Saturday, February 18, 2006

Three Rivers State Park

This was my third trip to this park—this time I was staying for two nights. I got site #9 again (my favorite—though #8 is also a good tenting site) and was set up by about 1:00 (one advantage of living so close to the park!). I took the kayak out for a quick paddle on the lake, but the wind and waves got the better of me and I returned to the campground after less than an hour and decided to take off hiking.

I followed the trail that leaves from the campground, which is a fairly short one. If you go straight on it, you simply come out at the public boat ramp (as opposed to the one in the campground). However, if you take the path to the right when it splits, it makes a nice loop that takes you into fairly high ground (yes! In Florida!), with some great views of the forest. I was absolutely amazed not to see any deer—though there were numerous deer tracks on the trail and the campground hosts had seen them often. Nonetheless, it was a warm day and it’s a nice trail.

The next day there was an event taking place in the park as part of the “Step Up, Florida” fitness and exercise initiative that is being promoted throughout the month of February. The park was offering free admission for the day, as well as free canoe rentals. The reception table for this event was in the picnic area, which is where their longest trail, the Eagle Trail, begins. I decided to hike that trail and stopped at the reception table on my way in, where I was pleased to be given a "Step Up, Florida" cap and a Nalgene-type water bottle! Other visitors while I was there included a couple from Ontario, Canada (I suspect their timing was coincidental—it was a fun event for a worthwhile cause and the promotional items were very nice, but perhaps not of drive-down-from-Canada caliber), and a woman who was hiking the entire Florida Trail, one of only eight National Scenic Trails in the United States, and had so far logged over 1,000 miles in this pursuit.

Eagle Trail is well-marked, well-maintained, and very picturesque. Portions of it follow a service road, other parts are narrower and wind through the woods. It was an ideal hiking day.

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While the days were warm, the nights were still a bit chilly for us weather wimps. But a hot breakfast, hot coffee, and the sun helped warm things up in the morning. On my last morning, while sitting by the lake enjoying that hot coffee, I spotted a woman fishing from the pier. Our spring greenery has not popped out yet and so her umbrella lent some vivid color to the otherwise somewhat gray landscape. I also admired her headgear.

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The campground was more crowded than I have ever seen it—all the lakeside spots were taken first, and then the ones in the center were claimed, and finally latecomers occupied the woodsy sites farthest from the lake. There is one small cabin in this campground—I didn’t walk down there but given the number of campers, it was probably occupied as well. I had the only tent in the campground—the other accommodations ranged from a conversion van in the site next to mine to small truck campers, and then on to RVs that may have had more square footage than my house.

I spent more time hiking the trails this time than paddling, though I did get out for a great 3 hours on the water the morning following my second night. Visit Paddle Tales for pictures and the report from my time on the water.

While it would be nice to always have this park nearly to myself, as I have in my previous trips, it’s too great a park to be kept secret. Fishing, boating, hiking, water and power at every site, fantastic lake views. The bath house is the nicest I have ever encountered. While I couldn’t get cellular phone service there, the campground host got a clear signal through Verizon, and there is a land-line phone available in the center of the campground. Overnight fees are $12—hard to beat that—and they are half-price for anyone over 65.

I have a few more parks in this area that I want to get to for overnight camping before it gets too hot, but I doubt any will be ideal as this one.

Stand by for the next camping trip report.