointments. I had a job interview over Zoom. Strange times for sure.

Earth Day was weird this year, there were no normal celebrations. But I went for a walk that morning and thought what a beautiful day to celebrate the earth. Next year we will celebrate.

Weekend 16-honestly I’m losing track, good thing I write it down. 16 wasn’t much different then 15 except we were camping in the backyard instead of the cabin. We did go to Boyd Hill Nature Trail. Got some great pics and a tiny bit of exercise until the rain came. Mike worked on the camper some more and we look forward to being able to camp in other places besides the backyard. But it is what it is.

Tell me what your missing the most with the quarantine.

Stay safe, and healthy, carry-on and this too shall pass. Until next time,

Hope

WEEKENDS TO REMEMBER #13, 14 AND 15, CORONA VIRUS, A BIKE RIDE, CAMPING IN THE BACKYARD AND TRIP TO THE CABIN

It’s a whole new world out there, as most of you we are self isolating, going out to stores only when essentially needed,  staying 6 feet away from everyone, washing the crap out of hands and trying our best to not touch our faces and also trying not to go insane.

How we come out on the other side of this Corona Virus pandemic remains to be seen, but I am sure we will each be a little different.  Maybe we realize that things we thought were essential aren’t really all that important anymore.  I know personally it has made me think of what is important in life but it also has made me miss certain portions of it that I took for granted, I miss our local breweries, local restaurants and I hope they survive this.  When all is said and done and things start opening up, I will be one of the first customers at my favorite brewery (oh how I miss you 3 Daughters), keeping my safe distance and enjoying a nice cold brew.

Anyway  we have been spending the this strange time differently.  We wonder what we can and cannot do to help us stay sane.  Week 13 took us on a bike date, a normal bike date would have had us at some breweries by early afternoon, but nothing was open, except for Wawa, so we got breakfast by bicycle and headed into Clam Bayou, where we had a lovely picnic of our breakfast Sizzlies, and then rode around, took the new extension trail into Gulfport.  We rode around there and saw all the new restaurants we want to go to after this is all over.  I had my camera so I took some great photos. The trail was fairly crowded but we kept our distance.  People seemed kinder, we all have this look of, mmmm, not sure what to call it, not necessarily fear but maybe uncertainty, whatever it is, it is a weird feeling.

Weekend 14 was a camping trip in our backyard.  Let me start this by stating that every month since we had the tiny camper, we had camping reservations somewhere. Living in Florida, these reservations were made months ahead of time,  sometimes close to a year in advance, but for whatever reason, I did not make any reservations for April or May this year.  As we were not socializing with anyone we decided to camp in the backyard.  I set up the “campground” just as I would if were were in a real campground.  The nice thing about it was the pet policy was very lenient, I was even able to give Eris, the lowrider camping hound, a bath in the bathhouse. Nick and Randy came over and had breakfast and lunch, all while keeping our safe distance of course. Mike worked on adding all the extras to the camper.  He redid the one wall with leftover flooring that our neighbor gave us, added a tv and a fireplace.  We didn’t go anywhere that weekend, and while I miss seeing someplace new and sightseeing it was really very peaceful and fun.    

Weekend 15 found us at the cabin.  Mike is finishing up the bathroom. It looks great. While we have had heat at home, and when we first got here, the first night got down to 45 degrees (that was in the morning when I got up).  Nothing else much to do except go on a wild flower walk.

That’s about all for the last three weekends.  While I still have to get out my blog on Savannah’s vacation, right now I just want to concentrate on what we can do and what we are doing during this crazy time. I miss my family, my friends and just want to around them and get hugs so Savannah’s happy trip will wait until the time  when we can all travel again.

So until next week, stay healthy, safe and wash your hands…oh and don’t touch your face.

Hope

Weekend’s to Remember 10, 11 and 12-Falmouth Springs, Cypress Creek Preserve and Covid-1

So this post is being presented to you from the inside of my camper, while only working part-time, and doing some social distancing….I started to write about weekends 8 and 9, about our vacation in Savannah and then as we all know we were hit the realities of  Covid-19, Corona Virus, whichever one your prefer to refer to it as.  I am sure I can speak for everyone, it has turned everyone’s lives upside down.  I will get back to my post about Savannah shortly but for now I just wanted to do a quick update as to weekend’s numbered 10, (Falmouth Springs) 11 (Cypress Creek Preserve) and number 12, the first weekend we were home for the social distancing.

Weekend #11 found us at the cabin to work on the bathroom. On our way home we stopped by Falmouth Springs.  We took a beautiful walk down the boardwalk.  I believe the boardwalk is longer then the river.  It is a beautiful area and brings back fond memories as to when we were building the cabin and did not yet have a shower, we would work in the Florida heat and then on our way home would stop there and take a dip in the refreshing spring.  It is known as the shortest river in the world. The spring bubbles from an underground cave and travels the length of the river about 450 feet and disappears through an opening at the other end.  It is one of the many first magnitude springs with a daily water flow of about 65 million gallons.  We have been there before with high water, very high water and it flows backwards.  The air temps ares about 10 degrees cooler down on the boardwalks because it is like being in a pit, with limestone walls and beautiful green tree coverage.  I think it is one of the best local secrets around.

Weekend 11 found us boondocking at Cypress Creek Preserve, which is a 7400 acre piece of SWFWMD (South West Florida Water Management District) property located on the outskirts of Tampa.  This is a beautiful lush spot, with shade and sun.  Reservations can be made on the SWFWMD’s website, 60 days ahead of time.  It was the beginning of the social distancing request. So not sure really what was happening, we didn’t change our plans and we were very glad we didn’t.  We may have seen maybe 10 other people there the whole weekend and that was even including my mom and brother who came out to have dinner with us.  There is a combination gate at the entrance of the property, which you receive the gate code when your reservations are confirmed. There is a walk gate for anyone who just wants to hike.   After entering the property there is about a mile, dirt road, and my one advise is to take it super, super slowly, to the primitive campground, unless you don’t mind your belongings being moved everywhere but where they belong in your camper.  There are two camping areas, a primitive (which is the one we stayed at) and an equestrian.  Both can handle big rigs,  have a port-a-potty and a covered picnic table area, so if we had a few people there we could all hang at the picnic tables.  Each site has a picnic table and a fire ring.  I believe there are three campsites in each area.  We got up each morning and walked and then again in the evening after dinner.  It was so peaceful and nice not to be listening to the never ending drama that was unfolding in the “real” world.

The breweries were still open so we figured why not let’s find one.  We went to In the Loop Brewing in Land O’ Lakes, which has an awesome vibe,  with a great courtyard and view.  There was no social distancing happening there.  We brought Eris the Lowrider Camping Hound, as it was too hot to leave her behind, and upon arriving she was the hit of the courtyard by the little people that far outnumbered the big people.  The average age was 2, maybe 3.  It was jammed packed.  We stayed for one and headed back to our peaceful campground.

Everything changed the following week, the world ended as we knew it, and all Florida State Parks closed for camping, and shortly after SWFWMD followed suit.  Hopefully, our world will get back to some sort of normal or at least the new normal will become clearer and reservations will be able to be made once again.  We plan on returning, maybe in November after summer, which apparently started in Florida in March this year, and after the new normal becomes clear once again. We highly recommend this campground.  We have yet to be disappointed with any of the SWFWMD properties, so check them out when you get the chance.

Weekend #12 Covid-19, so this weekend found us at home questioning things like what would be next to close and would I be working on Monday and would the suppliers that Mike uses be open….it was a weekend of uncertainty.  The breweries and restaurants were already closed and by the time of this writing anything that is a non essential business is closed.  However, besides the breweries and restaurants all the other businesses, including the law business, are considered essential, so I have a job and Mike can do his work as well.  We are socially isolating to a point, for instance in my job there is me and a few other employees and no clients, everything is done via email,  and Mike’s job is mostly a two person operation.  So business as usual for us except for the point that no one is hiring now in my field so I am underemployed and I am afraid that until this is over as I won’t be able to get full-time work.  We only have 44 weeks before we hit the road so we plan on hanging on until then.  Hopefully things will return to somewhat normal soon.

So the fun and different thing we did last weekend was we went to a food truck. One might ask what’s so different about that? I would answer by saying it was in one of the neighbor’s yards.  Food trucks are showing up in neighbor’s yards around the neighborhood.  We have met some neighbors, (from a distance of course) that we would normally not have met previously. I have met more people these last few weeks then I have met the whole time I have lived here, which is a very long time (as in 44 years).  So if there can be a silver lining to this, people are unplugging, going outside for fresh air a change of scenery and meeting new neighbors.  The food truck was the Surly Mermaid.  It was delicious and we will be hosting them in our yard on April 1st.  So if anyone is around come on by and get some delicious food and maybe meet some neighbors (at a distance of course) and try out the new normal.

Weekend’s to Remember-Weeks 6 & 7

Hard to believe how quickly time flies.  This weekend we are going into weekend number 12 and I am finally sitting down to write about weeks 6 and 7.  It’s been a busy time for sure between working at our cabin and the house and not to mention the camper.

Weekend #6 took us to the State Fair, where I was part of the Photo Safari.  I entered 20 pictures into a contest that I had taken at the state fair. While I did not win I still had a great time.  We are not ones to go to the State Fair and do the rides and this year was no different. We went and saw the animals, the crafts and the exhibits.  One of the exhibits that was there was the Tampa Bay Ukulele Society,  which we did not know it even existed.  However, we enjoyed that the most. Fun group of people and great entertainment. They were willing to share and teach us.    I see ukulele lessons in our future.  Ukulele’s are small and can fit nicely in the camper. Mike won a beautiful ukulele, just in time for Valentine’s Day and it goes without saying that is what I received from him for Valentine’s Day.    Now we need to get him one as well so we can make some music while on the road.  I took a lot, when I say a lot of pictures, I mean 570 of them and narrowing it down was daunting. I totally enjoyed myself and seeing things through the cameras lens.  We arrived early and stayed until about dark. It was a long day and a lot of fun.  It dawned on us that more than likely that was our last Florida State Fair for a while as we will be hitting the road before next years.

Weekend #7 took us to Lettuce Lake as we were looking for someplace close to hike.  We went with our besties, Nancy, Mark and Nya.  We first started with a great breakfast at 18 Bagels and then headed to Lettuce Lake.  I have been there before, however I did not remember it being so beautiful.  It has a great nature center and beautiful boardwalks.  We saw alligators, and birds galore.  The views were spectacular and it was a photographer’s paradise.  One day I hope to get their early enough to get some great pics of the birds.

There is not much more to say about either weekend except if you haven’t been to the Florida State Fair, you should go as it is a lot of fun.  Also, if you are in the Tampa Bay area, check out Lettuce Lake, it will not disappoint.

I hope you enjoy the pics from both weekends.

#sonya6000; #floridastatefair; #lettucelakepark #hiking; #travelphotography; #rvtravel

Weeks 4 & 5 of 52 Weekends to Remember

Week 4 took us to Swamphead Brewery in Gainesville where we attended the 3rd annual Wild & Scenic film festival presented by the Florida Trail Association. We had gotten reservations for Oleno State Park for one night and headed to the festival. It was a cold night but this year we were slightly more prepared for the evening that was predicted to be another cold one. We arrived at Oleno and hiked to the nature center and made it back in time to get ready to go to the festival. The festival consists of about 10 short adventure films that are generally quite exciting. The festival happens at a great brewery, appropriately named Swamphead (which happens to be Mike’s second fav brewery). After signing in we put our chairs down and got a cold beer and checked out the many vendor booths. It was a great night and great fun. We highly recommend if your in Florida the last weekend in January.

Week 5 took us to the cabin and we accidentally fell upon this location in the Twin Rivers State Forest. We headed down a long dirt road (glad we had the truck) to the very end which landed us at the Withlacoochee River. There were picnic tables there and I could see how one could boondock back there. We were there on a Sunday morning so no one else happened to be there but I imagine that it could be busy on other days for fishing, canoeing, possibly swimming and maybe camping.

I hope y’all enjoy weeks 4 & 5 in photos as much as we enjoyed taking them.

Travel on,

Hope

#52weekendstoremember; #travelphotography; #blogger; #sonya6000; #whatrwewaiting4

Swamphead and Oleno State Park
Twin Rivers State Forest

Week 2 and 3 of 52 weekends to remember….,

I am going to combine weeks 2 and 3 of the weekends to remember.  Week 2 took us to Weedon Island. Which is a preserve of 1390 acres in St. Pete, Florida. Established in 1972 it is mostly an estuarine preserve composed of upland an aquatic areas. We meanandered through the mangrove forests, pine flatwoods in hunt for the much wildlife that abounds.  There is evidence of the early settlers that inhabited the land for thousands of years.  All of this can be seen in the nature center where guests can learn about the natural, geological and local history.    There is 4.7 miles of nature trails and 2 miles of it is on boardwalks.  After doing the nature center we  choose to do the boardwalk hike as it was hot for a January afternoon.  We hiked to the 45 foot tall observation tower where we were afforded a 360 degree view of Tampa Bay including the downtown’s of Tampa and St. Pete.  Most of my previous times spent in this park I was on a bike.  We would ride to the boat launch and leave almost as quickly as we would get there as the gnats were horrible.  I carried bug spray with us, however it was not needed. Kayaks can be rented or you can bring your own. It truly is a beautiful place right in our own backyard.  If we have time within the next 52 weeks we will return.

Week 3 found us boondocking at Potts Preserve.  Potts Preserve is part of SWFWMD located at 2988 North Hooty Point  in Inverness, Florida.  It is free camping, Just need to make reservations with SWFWMD. There are two sides the equestrian and the primitive. We stayed at the primitive side. There is also a backcountry which I believe you need a permit for as well.

We had hiked there previously  but this time we brought the camper. I have always wished to wake up and have a trail right outside my door, well this was the place.  The Florida Trail was about 50 feet away from our camper. It is situated on the Withlacoochee River.  It has about 6 campsites with plenty of room for more sites.  5 of the sites have river access.  After making reservations we received a gate code.  While the area is open for hiking the hikers must hike in from the gate about a mile back.  When we arrived there was a huge group of tent campers there sucking up 3 of the waterfront sites and one lonely guy took the site next to him, I bet he would have wished he had taken our site as it was quieter than he had as we had trees as a barrier to block their use of their open frame generator (which we never figured out what they were running on the generator) and their drum playing into the night after they turned the generator off. They solo camper left the next day and the “noisy” campers left on Sunday giving us the rest of the day and Monday to enjoy a beautiful day of peace and quiet.

The preserve is 8500 acres with 9 miles of multi use trails and part of the Florida Trail and Great Bird Watching has 22 miles of open hiking.

Cell service, Verizon and AT&T hardly existed unless you went to stand next to a “stick” (it’s a tree, I think but for now it’s just a stick) in the middle of the field. We named it the phone stick.

We hiked a little and I would say that was the best part of the weekend.

Attached are photos from weeks 2 and 3. I need help deciding which I should keep as my “favorite” for week 3. Please help me. Let me know what’s your favorite and if you are the 10th person to like and comment in this blog post I will send you a matted 5/7 of the print of your choice.

From Weedon Island

From Potts Preserve

FOLLOWING THE BROWN SIGN- BABCOCK RANCH ECO TOURS

On December 8, 2019 for Mike’s birthday this year, I decided to take him someplace different so we headed to Babcock Ranch Eco Tours at Babcock Ranch Preserve for a swamp buggy ride.  The ranch is very large, 67,618 acres in Charlotte County, which is managed in cooperation with the Florida Forest Service.  It was one of the single largest purchases of conservation land in Florida’s history.  It has many diverse habitats, including prairie, and swamps,  hardwood forests, etc. While we were there we saw, deer, wild pigs (including cute, little piglets) Florida cracker cows, regular cows, alligators by the billions and tons of birds, including turkeys.  There is hiking opportunities but I believe the best way to see and learn about the vast preserve is to take the Eco Tour.

HISTORY: It was and still is a working ranch since 1914 which was comprised of 91,361 acres.  The Ranch produced timber, cattle, crops and sod.  In 2006  most of the preserve was sold to the State and the remaining is a private residential community.  The ranch today is still privately run but owned by the State.

THE TOUR: When arriving you walk down a little path to the visitor center.  We were welcomed by friendly staff, who like our narrator on the tour was passionate about their work.  There is also plenty to see right there, including caged (my favorite way to see them) snakes, and while we were there we saw Santa Claus and he was holding an alligator and then one of the snakes, there is a little museum which actually was a prop from a movie that was filmed there. There is a beautiful gift shop which sells all kinds of souveniers including  local honey, books, trinkets,  and much more.  We even got our picture taken with Santa with no snakes or alligators.

The Eco Tour is a 90  minute narrated tour which takes you through four different eco systems, including, you guessed it a swamp, which at this time of year was dry, which I think made for better wild life viewing, but we may have to go back when wet just to see.  The swamp buggies are really buses.   Our guide, Karlie, was a wealth of knowledge and passionate about her work and told us the history of the ranch, pointed things out that we might have missed, answered any questions we might have had.   The wild animals came up to the bus, as they obviously knew the sound of the buses, they came running, and waddling over to the bus for their treats they knew she had, except for the alligators of course. 

I think the Cracker Cows were my favorite, we learned that they are only bred to keep the breed alive.  The plentiful amount of  alligators was amazing to see all while safely on the bus.    Living here in Florida for most of my life one would think that seeing things like alligators would get old but it never does.    After the tour we went to eat at the Gator Shack where we had some amazing BBQ. Fair warning the portions are super large.  There is a walking tour however, after eating we were so stuffed we had a hard time even thinking about walking so decided that for the next time.  

THE COST: $24.00 adult, $23.00 for seniors, children 3-12 $16.00, 2 and under free.

Reservations can be made online, however they may have room if you didn’t make any plans and happen to be close enough, so give them a call at 1/800-500-5583.

LOCATION: 8502 FL-31, Punta Gorda, FL.  Turn at the bright flags that say Eco Tour and BBQ.  Turn down the road and keep driving to the end, can’t miss it.  You will pass a ton of  solar fields (which is pretty amazing on it’s own) and culverts which house many animals as well.

I left out somethings because I want to leave a little mystery to encourage other’s to head over to Babcock Ranch Preserve Eco Tours and experience it themselves.

Get out and see what the real Florida has to offer…

Until next time, follow a brown sign somewhere cool,

Hope

whatrwewaiting4.com

#babcockranchecotours; #realflorida; #followthebrownsigns; #sonya6000

 

 

CAMPGROUND REVIEW- FORT DESOTO PARK- Home Sweet Home….Not So Much

When: October 18-20, 2019

Where: Fort Desoto Park, Pinellas County, Florida

Who: We organized this trip 7 months ahead of time. The we are Mike, Eris, the lowrider camping hound, and I on one site, Joe and Caren (who couldn’t come) on another, Annette and pups on another site and Cheri on another site and friends had an additional 4 sites.

Weather was supposed to be crappy, which we sort of figured even when were making reservations as we were camping with Joe. It always rains when Joe is camping. However, he outdid himself this time with a tropical storm. Because of the storm people canceled and there were a lot of empty sites.

Why check this place out, let me start and tell you why we will never come here again. Let’s start with the check-in: Fort Desoto is a Pinellas County Park, where I grew up, and am still a resident for a little longer, I went to plenty of parties here, my favorite beach of all time, I even camped here before. Location is conveniently located less than 10 miles from my sticks n’ bricks. I have been a Pinellas County resident for most of my life, went to school here, got married here, raised my children, etc., I am sure you get the point, it’s the county that is my home. As County residents we are able to make reservations 7 months ahead of time. That is the only benefit we receive, no discounts, no early checkin and no late checkouts. Just the ability to make the reservations one month earlier. When we were planning the trip 7 months earlier I made reservations for Annette (who is formally of Pinellas County, born and raised) using my address. At the same time Mike made reservations for us using our address. Now keep in mind we had a total of 8-9 campsites reserved by friends of Chery and Joe. The only one who didn’t live in Pinellas was Annette. Also, there was no where on the website that stated that only one reservation per address is allowed nor did their crappy website pick up on the fact that two reservations were made from the same address for the same weekend. I understand this rule- actually I don’t understand why my husband and I cannot reserve two sites as they aren’t giving us anything extra and we are paying for two sites and if that is a rule then it should be stated somewhere. Anyhow, we show up and they gave us grief and that was when we were checking in. At one point I was ready to say that’s fine give us our money back and we will leave now, leaving them with two more empty sites, as a lot of people were canceling due to the impending weather and they can try and fill it.

Secondly, there is no alcohol consumption allowed in the park. Not even on your site and they encourage people to tattle on others. There is fat fine for those who are caught with alcohol $118.00 ish per drink. I don’t really care that much if I want a drink I can always drink it inside my camper. However, when you are paying $40.00 per night for a campsite you should be able to sit at your picnic table while eating and have an adult beverage.

Thirdly, after weathering out a tropical storm we went ahead with our plans of a pot luck dinner at Chery’s site, which compared to most of ours was the driest. We carried all our food down there (love my wagon) and Joe drove down as he had an extra tables and grill. Shortly, after eating we were sitting around in a circle and chatting and the ranger came over and said only two vehicles allowed, all three were all on the site and not an inch of any of them were in the road. Joe said ok he would move his back down to his site, ranger asked which site, he told him and that the only reason it was there was to transport the tables and such, instead of the ranger saying that’s fine just make sure it is moved by the end of the night he made him move it. One would think that would make the ranger move on but no, he was nosy and was trying to see if any of us had any alcohol. Keep in mind we aren’t young people average age was probably 45-50, we weren’t loud we were sitting around the, oh wait I was going to say fire pit, but that would be an extra fee, so just in a circle, which leads me to my fourth complaint the costs for lack services…

It was $40 ish dollars per night, not worth it to have to deal with the nasty, unwelcoming Park rangers, with their unbendable rules and to be nickeled to death. The only amenities they have are bathrooms with showers, picnic tables and grills on each site and dump.

Finally, my last complaint is the amount of pet sites. There are 236 sites only 78 are open to pets, leaving 158 sites for the pet less folks, hence the problem with getting a site. I don’t have as much of a problem with this, however, the pets are not allowed to even be walked beyond the pet area, again not very welcoming to say the least.

So reasons to go, the views, not so much in the campground as outside. There is a nice trail that will take you to the beach, which I may be partial are the best beaches. There is a fishing pier and a fort to explore. So biking, walking, fishing and exploring the the beach are the reasons. Oh and believe it or not it even has a dog beach.

I will keep my Ft. Desoto trips to day trips only.

That being said even with all the negatives it was still fun to camp with friends, we brought our propane fire pit, and made s’mores while standing under the awning in the rain, there was mud for the dogs to walk through, and had shared meals with others and made some new friends. However, the next trip I would suggest we hop over the Skyway and go to Little Manatee River State Park and rent as many sites as we want, where the rangers are pleasant and the hosts are as well.

Until next time, happy camping,

Hope

Whatrwewaiting4….

CAMPGROUND REVIEW-TORREYA STATE PARK

Mike, Eris, the lowrider camping hound, and I went to Torreya State Park in Bristol, FL on August 31, 2019 through September 4, 2019.

There are many reasons to check out this place, one of which is the hiking, and the views. We have been there before to backpack and if one went there blindfolded when the blindfold was removed one would swear that they were dumped in North Carolina not north Florida. When we came in 2003 it was very different then this year. In 2003 we did the Torreya Challenge hiking trail which it was very challenging and very beautiful.

This year however it was very different. Only about 3 miles of the trails are left now after the 2018 Hurricane Michael destroyed the area. The best way to describe it was that Mother Nature picked up all the trees and just dropped them. Reminded me of a game of pick up sticks. The trails are slowly being rebuilt but not sure if they will be restored in my lifetime. There were signs at the entrances of what was once a trailhead saying to stay off the trails as they were destroyed when 155 mile per hour winds came through the park. This might be a good time to mention that this park is not on the coast it is about 80ish miles away. Hard to imagine being that far away from the coast and being hit with a category 5 hurricane. The surrounding neighborhoods were nearly destroyed. Most houses had a new roof, needed a new roof or were abandoned. I felt horrible for the residents, as it seems like all the help that did come went to the wealthier areas such as the beaches and this area was forgotten about.

But back to the campground review. What thankfully did remain and had minimal damage was the Gregory House. It is a mansion built by Jason Gregory, who was a prominent plantation planter in 1849. It stood across the Apalachicola River from where it is currently. The river served as a “highway” during the Civil War. However, after the war Mr Gregory moved away and the house had seen hard times. One of the daughters did move back to the home, restored it and lived there until her death. When the state park was created in the 1930’s the Neal Lumber Company donated the home to the park as a gesture of support for the park. It was taken apart and moved across the river to the park for reconstruction on the bluff where it remains today. The CCC carefully put it back together and they even used the original wood pegs instead of nails. There are tours given daily and it is well worth the little fee of $2.00 per person.

While we were there every morning I hiked down and then back up to the Gregory House to see the magnificent views, which were plentiful.

The park is named after the rare Torreya tree, which can only be found in north Florida, California and China.

The campground is very different from most of Florida’s state parks. It too is on a bluff with a deck with an awesome overlook. The sites (1-15) themselves are small and do not offer much privacy as they almost touch the neighbors, but it was good and so nice to explore the area. There is also a yurt and a cabin which can be rented. There is a bathhouse which has toilets and showers as well as a shower house. We did do the few trails that were open, but it was sad to see the damage that remained from the hurricane.

We explored Apalachiola National Forest, which I highly recommend. By the looks of it the forest faired better than their northern neighbors during Michael.

We will return sometime as there is still much to see. Hopefully for all the residents and future visitors things will get rebuilt soon.