We went camping this last weekend…or at least, it was a weekend for us. Israel worked last Saturday and Sunday but had Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday off so we headed to Florida to Grayton Beach State Park to camp. The park surrounds the Western Lake, a brackish (fresh and salt water) lake, and also has a mile or so of beach. It was very beautiful, if a bit chilly.
We had planned on swimming but as temperatures never edged over 70 degrees Farenheit, we kept our jeans and sweatshirts on. Our campsite was about twenty feet from the edge of the lake. In the following photo, if you look across the lake, you will see a couple of white signs. One of those signs is at our campsite. It says to swim with caution and to be on the look out for alligators.
We set up camp Monday night and then went to the beach and enjoyed a beautiful but chilly sun set.
We returned to our campsite where Israel prepared a quiche-like dish from bisquick and eggs. It was tasty but definitely not what one normally thinks of as quiche. He washed the dishes and I helped rinse and dry. As the sun set, the temperature began to drop and we were all ready to crawl into the tent and under the blankets. We went up to the bathhouse, brushed our teeth and put on our pajamas. Yes, despite my nude sleeping habits, when sleeping outside in below 4o degree weather, I too, wear pajamas.
We all crawled under the covers; Israel and I at the head of the air mattress and Jael at our feet. I read her a chapter from Winnie the Pooh and we turned out the lights. We stayed up for a bit and talked and then Israel got up to use the restroom again. When he returned, he urged us to come out and look at the stars. They were amazing. It has been so long since I’ve seen stars that bright. I’ve never seen Pilades – or at least not that clearly. I had never before been able to identify Orion’s sword or the Little Dipper so clearly. Over the ocean they were especially clear since there is no light pollution over the water.
Shivering in the cold, we hurried back to the tent and attempted to sleep. I was having a hard time getting comfortable and I was trying to ignore my bladder. While I wasn’t exactly warm under the blankets, I knew I would be colder out and I did not want to go to the bathroom in the dark. The bath house is in the center of the loop of campsites. You have to walk between two campsites to get to the bathroom. The trail is a tunnel through the woods. There are no lights
But my bladder finally won out and I ventured out into the cold. My eyes were fully adjusted to the darkness and I had no trouble finding the bathhouse. However, after walking out of the bathhouse’s bright interior, my night vision was shot to heck. I was able to find the entrance to the trail from the glow of the bathhouse, but once I entered the pathway, the trail and the spaces between the trees all blurred into one. I continued forward and when I suddenly stepped into a campsite, I paused, suddenly unsure about my location. The campsite I passed on the way in had two poles at the edge. This one did not. I looked behind me but could see nothing to indicate where I went wrong. Deciding that returning to the warmth of my bed was more important than trespassing through someone else’s campsite, I quickly cut through their site to the road where I was able to see our tent across the way. I hurried back inside and under the covers.
The rest of the night passed uneventfully, if cold and somewhat awkward. The air mattress had not been filled enough and so every movement made by one member of the family, resulted in a wave like motion being experienced by all the others. I woke up every hour or so, which is pretty normal for the first night of a camping trip, at least for me, and each time, I tried to find some way to keep myself warm without having to put the covers over my head but alas, it was the only answer. I HATE having my head under the covers. The air gets hot and stuffy and moist. It’s horrible. I wrapped the covers up over my head with just my mouth and nose sticking out. I would fall asleep, the covers would move and I would wake up freezing the next hour.
We woke up for good around seven o’clock. We were all very, very cold. Jael and I went up to the bathhouse to change. When I pulled off her socks she began to cry. I dressed her as quickly as I could but even our clothes were cold. Once she was dressed she stopped crying but even after I was dressed, I was chilled.
After returning to the campsite, Israel and I looked at each other and came to the unanimous decision to go out for breakfast. We were just too cold to wait for warm food. We piled into the car and headed for the nearest restaurant. After driving through resort towns of great beauty but not finding a Perkins or a Burger King or even a Waffle House, we stopped at a gas station and asked direction to the nearest place we could get breakfast. We drove past her recommendation as it was a little greasy looking, even for us. However, her directions led us to an area where we were able to find a Burger King. YEAH! And, we were warm from our wonderful car’s heater. YAY!
Then, not sure what to do with our day which we had planned on filling with swimming and sunning on the beach, we flipped through some of the brochures we’d gotten from the Park Rangers. Israel found a state park which had cave tours. That sounded good to me and it wasn’t too far away, so we headed north to the Florida Caverns State Park.
We had to wait for about an hour and a half as a third grade class field trip went through the caverns. We walked along the trails through the forest. They were beautiful and foreign. There were many more vines than would be in a Midwest forest. Oh, and the bugs were really bad. We had forgotten the bug spray at the campsite and we were continually swatting at swarming gnats. Anyway, here’s some pictures from the forest trail.
Here’s the happy camping family.
On of the things we find interesting upon entering the caverns was the large amount of shells in the ceiling.
There were a lot of neat formations. Most did not capture well on film. The Finger showed up well and was one of my favorites simply because it’s so funny.
The curtains were one of my favorite formations. I wish there were more of them.
South America Lake was really neat. It was on a shelf about four feet off the ground, perfectly still and very much in the shape of South America.
We left the park and found a city park to have lunch at. Israel made red beans and rice. It was wonderful. Jael got to play with a little girl at the park and even though she stepped on some pokey seed pods, she had a fun time.
We got back to the campsite in time to start thinking about supper. We wanted to do s’mores so we inquired about firewood at the ranger station. They told us they were sold out and all the stores in the area were sold out. I guess we weren’t the only chilly ones last night. We took a walk around the campground, scavanging left over wood from empty (as in, no tents or campers or cars) campsites and from the surrounding woods. We didn’t find much but we found enough.
Israel got supper started, a chili-like dish. He used three cans of beans, a can of Rotel, a bag of spices he’d prepared at home and a corn muffin mix. He mixed the beans and tomatoes and spices and got them simmering. Once they were simmering, he poured the muffin mix over the top, covered it and let it simmer until the top was done. It was AMAZING! I mean, he just threw it together, not really knowing what he was doing (self stated) and it turned out so good that we plan on making it at home as well.
After he cleaned up supper, he lit the camp fire…with one match. Seriously. One match and we had a fire blazing. I was very impressed. We roasted marshmallows over the coals and then got ready for bed.
We had aired up the mattress more so that was not the problem that it was the night before. I slept much better this night. I think it was a little warmer than it had been the night before. We woke up less chilled than the day before. I took a shower while Israel got breakfast going. By the time I was done, Israel and Jael were eating oatmeal and mine was waiting for me. It hit the spot. We broke camp first thing and then headed to the beach again. We wanted one last look at the Gulf as a clean and pretty entity before heading back to our ugly and dirty Gulf.
Then we drove home, stopping in Mobile for Chinese food. They had the best crab rangoon we’ve found since leaving Kansas City. Yum.
So that was our camping trip. We had a ton of fun. So much fun, in fact, that we are going to try to go once a month or so. You’ll find out here if it happens.