January 2022: National Forest Hopping in Florida

As we prepare for our departure I look back fondly on the last month.  No exciting stories or days filled with hiking, kayaking, exploring but simply living our normal lives in the woods and I love every minute of it. 

The colder, rainy days mixed in with warmth and sunshine.  Wearing sweatshirts and jeans and trading it in for short sleeves and shorts another day.  But I can say this I’ve worn my sandals far less than I would have liked this month but it’s better than not at all. As they were always packed away this time of year when we lived in Indiana.

I’ve really enjoyed the laid back stays at Osceola and Ocala National Forests.  We’ve been at each for 2 weeks, a month of time split between the two.  We didn’t do much in the way of exploring but we enjoyed our time in the forest.  The peace and quiet, the tranquility of just being in nature, away from it all.  

Venturing into town to get groceries quickly reminded us why we love being away from city life. The hustle and bustle, traffic, shopping on every corner, we don’t miss any of that.  It’s nice to dip in every so often to see what we no longer miss.  

I jokingly say watch out we are coming out of the wild to be around people for a brief amount of time.  It feels like that at times.  Of course we have the comforts of home in our “wilderness”.  Truly the best of both worlds.   Here’s a look back at our time in two of Florida’s national forests. The third we will hit on our way out.

Osceola National Forest

Our first stay in Florida. This national forest is an hour west of Jacksonville and just over the border into Florida. We found a nice home for two weeks at the 17 Mile Hunt Camp

This primitive hunt camp was peaceful. We had the place mostly to ourselves, except for the occasional overnighter, a few tent campers, a van or two and a couple of Class-C’s. One weekend there was a large group that came in. Turned out they were with the Florida Militia and were there for a training weekend. They were very nice, explained who they were and what they were doing. A few hunters rolled through here and there but overall very quiet place to call home for two weeks.

We spent some time exploring the forest roads via Jeep. This time when we encountered a muddy area we turned around and opted for not getting stuck. (Is Shane learning?) One beautiful afternoon we kayaked at Ocean Pond.

Yoga outside, fires, drinking my favorite wine from Aldi, enjoying our outdoor lights (gifted to us from LeeAnn), Josie’s new toy (a volcano with dinosaurs) and plenty of time inside staying warm and working on our computers.

I loved the peace and serenity of this place.

Ocala National Forest

Located about 2 hours south, it was an easy travel day to our next national forest. We found a nice spot at Lake Delancy West Campground, an OHV campground. It was very peaceful with only a few other campers, through the week. The weekends however, were a different story. This place filled in with quads, tents, campers, and plenty of people. It was never completely full but the peace and quiet went out the door on Friday and Saturday nights. By Sunday afternoon it was back to the way we like it, less people.

We had plenty of space and solar coming in! This one had a day use/camp fee of $6/day. Not free but low cost and perfect for our needs. It’s a primitive campground with vault toilets and bear proof trash bins. There is a lake but no access, it looked to be fairly shallow. The big draw is the OHV trails connected right to the campground. Plus a section of the Florida National Scenic Trail was right behind our campsite. We saw several hikers making their way through. Josie had the chance to say hi to a dog hiking along with his humans (through a fence).

The weather was less than favorable for kayaking during our two weeks here. So we worked on installing a backsplash to a corner of our kitchen. It turned out quite nice.

I made an extension for our couch using our dinette top and some pillows. Josie quickly claimed it as a bed. She also hung out in her favorite spot in the over cab area wondering when it would stop raining.

But Florida had some decent weather for us. I managed a couple of outdoor yoga sessions, with Josie taking over my mat.

A short hike out to the Salt Springs Run overlook was filled with lush palms. It felt like we were transported back in time, waiting for a dinosaur to pop out.

While staying here we had the pleasure of meeting up with a very special friend. One we haven’t seen in a year and half. Anne was in town for the 24 hour race at Daytona. When we lived in Indiana she would stay with us while in town for various races. It was such a treat to meet up with her at Ocean Deck at Daytona Beach for an evening of drinks and dinner. I am full of gratitude for the time we spent with her & Deedee, her service dog.

Photo credit: Thanks Anne for the last photo of us. We never get photos of the three of us.

Work was accomplished. We took extra naps and snuggled up on colder days. I loved hearing the sandhill cranes come in each evening around 5 pm. Josie loved her daily walks around the campground sniffing everything in sight. And meeting plenty of puppy friends, Leo, Skylar, and 2 other dogs I didn’t catch the names of.

This life is a good one.  You have to be willing to give up certain things but I find it’s worth it.  I simply do not require much.  I never liked to shop so that’s easy.  Plus with a smaller space, shopping is out – where would you put all the stuff you bought?  I love my life, this is something my 92 year old grandmother says every time I talk to her.  “I love my life.  I’m content with my life.”  I agree completely with those words mamaw, I feel exactly the same way.  

However, I really wish the weather and time had allowed for a day to kayak this beautiful lake, Lake Eaton. But I’m content I was able to look upon it and admire it’s serenity.

Lastly, a couple of short clips for your enjoyment.

2 responses to “January 2022: National Forest Hopping in Florida”

  1. Seeing you three was the best part of my trip to Daytona Beach. Sorry it was so darn cold, though! It got even chillier at the track so by Sunday, when it finally warmed up, it was nice to shed two of four layers of clothing I’d had to wear (not including the photo vest). Thanks for making the effort to drive over from your beautiful campsite near Ocala. As I said, seeing you made my trip (and Deedee’s)!

    Liked by 1 person

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