Friday, April 22, 2016

Camping at Ocean Pond Campground

We left Coe Landing campground (just west of Tallahassee), heading east to new territory in Florida. Our destination was a US Forest Service campground that doesn't take reservations, so we hoped that arriving in the middle of the week we could snag one of the electric and water sites. It was an uneventful trip along I-10, where the purple wildflowers are a nice blur at 65 miles per hour.

We did get one of the coveted electric and water sites! The Ocean Pond campground is beautiful, with level sites that are dispersed with a lot of space between. We have learned that this kind of space will never be found in a privately owned park with limited real estate.

We enjoyed having the electric and water hook-ups, but the tenting sites were even better. Nestled in the forest, they are spacious and look like something from the tropics.

We are tucked into the Osceola National Forest, so we explored some of the trails around us on various hikes while we were camped here. This hike was a combination of green with towering pines, medium hardwoods, head-high palmettos, and ferns covering the ground. The layers of green were just amazing!

If you look closely, we are decked into our tick-prevention gear. We're not trying to make a fashion statement here. Hiking pants are supposed to be tucked into socks and clothing then sprayed with deet bug spray. That provides a barrier against those nasty ticks moving up legs while you are hiking.

We are actually hiking part of the 1,300-mile "Florida Trail" that extends all the way from the Keys in the south to Pensacola in the northwest. The sections through national forests are called "Florida Scenic Nature Trails" because they are just a little prettier. They also might include boardwalks over the swampy areas.

There are plenty of side trails off the original 1,300 mile trail. But occasionally we found them to no longer be maintained. We bushwhacked through this section of trail where the palmetto had grown together, until we finally admitted defeat. The fronds were wet from recent rains and Mark was completely soaked.

It's probably good not to hike where you can't see your feet, because we are finding that Florida is snake country. We saw several swimming in the swamp by the board walk, and this one on the grass.

Florida also has rattlesnakes, and we were glad that this one was already dead on the road to our trail.

Denisa prefers pictures of cute scaly creatures, rather than those sinister snake pictures that Mark specializes in.

One of our hikes through the Osceola forest brought us to this burnt section. Controlled burns are used throughout the forest to control insects and undergrowth. Done correctly, the pine trees survive with just blackened feet.

Sometimes those pine feet get just a little too warm, and the tree doesn't survive. This controlled burn wasn't very long ago, as the tree had fallen and was still smoldering.

This short cut through the woods brought us to the back door of the Olustee Battlefield State Park. One of the deadliest battles of the Civil War, there were 3,000 casualties here on February 20, 1864, as the confederate soldiers held this position against union troops.

With great hikes and a beautiful campground we are enjoying more time in Florida!

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