Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

The Call of the Wild with Warm Days and Cool Nights on Tap for Northeast Florida, Nature Is a Camper's Best Friend

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

The Call of the Wild with Warm Days and Cool Nights on Tap for Northeast Florida, Nature Is a Camper's Best Friend

Article excerpt

Nancy Cordell had just spent two days in Hanna Park, two nights

in a tent. They would be her last, she said.

She and her husband, Paul, had brought their two grandchildren

because they'd never been camping. But if she ever went camping

again, she announced to Paul, it would be in a RV. No more of

this tent-in-the-dirt stuff.

"I just don't like being dirty," she said. "And I don't like

being hot."

Simple as that.

But as the Cordells were packing up their car to go camping

last month, fall was just getting underway here in North

Florida. Nights had dipped into the mid-60s, but days were still

up there in the mid-80s.

Autumn hadn't had a chance, yet. For despite Nancy Cordell's

declaration and despite the dirt, fall is the time to camp in

North Florida.

"It's great," said Billy Maxwell, assistant park manager at

O'Leno State Park near High Springs. "Your leaves are changing.

It's cooler at night, but the days are still warm. It feels

crisp."

"It's miserable camping in the summer," said Rob Eggars a

Sierra Club member who does a lot of camping. "November is

really our fall here. The water is still warm enough to swim in.

The bugs are down."

Consider the Canaveral National Seashore, where campers can get

islands all to themselves. The islands, however, are in Mosquito

Lagoon. There's a reason for that name.

"You can't go out there in the summer," ranger Jim Cahill said.

"It's not Lobster Lagoon, and it's not Shrimp Lagoon. It's

Mosquito Lagoon. But from now until April, it's really nice out

there."

Some of the state and national parks along the beach, such as

Canaveral, are actually more crowded in the winter. They often

fill up with Yankees escaping the frozen North. But most

campgrounds farther inland are less crowded, despite the better

weather.

O'Leno, a huge park of 10 square miles on the Santa Fe River,

is usually about half full on weekends these days. During the

week, there are seldom more than eight or 10 of the 61 campsites

full.

Also consider this. Camping, despite the dirt, is easy.

"The thing is, here in Florida, we're really blessed," Eggars

said, "You're not going to die from exposure if the weather

turns bad. It's a really easy place to camp."

State parks make it even easier. There are bathrooms and

showers, usually clean. And at every campsite one can find

water, grills and picnic tables. Most campsites even have

electricity if you need a light, fan, heater or, heaven forbid,

a television.

"There's not much that can go wrong in state parks," Maxwell

said.

Jimmy Orth is another Sierra Club member. He used to do more

car camping, but now prefers backpacking to an isolated spot

rather than pulling the car into campsite. …

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