I love to travel, and while you’ll never catch me backpacking through Europe on $20 a day, I don’t mind having to vacation on the cheap. To that end, we’ve been utilizing Florida’s excellent state park system to take a few mini-breaks that involve (gasp!) camping. We’ve managed three weekend trips in the last six months.
In September, we went with a group to Fort Clinch, north of Jacksonville. It was our first time camping in the non-primitive areas, and it made a huge difference in our comfort level. We had a string of Christmas lights and our own spigot! What riches!
We also had unseasonable heat, rain, and an unfortunate episode in which raccoons got into the van and ate a bag of Cool Ranch Doritos, so we cut only stayed two days instead of three.
It was Hazel’s first camping trip, and she LOVED getting filthy.
In December, we were invited to St. Joe Peninsula State Park to camp with friends in a camper. In other words, we leveled up.
The park is right on the beach, and this time the unseasonable warmth worked in our favor.
Camping in someone else’s camper is delightful, in the same way that riding around in someone else’s boat is delightful. Don’t worry – we gave them lots of beer for their troubles.
This past weekend, Jason, Hazel and I stayed in a cabin at Gold Head Branch State Park in Keystone Heights, Florida. When I was a kid, a bunch of our neighbors used to come here over MLK weekend every year. I was interested to experience the park as an adult.
The older cabins at this park were built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s, and are just adorable. Ours had a bedroom/living area with a fireplace, a kitchen, and a bathroom. It was furnished and had basic kitchen equipment, but was by no means fancy.
The lake’s a little low this year, but the view is still relaxing.
Saturday morning we hiked every trail in the park, totaling over 3 miles. Hazel was content to ride in the backpack most of the time, but insisted on getting out for the last half mile or so.
After lunch at a local barbeque restaurant, we settled in at the cabin for Hazel’s nap. Temperatures started to fall, and we lit a fire in the fireplace. Then it started raining. Guess who didn’t care? Us! We had a roof, and food, and plenty of firewood. We spent the evening reading books, cooking dinner, and playing with Hazel.
Sunday morning we made a stop in Jacksonville to have lunch with my mom, then headed home.
One thing I have learned about myself is that I don’t “staycation” well. If I’m at home, I’m looking for projects, worrying about things that need to be fixed, and planning for the next day/week/month. When we went away, there was no laundry to run, no fridge to clean out, no animals to feed. I was able to devote my entire attention to finishing my book and working on a pair of socks I’m knitting. It was perfect.
It was also inexpensive. Major bonus.
I used to say flatly that I did not like camping. I must amend my previous statement, having experienced more than one type of camping in the last six months. I enjoy camper camping and cabin camping. Tent camping is fine with the right equipment. And all camping is made better with an electric skillet for pancakes and breakfast meats.