6 Weeks of Sunny Florida

For those following our blog adventures, you know we left Indiana the middle of November. By the end of January, we finally found the consistently warm and sunny days we had hoped for. We already made the decision to dive deeper into Florida (past Tampa) and to arrive earlier next winter.

Once we found the sunshine and warmth, all was well. For six glorious weeks we wore mostly shorts, sandals, put on the swimsuits and kayaked numerous times. Not to mention the quality time we had with the fun Florida family. Let’s dive right in for a bit of a recap of the best way to spend winter, somewhere warm!

Flying Eagle Preserve

We stayed at this campground last year and loved it. Time for a return trip. A nice spot to park it for a week on our way to the Tampa area from the Florida panhandle.

After being away for a year, we finally reunited with our Florida family over dinner in Homosassa. Lots of hugs and laughter were exchanged along with plans to meet up the next weekend for some thrift store shopping and an overnight guest. Shopping yielded us a nice set of binoculars for a great price. The couch was only for napping purposes (no room in the RV for that). Some exploring via Jeep rounded out our stay here.

Serenova Tract

Another favorite of ours last year, we made this campground home twice! This spot happens to be the closest free spot to our family in Tampa and New Port Richey.

In addition to its close proximity to family, Serenova also has plenty of walking trails. Some in the forest and others through the open area where electrical towers make for a nice shot. Plus the beautiful flowers in bloom give it a nice splash of color.

Some people do not seem to understand the “bring it in, take it out” trash policy. We see this far too often in our travels.

During our stay we had a special overnight guest along with her mom (my second mom – technically my second cousin). Ms. Holly, is quite the diva and she absolutely loved spending the night in our RV. I am pretty sure she put a request in to her parents for a camper. When we went to visit Holly at our parents’ house, she loved to be right by your side on the couch. Always on the lookout for ice cream you might be willing to share.

Plenty of strawberries were consumed as it was strawberry season. If you have never had fresh in season strawberries from Plant City, you owe it to your taste buds to do so. They are so good!

An unintended Valentine’s dinner out turned out to be quite delicious with a beautiful presentation.

Cypress Creek

This spot gets honorable mention. Not much in the way of photos but a nice quiet and remote spot within an hour of Tampa. Over the weekend this place filled in but through the week it was under attended. During our stay here we kayaked two days but the phone was left behind – so no pictures.

Edward Medard Conservation Park

This was a true gem, not so much for the campsite we had but for the park itself. I cannot complain about our spot given we were very lucky to get it. This is a first come, first serve campground with electric and water at each site. Typically people are lined up outside the gate at 8 am looking for a spot. Our timing was just right as we called at 9 am to find one spot left. After spending an hour to drive down in the Jeep to check it out and secure our spot, we moved Ralphie. Grateful to have a spot, even if it was one of the least desirable in the campground.

It was here we had to finally break down and invest in a fan as the temperatures were in the mid-80’s. Ironically, our AC decided not to work when we had an electric hook up. But my hero Shane, came through and managed to get it fixed. I can tell you, we basked in the AC during our stay here.

We also dealt with an older neighbor who seemed unaware his bright spot light was shining right in our window late at night and sometimes early in the morning. Not to mention the night he came back late and turned on his TV with the volume up. This is not our first choice for camping as we love having the space to spread out and the lack of neighbors. However, our free options had run out and we wanted to stay an additional week to spend more time with our family.

To make up for the lackluster campsite, the Singing Bluffs trail did not disappoint. It was quite magical with beautiful views and many different types of birds enjoying this sanctuary. We hiked this trail several times during our stay.

I loved these cool trees with their extensive roots exposed.

But the most impressive, was the amount of alligators this 700 acre reservoir contains. According to park personnel, a couple of years ago the count was 300! During two separate kayaking sessions, we saw 60 on a 4 hour paddle. A total of 35 on a shorter sunset paddle. No photos of them, as I was smart enough to keep my distance.

Gores Landing

Another great find! This spot was near Silver Springs and right on the Ocklawaha River.

Our good friend Anne and her service dog Deedee happened to be staying in nearby Ocala for a night. We managed a dinner out along with some drinks to celebrate seeing one another. As always, it was a pleasure to spend some quality time with you Anne!

After kayaking the Silver River at Silver Springs last year, it was on our list to do it again this year! With a couple of additions. Kayaking with family and adding on an additional 10 miles of paddling. Turns out the Silver River paddle is 5 miles to Ray’s Wayside Park. From there you can do an additional 10 miles back to Gores Landing, where we were camped. All seven us where in for a 15 mile trek.

The first 5 miles were beautiful and laid back. We all took our time, admiring nature all around. By the time we landed at Ray’s to pick up our 7th passenger for the remaining 10 miles it was already mid afternoon. Yet we all agreed, let’s go for it. And go for it we did. Initially taking our time but realizing we would need to pick up the pace if we hoped to be back before dark.

The hopes of being back before dark quickly faded as the sun set behind the trees. With the last light, we formed up in a tight group to make our way slowly back in the dark. With one (not so great) headlamp between 6 kayaks and cell phone lights to see the kayak in front of you, we paddled for nearly an hour and half in the dark. Our pace slowed way down as we were unable to see much in front of us.

At one point, a down tree blocked most of the width of the river, except for one small spot we had to navigate over in the dark. I will admit to feeling like we would never make it back. But alas, we all worked together, remained calm, kept paddling, and finally the lights of the campground came into view. Along with the smell of campfire. I have never been so happy in my life!

Dry and warm, we all had some laughs over a dinner of hamburgers I made for the group. Ralphie had no problem accommodating 7 people for dinner. Two of which spent the night.

I can tell you this, I will never forget that paddle. As if a 15 mile paddle wasn’t enough. My second mom, Anita, and I decided to go back to Silver Springs the next afternoon and do the first 5 miles again. This time at a very leisurely pace. We arrived back to our car before dark.

The last day in Florida was rounded out with some off-road action in the Jeep in the Ocala National Forest.

Sadly, we found this along one of the trails. Seems this is a dumping spot for someone.

We ended our Jeep ride at a local bar/convenience store, a popular spot for thru hikers of the Florida Trail and ATVers.

Goodbye to Florida, until next year! We enjoyed our time spent here and we look forward to our return visit.

Up Next: Two Years on the Road!!

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