This past weekend was our first camping excursion of the year. We went a few hours NW to the Ocala National Forest and an area called Alexander Springs. I’d been hearing about the area for years from a friend, so I decided to load up the kids and a few of the dogs and spend the weekend. The husband had to work Saturday but he would be coming up later that evening.
Alexander Springs Wilderness is located in the U.S. state of Florida and was designated in 1984 by the United States Congress. The wilderness has a total of 7,941 acres (32 km2) and is within Ocala National Forest, which is the oldest National Forest east of the Mississippi River. Alexander Springs is home to a variety of wildlife including otters, alligators, and turtles. The wilderness also contains the only 1st magnitude spring in all the U.S. National Forests and Parks.
The middle child is not particularly outdoorsy so I was curious to find out how he would do camping. He’d expressed excitement over going, especially when s’mores were mentioned. Taking three kids and two young pups was quite an undertaking, however, and there were several threats made regarding sending children home and Mom going by herself. Nevertheless, we did make it, after much complaining about how long the trip was taking (a mere two hours–insert eye roll here) and several “stop touching me”‘s, “he’s repeating me”‘s and hands and feet where they didn’t belong.
We arrived around 3 pm and immediately set to work setting up camp. I tethered the dogs (Cairo and Siren) and gave them each a chewy so that they wouldn’t busy themselves digging or getting into any of our stuff. There was a little dog at a campsite just across the way from us, and it barked back and forth with the dogs a few times before I had to nip that in the bud. Another dog down the way could also be heard.
I’d gotten a few new pieces of gear that I wanted to try out on this trip, one of which was a new sleeping bag (Wasatch 30 by The North Face) and the other was my Jetboil Flash. I also bought some of those dehydrated pre-packaged meals to try. Because there were so many of us I knew the Jetboil wouldn’t really be feasible as a means to prepare everyone’s food, but I still wanted to try it out. Suffice it to say that I’m still waiting to try it out since in my mad rush to get everything taken care of, I had neglected to pack the instructions. ((facepalm)) I will, however, be doing a review of the sleeping bag (you can see it on our Vimeo channel) sometime soon.
I’d never been interested in camping until I discovered how much I liked hiking. And even now I prefer to not sleep on the ground. Something about sand on the tent floor as well as the sound tent material makes just rubs me wrong. I much prefer my hammock. I lined it with my yoga mat and my new sleeping bag. I’d forgotten my tie downs for my tarp so I ransacked my vehicle for every dog lead I could find and secured the tarp with that. Looked funny, but it worked.
The campground was sectioned in loops, and the nearest bathroom (complete with shower facilities) was right around the corner. It was nice to be out walking in the woods at night. The moon was bright and lit the way pretty well, making wonderful shapes on the ground after shining on the tree limbs and plants all around. Dogs barked back and forth occasionally and there was a person playing guitar and singing somewhere nearby.
The kids were thrilled to be staying up late and to be outside in the dark. The not-so-outdoorsy kid even had a good time. The oldest boy busied himself with starting and maintaining the fire. After dinner there were s’mores.
I didn’t bring the good camera so the photos are all taken on my cell phone, and the following was zoomed, so sorry about the quality. It was a shot of the moon through the trees overhead. It was so nice being out in the crisp evening air and seeing the clear sky without city lights obscuring the view.
We all had a great time. Now to plan our next adventure!
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