As a retired couple, traveling together in a RV is a long held dream. We love it. We have traveled to many places and seen some amazing things. We have met kindhearted folks from all across the country. Nonetheless, there is no better camping than when you bring the family together for a group camping trip. That is exactly what we did on a recent adventure to Myakka River State Park near Sarasota, Florida.
Away from the overcrowded beaches and touristy amusement parks, Myakka River State Park is the quintessential real Florida camping experience. A slow river flowing pass live oak hammocks draped with Spanish moss, shallow marshes, pine stands, and dry prairies provide a natural habitat for wildlife. We saw deer, wild hog, alligator, turkey, turtles, spoonbill, herons, egrets, hawks, squirrels, and that was just the first day. Black bear and Florida panthers are also known to be in the area.
We occupied four campsites close together. The first night the campfire was at Kacie and Derrick’s site, so we carried our chairs there. We set up a projector TV so we could watch Thursday Night Football and for dinner the guys made oriental fried rice on the Blackstone griddles. It is an easy meal to prepare for a large group, especially if you do what we did and cook the rice ahead of time. With sunset came the mosquitos and a quick reminder we were camping in Florida again. Despite the repellant bath, it was a good evening.
The next morning the griddles came in handy once again as we made pancakes for breakfast. A skyscraper stack of pancakes disappeared in a matter of minutes. Then it was off for a hike. At times, it seems like herding cats when trying to get everyone going in the same direction, but eventually we made it to the start of the Canopy Walkway Trail. Along the trail we found a 100 feet long walkway suspended 25 feet from the ground. It hangs between two wood towers. The tallest tower, at 74 feet high, provides an observation platform for an expansive panoramic view across the treetops.
Next, we went to Myakka Outpost, Rentals and Cafe. Regrettably, the building was closed for renovations, but that did not stop business as usual. Kayak, canoe and bicycle rentals were still available, the camp store and gift shop moved its wares outside to the balcony, and the Pink Gator Cafe was operating from a food truck. We sampled a couple giant muffins before taking a walk to the lake where we saw every kind of water fowl imaginable. A large one-hundred person pontoon boat offers excursions across the Myakka River and Upper Lake every couple of hours. The cost is $20.00 per adult and $12.00 for the kiddies. It was a “been there-done that” feeling as no one from our group took the tour.
Later that afternoon, Grammi and I went for a bike ride. It was the first time we have used our new e-bikes outside our neighborhood. I will talk more about our bikes in a future post but I will say this for now — it hurts. It has been years since I’ve been on a bike. The advise from our children is to keep at it and it will get better. I hope they are right.
Each night before sunset, we all squeezed into a couple of cars for a drive on the park road. From one end to the other, we slowly cruised along to see the wildlife. We were never disappointed. As I said earlier, there is so much wildlife in this park, especially alligators. It’s crazy to see how many large alligators there are around. There are signs posted everywhere warning not to go in the water. You don’t have to tell me twice. We climbed the tower once again to see the sunset across the treetops. The picture hardly does it justice. It was awesome. We all enjoyed getting out for the evening excursions.
This time the campfire moved to Jessica and Bryan’s campsite, so we carried our chairs across the road. Family get-togethers usually center around food. We are no exception. Homemade pizza’s on the Blackstone is what was for dinner. I know this is starting to sound like a Blackstone advertisement — it is not. Looking back though, we cooked all our meals on the griddle. It is easy.
We sat around the fire eating pizza, telling stories, laughing and just having a good time. Later we roasted marshmallows for s’mores. The grandchildren were rambunctious, running and jumping all around. When it came time for them to go to bed, they were out cold in no time. It was another good evening.
The next morning we had a big breakfast together with eggs, bacon, sausage, potatoes, and all the fix-ins. The day was more of the same — more hiking, bike riding, and exploring the park. We also went geocaching. The grandchildren decorated cookies and climbed trees. There were burgers on the griddle for dinner. It really didn’t matter what we did. The fact we were all together was more than enough.
Camping has always been a part of our families life. Now that our children are grown, we are grateful to still be camping together. Recounting old memories and creating new ones with our grandchildren is a blessing that we cherish. Camping with family is the best.
Until next time — Happy day and safe travels.