This past week I was camping at a state park near Gainesville. Working on a variety of computer related items while sitting in my chair, I was acutely attuned to the sounds of life around me. A small “pat-pat-pat” could be heard in the leaf litter around the tent. Curious as to what was making the sound, I moved the leaves until numerous small frogs showed themselves – and immediately settled on my tent. The wind rustling through the trees, the distinct “kee kee kee” of the red shouldered hawk, and the sounds of numerous woodland song birds filled the senses and all caused me to pause my work and listen to life.
The evenings were no different… the loud rustling of digging armadillos, the distinct calls of at least two types of owls, and the howling of coyotes could be heard every night. Then one evening…nothing… it all stopped. I heard no owls, coyotes, or frogs. The woods had become completely silent. Funny how you notice silence as much as you do the “calls of the wild”.
The following morning the skies were different. They were not dark but you could sense rain was in the area. I moved into the tent in time for the rain to begin…a light rain, but rain none the less. And it rained all day… and most of the night. I was dry within my tent – continued to work on my computer – but was aware of the extent of the rain and of the silence around me. It was not until later that evening that I heard there was a tropical system on the Atlantic coast. The woods had become silent the afternoon before…did they know it was coming?
Camping does this… it reconnects us to the natural world. We can experience Florida the way our ancestors would have. To listen to the animal sounds, sense the changes in the weather, and explore. Yes, explore. You can only sit at the campsite for so long. Most campgrounds provide hiking trails and swimming areas where you can not only explore nature but get much needed exercise. Some campgrounds provide elevated observation towers with benches where you can sit, listen, look, and let the hub-bub of typical daily life escape you for a while. Honestly… here I get some of my best ideas for work. I think clearer and can prioritize a hectic schedule of “to-do’s”. I recommend bringing a small notebook to jot down ideas as they come. It is very relaxing and productive at the same time.
If you have kids… perfect! There are fewer “wild areas” within neighborhoods for kids to explore their natural world. Many youth today have not experienced finding hermit crabs or frogs. Camping is a great way for them to do this. I understand that some are nervous about different forms of wildlife while camping (snakes) but honestly, I rarely see them. They have learned to stay clear of open areas – I have bigger problems with squirrels and ants. Do not let that stop you from enjoying Florida.
There are several state parks with camp grounds in the Florida Panhandle; Torreya State Park even has a couple of yurts! You may need to reserve a site. There are campgrounds scattered in the Apalachicola National Forest, which are less visited. If you are in the Escambia / Santa Rosa area – you can visit Naturally EscaRosa.com to find camping options in that area.
So let’s chill a bit… and go camping!