Our quest to discover and explore new places took my brother, his wife and myself up into the panhandle of our state to one of Florida's most scenic places, Torreya State Park. I've been spoken often of Florida's flat topography so I will be the first to say that the park's location upon the high bluffs overlooking the Apalachicola River was a pleasant surprise! The park was named after an extremely rare, endangered species of conifer trees known as Torreya taxifolia after the 19th century botanist, John Torrey. This conifer grows almost exclusively within the park's borders and is magnificent to look at.
This photo doesn't do the trees justice as we were in awe to come across them growing along one of the many hiking trail within the park, seeing them soar to amazing heights.
The park is also home to the Gregory House, which was originally part of a prosperous plantation before the Civil War, standing across the river from the park at Ocheesee Landing. In 1935, the CCC moved the home to it's current location and restored it for use as a possible small hotel. Currently, the park staff offers tours of the home at various times of day.
|The view from a bench behind the Gregory House of the Apalachicola River|
I have to admit that when we pulled in and saw how close we were going to be to our neighbors (we had someone on each side of us), we were all a bit skeptical and not sure we were going to enjoy our weekend. Our first thought was the noise at night, but by nightfall, most of our fellow campers were doing just what we were doing....
...enjoying dinner and simply hanging out around the campfire. I'd say by 10:30 or 11pm at the latest, the park went silent and the nights were peaceful. I'll add that on the weekend we were there, over Memorial Day, there was a beautiful full moon which really made my nights. I remember waking at some point in the wee hours of the morning to find the moon up high, shining brightly right behind my tent, allowing me to lay there in my bag and just look up at the beautiful night sky. That was probably the highlight of my weekend honestly. It was breathtaking!
As for the majority of the Florida terrain being flat, we were excited to finally come across an area that provided us with a challenge while hiking. Torreya State Park offers a wide variety of hiking trails so there's something for everyone. Us being us, this is the one we sought out:
From our campsite, all the way around the trail and back to where we began measured roughly 10 miles and saw elevation changes of about 250 feet. Now, that's minimal compared to what the mountains and the Appalachian Trail tossed at us, but for Florida, we'll gladly take it! We wandered through a maze of changing scenery:
Overall, I would rate our time at Torreya State park as exceptional and hope to return there again in the future. The diversity found within its boundaries is sure to provide an amazing time for all, regardless of what you seek from your time there....physical challenges, a bit of state history, or just some peace of mind one can only find out in the woods. Happy hiking everyone!