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Our Stay at Cumpressco Campground – Green Swamp West Tract, Dade City, Florida

Cumpressco Campground - Green Swamp West Tract, Dade City, Florida

Green Swamp Preserve was yet another great place to enjoy a week stay. Like the other great free camping areas in Florida, there are miles of trails to explore. Green Swamp, however, contains two equestrian campgrounds, and features a larger amount of gravel/shell roads than any of our previous stays. This allows for a lot of easy, comfortable bike riding.

Also within biking distance, a mile or less away, is the Withlacoochee River Park. This site features paid camping with hook-ups, tent camping, an observation tower, both paved and unpaved trails, and more.

When we arrived at Cumpressco Campground, we selected the very back of the site, where there was enough of a clearing to put our solar panels in the sun for a decent portion of the day. As we were the only one’s here, we pulled in right next one of the shelters, which made for an awesome spot.

Next to the camping area, only a hundred feet or so from our camper, is a cow pasture. A few times a day, we can sit and watch the cows relaxing and grazing in the sun before moving on.

There is wildlife aplenty on the preserve as well. We have seen large tortoises, huge grasshoppers, heard coyote, and much more. For around an hour one day, we even had a gecko hang out with us at our picnic table – only about a foot away from us.

One word of warning. With all the great outdoors and wildlife, comes mosquitoes. Lots of mosquitoes. If you use bug spray, bring it. If you do not, be ready to build a nice fire to keep them away.

Overall, even with the bugs, we really enjoyed this campground. Over the weekend, we had two other small groups show up to camp, but the rest of the time had the place all to ourselves.

Have you stayed in the Green Swamp Preserve? How was your experience? Tell us in the comments!

Bigfoot Trail Camp Recreation Area, Perkinston, Mississippi

Bigfoot Trail Camp Recreation Area

When hurricane Irma started heading towards Florida, it was time to for us to hit the road again and head out of the state. We did a bit of Walmart hopping to wait things out but, as always, that only works for so long. We needed the quiet of the woods! This is when we found Bigfoot Trail Camp Recreation Area in Perkinston, Mississippi.

During the week, we had the back 1/2 of the camping area all to ourselves, and on the weekend, only a few horse trailers showed up for a short time. The campground was quiet, filled only with the sounds of wildlife, and there were butterflies. Lots, of awesome butterflies.

The sites, including firepits and picnic tables were clean and mostly well kept. Grass around some picnic tables and benches was a little tall, but not enough to be unusable. There is a bathroom facility here; we located a  water hydrant, but does not seem to be in working order. The campground contained multiple large sites on a long, easily accessible loop. There are also a few horse trails that made for a few nice walks with our dog. Since this camping area is not situated on water the mosquitoes were limited to a short period around dusk. Firewood is scarce unless you walk a horse trail and brave some high grasses to drag some logs out of the woods.

This was another great stop along our journey – I’m sure we’ll stay here again next time we are through Mississippi.

Cell/Internet Signal

AT&T: 1-2 bars of 4G LTE
Sprint: 1-2 bars of 3G
Verizon: 1-2 bars of 4G LTE

Waylon Jennings RV Park, Littlefield, Texas

Waylon Jennings RV Park, Levelland, Texas

After leaving Levelland, Texas our next town to explore – with a free camping spot, was the Waylon Jennings RV Park in Littlefield, Texas.

Waylon Jennings RV Park, Levelland, Texas

Waylon Jennings RV Park, Littlefield, Texas

This was another town owned free camp ground, complete with power and water. The site feature two large rig pull through sites, and several small rig/tent sites. There is also an overflow area with plenty of space for more large rigs, with power hook-ups only.

Waylon Jennings RV Park, Levelland, Texas

The campground is located next to a Hardware store, complete with an RV section and a RadioShack. The hardware store also carries bike tubes, in case you have a burr pop yours like I did!

Within biking distance is the downtown area. While it is not the hustle and bustle it may have been in years gone by, it is still full of great architecture that is a must see.

Giant Storms, a New Camera, Levelland Texas, and a Great Free RV Spot

Levelland, Texas Free RV Parking

Armed with our Nikon D5200 and ready to take better looking photos, we finally started heading west!

And, it appears we may have left a little early. Along our path, we encountered tornado sirens – causing us to have to duck and hide in a Walmart, temperatures dropping into the 30’s, and another large storm system heading right for us.

Wanting a way to have some heat, and to not be pummeled by a tornado, we started planning a route around the storms, where we could sit right on the border of rain and cold. Kind of in the little sweet spot, where we didn’t have too much of either.

This lead us to the town of Levelland, just a little west of Lubbock, Texas.

Welcome to Levelland

Welcome to Levelland

Levelland is one of several areas around Lubbock, where you can find an RV parking area – complete with power, water, and a dump station – for the low, low price of free. That’s right, free. Some locations have a 5 day limit, some have a 3 day, all of them are a pretty awesome of the town to offer.

Leveland Free RV Parking

Leveland Free RV Parking

So, what is this free RV parking like? It is next to a road, causing  some traffic noise that calms down quite a bit at night. Picnic tables are located on the road side and dumpsters are at the rear of the area. Lastly, there is a small municipal airport a few hundred feet from the rear of the park, where you can watch small planes landing and taking off. Don’t worry, it’s not loud like you might think.

Airplanes

Airplanes

If you’re up for a bike ride, it is only around a couple of miles in to Levelland’s downtown, where you will find lots of shops and some great vintage architecture. We love exploring areas like this, so our bike rides are always some of our favorite things.

We’ll wrap this post up with a gallery of photos from around the town of Levelland, Texas.

Camping at Lake Panasoffkee, Wildwood, Florida

Lake Panasoffkee, Wildwood, Florida

Lake Panasoffkee Preserve features a camp host, who maintains the property and checks reservations as visitors arrive to the camping areas. Once settled in, our stay was pleasant and uneventful – just like we like it.

For those who need them, shopping areas like those in Ocala, Wildwood, and The Villages are a short 20-30 minute drive away.

The site has miles of trails for hiking, biking, and horseback riding. The main trail, which we were told is about 6 miles long, has a great resting point on a bridge over a stream.

Also available are bathrooms, a pavilion, and horse stalls in the day use area.

You can reserve your spot at SWFWMD’s website.

Our Pleasant Stay at Bush Campground

Bush Campground, PA

Bush Campground

Bush Rd
New Alexandria, PA
15670
(724) 668-8999

We returned to Bush Campground, expecting to stay while visiting friends in Pittsburgh again, and found that they now use recreation.gov as their only way to make a reservation. For those not familiar with recreation.gov, it is similar to Reserve America – and is a nightmare to use.While we were in the process of calling, waiting on hold, having their phone system drop us, and calling again, the new camp host showed up. We were informed of the new camping prices – which had doubled. It seems a large portion of people do what we were about to do – show up, see the changes, and leave.

As far as construction,which was happening when we visited two years ago, it was still going on.

We moved on to find a new Pittsburgh camping spot.

We planned to stay a few days in this park, while visiting a friend in Pittsburgh. After our 3 day stay, we decided to stay the maximum allowed 2 weeks. As mentioned in comments around the web, the lake is a little dirty looking – but it’s only dirt dirty. We talked to a ranger, and they assured us that the various complaints are not correct.

One of our favorite spots along the lake.

One of our favorite spots along the lake.

As for the campground, it is awesome. We picked a tree covered spot with power, and a picnic table platform. There is some form of restroom – be it the main bath house or one of the smaller restrooms, available near all of the sites. They are all kept clean, and we never found one with an issue. Our spot was located only a short walk from the main bathhouse.

The campground host is a super nice guy, and rolls through on his cart every so often checking on things. He does a great job of nicely making sure people remember to have a great time while respecting the campground. Because of this, the park is peaceful and quiet, even on weekends when families showed up.

Playground and surrounding camping areas

There is a nice playground, centrally located to the front camping areas and lake access.

While WiFi is not provided, all of our internet connected devices have a strong signal here.

Overall, we love this park and have found our new place to stay whenever we visit Pittsburgh.

Rating by Alan Cook: 1.0 stars
*

Floyd Bennett Field RV Campground. It’s Walmart, but Worse.

Floyed Benneet Field

Floyd Bennett Field RV Campground

1 Floyd Bennett Fld
Brooklyn, NY
11234
(718) 338-3799

If you’ve ever wondered what it was like to stay in the wildest, loudest of Walmart parking lots, but were to nervous to stay in one, Floyd Bennett Field National Park Campground can give you that experience for a whopping $30 a night. That’s right, in an old airport, sitting on top of the equivalent of a parking area, shared with water access, and you can stay in Brooklyn, New York.

RV Park, or Driving School?

During your stay, you can enjoy locals using the campground markers to learn to drive a car. Always entertaining, watching them as they navigate the treacherous terrain.

Racing Motorcycle

If watching student drivers isn’t enough for you, you can also watch the motorcycles racing and revving back and forth across the concrete slabs.

If you’re a aeronautics enthusiast, you’re sure to love the options available. There is a hanger for HARP, opened a few days a week for a few hours, where you can tour vintage planes. But, if that’s not enough for you, there is also a NYPD airfield on the other side of it. You have the enjoyment of NYPD helicopters flying over the campground, low enough to see all the awesome details, on a regular basis. And, there is also a airport across the water. That’s right, non stop commercial flights. How awesome is that!

But if none of that gets you going, and auto racing is more your thing, just wait. Yes, more great news is coming. Wait until about 3am. Then, the cool kids show up, rev engines, and do awesome burnouts and donuts so close you can feel it.

Never fear, though. It’s non stop fun. If you’re worried about someone stopping all this great adventure, don’t. There isn’t any security to stop all the fun. That’s right, you can sleep soundly, and go visit the area in peace, knowing no security will stop your good times.

One last thing. Lets talk trash.

Trash Can Our of Order

Trash Can Our of Order

Apparently, you put it where you want! There’s trash all over the beach, all over the place. But, the trash can is out of order. We aren’t sure yet how that happens, we aren’t sure how a place RIGHT NEXT TO THE SANITATION DEPARTMENT can be like this, but it sure makes figuring out what to do with trash easy…

So, again, if you’re looking for that wild rural crazy loud Walmart experience, but want to pay for it, this is the place for you.

Rating by Alan Cook: 1.5 stars
****

Free Florida Boondocking

Our RV at Hickory Hammock Wildlife Management Area

When we winter in Florida, we prefer to escape the cramped RV park life, get out into nature, and enjoy ourselves. Since we are fully self contained, hold over 7 days of water, and have our RV solar system, it was time to see what we could do.

Thanks to the SWFWMD and SFWMD, and FWC, we are able to stay for no charge in a few great spots. We meet some great people, have an amazing time, and look forward to winter as out new favorite season.

Check out the links for our post on each of the areas we have stayed.

Deep Creek Preserve, Arcadia, Florida

Deep Creek Preserve, Arcadia, FL

Deep Creek was a fairly nice place to stay, and was comparable to Oak Ridge and Cypress Creek. It had your standard amenities, including non-potable water, a port-o-john that was in need of a little more service (like a new floor) but usable and not disgusting, picnic tables, and fire rings. The park itself was well kept, clean, and really pretty.

We set up, spread out, started collecting firewood, and got ready for what we thought would be a week long stay.

The main trail, which went out the rear portion of the area, had some flooding due to rain, so we could not go too far out. Funny thing, this was a sign. After a couple nights of being here, we went to bed, and awoke the next morning to an indication that it rained. A pretty big indication.

Flooding at Deep Creek

Flooding at Deep Creek

 

And, it rained more. And more.

With the waters, came the Sand Hill Cranes. It was neat to watch and hear, them in the area. Without four wheel drive, we only dared to take the van out, making us stuck in this location a little longer than planned. This gave the perfect chance to gear our van up, and take a short, couple of day trip out to the beach. When we returned, the water was starting to recede, and the ground was drying up. Another night, and we were able to pull out and head on our way.

Other than being stuck, we still enjoyed our most of our stay, and it is a pretty location. If you’re going, though, make sure it’s not in a time of excessive rain. If it is, make sure you park close enough to the main road in to be able to get out.

Hickory Hammock Equestrian Area

Our RV at Hickory Hammock Wildlife Management Area

Out of the free management lands we have stayed on in Florida, Hickory Hammock is by far the nicest so far. When we first arrived, a sign directed us to check in with the camp host who was unavailable at the time. A neighbor, however, verified we had a reservation and gave us a rundown of all of the amenities and their locations. Later in the day, after choosing our spot and setting up, the camp host drove by to personally verify our reservation and make sure we did not have any questions. This was a nice change, showing we would have no worries of invading locals disturbing the peaceful surroundings. After answering any questions on amenities, we were left to enjoy our stay.

When it comes to amenities, this place blows away the rest. Instead of full port-o-johns, there are solar powered composting toilets. Instead of a single non-potable water pump, there is a non-potable pump, a fresh water utility sink, and two freshwater hose hookups. There are two or more shelters, a barn, lots and lots of space, cleared areas for RVs that prefer sitting in a level back in type spot, treed in secluded spots, and more.

Your only down sides are farm planes and air boats can be heard in the distance, sometimes even at night, and … and … Ok. One downside.

The nearest town, Sebring, is only a half hour away for all of your shopping needs. There is also a nearby gas station/convenience store for your quick staple needs.

Hickory Hammock is awesome. I wish I could live here. Permanently. On with the photos!

Oak Ridge, Upper Hillsborough

Our group from Alston Tract arranged to all sync our travels and, for our third Florida wild camping location, Laurie and I met them at Oak Ridge.

We left Cypress Creek to arrive a few days after the rest of the group. There were about six camping spots, split through the middle with the driving path. Another couple, in a fifth wheel, was located on one side of the camping area, and our group had taken the other.

With our standard initial checking things out, we found Oak Ridge was another location with a pretty unusable port-o-john, due to being full of waste. The plus side, is there was a non potable water pump, and plenty of trees to allow campers to bury their business in the woods.

The location was pretty quiet, with only occasional times that traffic could be heard in the distance. The sounds of birds and other small wildlife could be heard, with no real signs of larger animals.

A few other campers came through durring our stay, most of which were quiet and respectful. We arranged to return to Oak Ridge for additional relaxing nights in front of the fire with our group.

While we were gone, we were told of a group of approxametly 40 high school/college age people who showed up planning to party. They were quickly run off but, after the same behaviors at Cyprus Creek, it shows locals have a bad habbit of abusing these great spaces.

I’ll end this with a PSA. Wear safety goggles while cutting firewood, always. After being hit in the eye with a flying piece of wood, and having about 48 hours of discomfort, I can tell you I will from here on out.

Cypress Creek Preserve

Cypress Creek Preserve, Florida

Our second Florida boondocking location for the winter was Cypress Creek Preserve. When we arrived, we were the only campers in the area – which is always a plus. Our fist thought was that the large Palmetto Bushes provided a nice seclusion that was lacking at Alston Tract. Once we chose our spot, at the very back of the camping area, we began checking out the port-o-john and other amenities.

Where Alston Tract had a fresh, clean port-o-john, Cypress Creek Preserve looks as though it has not been cleaned out in a long, long time. There was a large mound in the toilet, paper scattered around on the floor, and the maintenance sheet showed no indication of the unit being cleaned in about two months.

The preserve backs up to a neighborhood and is frequented by hikers and bikers. We had to assume some occasional partying goes on as well, as their were beer cans and bottles in some areas of the woods and in the fire pits. We also found waste paper in the Palmetto Bush near our camper.

The area in general is really pretty, though, and is definitely worth a stay. It doesn’t take long to pick up a bit after the previous campers, and you have a nice spot.

For those who need it, there is not a water pump at this location. Occasional planes are flying over, but they are high enough up to not be a problem.

Most of our stay was pretty quiet. We heard some owls in the distance, and possibly a coyote or two. The coolest thing we noticed, was hundreds, if not thousands, of little glowing dots around the outskirts of our camp.Wolf Spider Eyes Reflecting Light

If you look closely at the photo, you will see various white dots. Those are Wolf Spider Eyes reflecting back the light.

On Saturday, though, the locals arrived in their large, diesel pickups. One of their first tasks upon arriving, was to speed up and down the horse trails, where they located a tree they wanted, and used their chainsaw to cut it down. Yes, even with large amounts of trees already down, and lots of firewood that could be collected, they cut down a live tree. Later in the evening, more arrived to make it a party. While it wasn’t loud, the crowd chatter and country music was counter-intuitive to the peace and quiet we expected from being in a preserve.

On Sunday, we decided to pack up and move on – a smart move, being the trucks arrived again as we were leaving.

Cypress Creek Preserve has the potential to be a very nice place to camp and, for the first few days was great. But, as of this writing, it could really use more patrols, especially on the weekends.

Update: We returned to Cypress Creek near the end of our stay in Florida. Upon arriving, we found a mostly burnt up picnic table, a messy port-o-john complete with underwear and a full garbage bag, tampon applicators and other trash on the ground in various places, and the same general conditions as mentioned from our previous trip. The only other campers, this time, are luckily only families in tents. We’re back in our corner and enjoying our stay – especially for the price! – but, again, this site would really benefit from additional patrolling.

Our Stay at Alston Tract, Crystal Springs, Florida

Our first Florida Boondocking adventure on SWFWMD public land started at Alston Tract. When we arrived, we were the only campers at the location. Alston Tract is very well maintained. The port-o-john was clean and filled with fresh blue-stuff, there was no sign of trash, fire pits were clean and empty, and the area was in overall great shape. There is a single non potable water pump in the center of the camping area, and a shelter towards the front.

Wildlife on Alston Tract is abundant and fantastic. Various spiders – including orb spiders and some spiky things have webs throughout the trees, owls and sand hill cranes can be heard in the distance, and the reptiles and amphibians are abundant.

One word of caution, there are brave coyote packs in the area, which will surround your camp and may enter when you are in your tent or RV.

Our first night, though, was fairly uneventful and quiet. During our first full day in the camp another camper, named Wolf, arrived and made for great conversation into the night. On our second day, Wolf was on his way and was later replaced by another single camper, Jay, and a couple, Chris and Jordan.

Every night was spent around a shared, larger fire, and we all had a chance to learn camping tips, full-time information, and much more from each other.

During the day, when you aren’t lounging around like we often did, there are plenty of trails through the tract to keep anyone who enjoys hiking busy. If you’re feeling really energetic, it is about an 8 mile bike ride to Zephyrhills. It’s a neat little town, and made for a great ride.

Overall, Alston Tract was great and we highly recommend it. Have you stayed there? Post comments – tell us all about it!

Dry Camping at Horseshoe Lake State Park

Our Spot at Horseshoe Lake State Park

Horseshoe Lake

3321 IL-111,
Granite City, IL
62040

618-931-0270
https://www2.illinois.gov/dnr/Parks/Pages/HorseshoeLakeMadison.aspx

While dry camping around St. Louis, we stayed at Horseshoe lake for a chance to dump, refill, cook outdoors, and drive to places in only the van.

Horseshoe lake is located close to St. Louis – about 30 minutes from the city, and also only a five minute drive from the Cahokia Mounds and other interesting sights.

Overall the park was quiet, baring one night where a truck decided to race around the campground loop a few times before leaving again.

Covered trash cans and water spigots are available in regular intervals through the camping area, and a dump station is available at the front of the campground. Bonus points, checkout time is 3 PM – so there is no rush to get out in the morning.

Overall we enjoyed our stay and, if in the area long enough, will be staying again.

Rating by Alan Cook: 4.0 stars

****

Our Stay at Tom Sawyer’s RV Park

Tom Sawyer's RV Park

Tom Sawyer’s RV Park

1286 S 8th St,
West Memphis, AR
72301

870-735-9770
tomsawyerrvpark.com

There really is not much that needs to be said about Tom Sawyer’s RV Park. As you can see from the photos, the park sits on the Mississippi, with a great view from most of the sites. During your stay, you are able to sit and watch various boats and barges traveling up and down the river.

Photo of a Boat Going up the Mississippi

Boat Going up the Mississippi

The on-site internet is crazy fast, and was a fairly stable connection during our stay, with only one outage – which was late, around 12am, and fixed the next morning. There is no pool, but laundry is free, there are walking trails and tree houses, and you can receive mail.

A panoramic view from the riverside treehouse at Tom Sawyer's RV Park

A panoramic view from the riverside treehouse at Tom Sawyer’s RV Park

The office staff is very friendly and attentive, even when they are slammed with customers booking stays. You are led to your site by employees on golf carts, and these same gentlemen keep an eye out (and check in to) any vehicles entering the park that they do not recognize.

Most shopping and grocery stores are no more than about a 15 minute drive, and everything you could imagine you would like to do in Memphis is within about a 30 minute drive.

We very much enjoyed our stay at Tom Sawyer’s RV Park, its location worked well, and the park was a nice home for a week.

Rating by Alan Cook: 5.0 stars

*****

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