Beach camping was something I had never done, so when my brother suggested we load up his boat and head out to give it a try, I said, "Let's do it!" It was an early November day when we were all finally able to coordinate our schedules, load up and go. Prior to our departure, Scott did attempt to call the ranger to let him know we were going to be out there overnight. He was unable to actually speak with the man but he did leave a message so I'd suggest doing the same before your chosen camping date.
We loaded up my brother's truck and headed for the boat ramp up at Anclote River Park. There are actually two locations almost side by side. We passed the actual park entrance and used the second area to park the truck overnight and launch the boat. A couple words to the wise are needed here I think:
1. There are only a couple of boat launch slips and competition is ferocious! I've personally witnessed full grown adults getting into pretty much knock-down-drag-out fights over who gets the slip next! My advice is avoid the early mornings and mid-afternoons if you can to help alleviate some of the congestion at the slips.
2. The current is exceptionally strong surrounding the boat launch area so extra caution is needed to prevent damage to your boat, particularly upon your return to the slip.
That being said, this launch area is nice, being equipped with restrooms, often times a lunch cart of some type, and a roped-off area where swimming is allowed.
|Captain Scott Keith, Tampa Bay Inshore Charters|
The ride through the channel to Anclote Key Island is relatively short but can be quite the challenge depending on the amount of boat traffic you encounter. Once you begin to approach the island, you're free to maneuver outside the channel area to reach your destination. My brother is also an inshore charter captain (check out his Facebook Page at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Tampa-Bay-Inshore-Charters/233467050077386 ) so he had taken the time to calculate the tides so there would be little chance of beaching his boat (should that happen, all you've got to do is wait till the next high tide rolls in) and we were able to nose the boat up close enough for us to unload the cargo, wading in knee-deep water.
|Securing the boat for the night|
|We had the whole beach to ourselves!|
|My "room with a view" for the night|
|Always have to have a campfire!|
Once we had the gear unloaded and the boat secured, we set up our camp. I have to say that, while we could not feel the humidity in the air at that time of day, our tents almost immediately became wet from it so we had to put up our rainflys. On our next trip, we will do this at the time we set up the tents to hopefully help keep them dry. Also of note is that there is one composting toilet on the island but it's a walk away and you'll most likely have to wade tidal pools to reach it. Being backpackers, we are always prepared for this so it wasn't an issue for us (just always remember the pack in pack out rule of thumb and don't leave your trash/other items behind).
Once we were all settled in, we took a nice, long walk on the beach just as the sun was setting. It was probably one of the most peaceful things I've done in a long time.
We enjoyed a tasty dinner of hot dogs cooked over our open fire, chips and then later, smores. In spite of being so relaxed and tired, we opted to stay up until the moon came up because it was promising to be amazing. I tried to take pictures of it but they didn't turn out but trust me....it was absolutely beautiful! I don't think I've ever seen so many stars!
We woke the next morning fairly deep in a fog...to the point of our hair dripping wet as if we'd just stepped out of the shower and actual puddles forming in our chairs. While it contributed to a glorious sunrise, it burnt off fairly quickly and we dried out...
The boat stayed put overnight but as you can see, it appears much closer to the shoreline that it did when we unloaded it the night before. Scott had taken this into account, planning our departure from the island to coordinate with the next high tide.
In retrospect, the only thing I would have done differently is not set up my tent where I did. If you look in this picture, you can see the dead sea grass....that's how close the water from the high tide the night before came to my humble abode. At one point during the night, I sat up and unzipped the window to take a look and it appeared as if my tent was floating on top of the water. Granted, listening the to water lapping the sand so close to my tent was relaxing in a way, the worry that I'd soon feel the wetness invading my sleeping quarters was not. Next time I'll pitch my tent a bit further back!
I guess if I had to list one complaint with this beach camping experience, it would be that it simply wasn't long enough! We're planning to return once the weather is suitable and when we do, we'll either go out for two nights or get a much earlier start! Two nights would require us to make two trips mainly because there is no firewood out on the island so you've got to transport your own. That added weight will make two trips necessary but the good news is it's not that far out and won't take too long! I often sit here at night, thinking back to this experience...remembering how relaxing it was, how beautiful it was to look across the channel to the other island and see campfires burning or to watch them launch those paper bag candle things (sorry...don't know what they're actually called). If you ever have the chance to spend the night out on this beautiful island, please don't let it pass you by. You'll be so glad you went!!!
|One last look down the beach from our camp!|