Camping in Florida, U.S.A.

Manatee Springs State Park

One of my blog’s purposes is to foster understanding between the folks of America and Japan.  Most of my blog postings are about my trip to Japan. However, I thought that perhaps my Japanese readers might also like to read about the sights and life in the U.S.  So, here is a narrative about one of our camping trips.

Each state in the U.S. has several state parks reserved for the purpose of public recreation or for the preservation of natural beauty or historic association.  Visiting and staying in the state parks is very economical. Many state parks offer picnic and camping facilities, and one can camp in a camping tent or camper. Park admission for daytime use averages $8.00 per vehicle, and overnight camping fees average less than $20.00 per night.

Recently, we had the pleasure of camping at one of these fine state parks, Manatee Springs State Park in Chiefland, FL. Rolling in with the camper in tow, my husband and I set up camp in site 080. On one side of us were fellow tent campers, and on the other side an open area followed by a large depressed sink hole area rich with trees, plants, and wildlife.  The weather was one step from being in paradise, a real Florida treat for early January.

Our impressive experience unfolded into an experience so rich it could have been used for an advertisement about the park. Perfect temperatures and sunny skies provided comfortable 70s during the day and cool 50s at night, just right for sitting around the campfire. Overall we saw all manner of wildlife, a hawk and kingfisher, lots of buzzards, a possum at night scurrying around camp, a raccoon walking boldly right through our site at night as we sat by the fire, two deer meandering in the hardwood wetlands, a gator in the river stirring up a scare among the water birds, three turtles sunning themselves on a water log, small fish swimming in the weeds by the bank, and three manatees in the Suwannee River swimming with attached tracking beacons. We must not forget the happy jumping mullet fish and the larger, more serious jumping sturgeon.

We met a couple on Florida tour from Stuttgart, Germany and another couple from Quebec, Canada. They enjoyed chatting with us about the flora and fauna and we both enjoyed the challenge of conversing in part English and part German and French.

The highlight of this campout was a special visit from our kids and grandkids that spent the afternoon hiking with us and feasting at the campout dinner with us. A campout is not complete without the campfire meal. In our case, the famous camp dinner consisted of grilled steaks, grilled corn in the husk, homemade biscuits (a little dark on the bottom), and roasted potatoes. Oh, of course, roasted marshmallows completed the feast. Then, the grandson mistakenly dropped a sticky, melted marshmallow in grandpa’s chair. Grandpa unknowingly sat in it, and nobody knew until he stood up and turned around. There was a long string of white goo hanging from Grandpa’s pants!

Morning comes at the campground with one last chance to enjoy the campfire and sunshine in the cool hours.  There is nothing like a pot of percolated coffee over the campfire flames in the morning. Coffee is the highlight of my camping dining pleasure along with bacon grilled in a cast iron skillet over the coals followed by eggs fried in the bacon grease. That might not be healthy, but once or twice a year does not hurt!

Manatee Springs State Park produces an average of 100 million gallons of clear water daily. The springs are not only beautiful but serve as a great place to swim, snorkel or dive. The springs offer a great chance to view the manatees that swim here in the winter, too. You can also fish in the Suwannee River, hike, or go canoeing and boating for most of the year.

The state park systems across the country allow us to economically explore and enjoy the diverse beauty of nature throughout the United States. If you visit the U.S., make sure to visit at least one state park!camping



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