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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!

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.

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!

We Boondocked Key West

Key West Beach

We couldn’t stay in Florida for a second winter and not go to the keys. Campgrounds in Key West are way more pricey than we pay, so we dropped the camper and took advantage of our van dwelling experience. We heard overnighting in Key West was difficult, and it’s true, but we managed to make it happen.

In a word, Key West is awesome. The people are super friendly, the environment is relaxed and fun, it’s beautiful, and we had a great, great time.

We first arrived in the evening, and parked in a parking area near the fishing pier.

We scootered around a bit, checked out Southernmost Point and, after a bit of magic, found a location to park for the night.

In the morning, we were awaken by the sounds of the Gypsy Chickens that inhabit the island, crowing and clucking about. A local told us chickens were originally fought on the island and, when the fighting stopped, the owners loved their chickens too much to put them down. Instead, the chickens were realeased and are now protected inhabitants of the island.

Key West Gypsy Chicken

Key West Gypsy Chicken

We spent the first couple of days checking out the standard tourist attractions, including Duval Street, the Sunset Celebration at Mallory Square, and two of the Botanical Gardens – one of which has never seen a frost.

Of course, we had to drive around and see if some of the Roadside America sites could be found. While the first few seemed no longer available, we did encounter a few neat things.

The rest of our days were spent trying to fit in some relaxing, walking along the docks, and enjoying the local culture.

When it was time to go, we made our way back through the Keys, making a few stops along the way.

We’re thinking of going back again next year; what’s your favorite spot – what did we miss that we really need to see?

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!

We Did Florida

Even though our plans were not to head to Florida for the winter, the weather drove us there anyways. We can say, other than Apopka and their short yellow lights with traffic cameras, we enjoyed our stay. We changed locations a few times while there, staying in Callahan, Ocala, and Mayo at Suwannee River Rendezvous.

While we were there, we saw giant things.

We visited a Civil War fort.

Fort Clinch on Amilia IslandFort Clinch on Amilia Island

We enjoyed natural springs.

It’s not often you have a chance to swim in a natural spring in the winter. Juniper Springs made for a great day trip.
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We saw fantastic scenery.

We visited areas long gone.

And that’s just part of our few month winter stay!

Suwannee River Rendezvous Resort

Suwannee River Rendezvous

828 N.E. Primrose Rd.,
Mayo, FL
32066

386-294-2510
www.suwanneeriverrendezvous.com

Of the parks we have stayed at so far, this is the first we were kind of sad to leave.

Their pool complex was pretty amazing, and included a hot tub, and heated conversation and swimming pools.

Suwannee River Rendezvous Pool Complex

Suwannee River Rendezvous Pool Complex – Photo Copyright Suwannee River Rendezvous

The only downside we had, was the internet was pretty unreliable. When it went down, however, we were often able to use our camper’s internet set-up to connect to other networks. When this was not possible, we were able to use the internet in their clubhouse, located right on the spring and Suwannee River.

Other park features included a large dog park area, reasonably priced onsite laundry, Grandma’s Kitchen (the fish dinner was great!), spacious shower rooms, a playground and much more.

We really enjoyed our stay, and will be staying there again next time we go through Mayo, Florida.

Rating by Alan Cook: 4.5 stars

****1/2

Juniper Springs, Ocala Florida

Juniper Springs, Florida

It’s not often, lately, we have a chance to relax and go sightseeing. But, when we have the chance, places like Juniper Springs make a great day trip.

The first portion is a relaxing area where swimming is allowed in clear water that remains between 68 and 72 year round.

IMAG1438

At the far end, sits a mill house. While the informational “visitor center” aspect proves to be a bit lacking, the building itself is pretty awesome and makes up for it.

Past the mill house is the nature trail, a fantastic walk along a wooden walkway leads you along the creek to an are where you can view the Fern Hammock Springs bubbling up through the creek.

Although not the greatest video – it’s still cool to see.

We visited both Juniper Springs and Alexander Springs this day and, if you’re in to a relaxing time with great scenery, go to Juniper.

We’re Finally on the Road, Full Time

Van and camper leaving driveway

We have been living in our camper for a little over a year. While having all of luxuries of constant power and water is great, winter is rapidly approaching and it’s time to finally get ourselves and our camper on the road full time.

Our first week out was more work than it was play or site-seeing. We did, however, at least have a chance to take a little break around Buggs Island in southern Virginia.

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