Wednesday, December 12, 2012


I've been a member of the Florida Trail Association for almost a year but this past weekend was the first chance I've had to join them for one of their events.  I must say that I picked a good one!  Part of the fun was camping at the group campsite located in the Withlacoochee River Park in Dade City, FL.  Now, I've hiked this area often, as it is close to home and a beautiful quick get-a-way whenever I need one.  This was my first time camping there, however.  My sister joined me Friday afternoon as we headed up to set up our camp.  I'll begin by saying that I learned something:  car camping is very different from what I'm use to.  I'm a hiker, use to carrying everything I'll need on my back.  We were first to arrive, and as others did, watching them unload a multitude of totes and larger tents showed me that part of car camping is carrying some of the extra comforts of home (since you can leave it all in your car until's just a short walk from the site).  At any rate, being the first to arrive allowed us to pick the site we wanted:

I loved the way the sun danced amongst the trees as the sun began to set.

Our homes for the weekend!

Since I am a creature of habit, our "camp set-up protocol" proceeded in the same way it did each evening of our 4 day A.T. hike.  First, we set up the tents and tossed in our sleeping pads, bags, and whatever else we thought we might need at night.  Second on the list was building a fire.  While we were unsuccessful at doing this thanks to heavy rains on the A.T., my sister had us a beautiful campfire going in almost no time!

Friday evening was a quiet one.  While we had all taken the time to introduce ourselves to each other, we chose to hang out at our respective camps and just relax.  My sister and I pulled out my MSR Pocket Rocket stove and prepared our gourmet dinner of a Lipton Rice side dish (minus the milk) then allowed the fire to lull us into a vegetative state.  Finally around 10pm, we retreated to our tents, ready for a good night's sleep.  I was in a state of bliss as I lie there, gazing up at the stars through the mesh of my tent.....until the fog rolled in and the moisture began to drip in my face.  A water drop falling from such heights packs a bit of a punch....we were forced to get up at 1am to just lay our rain flys over the tops of our tents.  It wasn't pretty but it kept us dry.  Needless to say, we attached them properly the next morning.

Saturday was a simple day.  First on the agenda was coffee (of course).  Around 11:15, we found our way to one of the large pavilions where the FTA had a nice luncheon set up for us all.  It was a good turnout...maybe 45 people....but only 6 of us were making use of the free group camping.  Lunch was delicious and afterwards, my sister, two of the ladies at the event and myself decided to take a 5 mile hike around the loop trail.  Last time I'd walked this trail, the river was in a very high flood stage, with the water coming very close to the trail's edge.  All was high and dry this time, however, and it was a beautiful hike!

After the 5 mile hike, Sue, my sister and I returned to our campsite for the evening.  All six of us pooled our food, cooked a dinner fit for a king, gathered around our campfire and had the best evening I can remember having since I returned from the A.T.  (I have other pictures that I'll add at a later time if I can figure out how to do so).  I highly recommend participating in your local Trail association or similar groups if there's one in your area.  I will be doing more of it in the future!  I'll leave you with one last imagine of our amazing fire Saturday night....

Happy Hiking!