Ocala and Orlando
After leaving the beautiful beaches of Gamble Rogers State Park, we headed into Central Florida: Ocala National Forest. We had snagged a few days at Juniper Springs Campground in a site that offered a couple of hours of noon day sun, almost enough to keep us from running the generator. Juniper Springs is a dry camping spot though they do have water available around the campground and a dump station near the exit. Two sites in the campground will hold a rig over 35′ while a dozen will hold up to 35′. The rest are for smaller rigs and tent campers. Our site, #02, was very spacious, gave us satellite access, and about four hours of decent sun on a cloudless day.
The area itself is beautiful, offering lots of shaded hikes and a swimming hole for those hot, humid Florida days. We didn’t have any of those during our stay but the temperatures were perfect for our reason for being there: kayaking Jupiter Run.
We didn’t know what to expect on the river. From various notes across web pages, the water level would be high, forcing us to worrying about low trees and branches, or it would be very low, which meant we would bottom out and potentially have to port our kayak over the sand. As it turned out, we saw quite a bit of both. For a seven mile run, there are quite a bit of obstacles! Being lake and bay kayakers, this was a completely new experience for us. We are really glad we tried it; though it didn’t live up to expectations it was a wonderful way to spend the afternoon. We saw a few alligators (cool) and lots of smoke from a forest fire (not so cool) but overall, it was a great trip. And to be honest, the only let down (in expectations) was the fact that we didn’t see any sapphire blue pools to swim in. Granted, there was one back at the campground, but it isn’t the same when there are 50 people there with you.
Important to note about Juniper Run: it isn’t easy to get to the drop in point and they don’t allow inflatable kayaks. The drop in point is a good 1/4 mile walk from the parking lot. This wouldn’t be bad at all if you didn’t have your kayak with you. A very large awkward kayak or canoe. Luckily, you can use a wheelbarrow to get down to the drop point but bear in mind you need to run it back up to the start before you hit the river. This adds 3/4 mile of walking to your trip which some people might need to take into consideration before going. And not allowing inflatable kayaks is a good thing. The Run is very remote and, if your kayak pops on one of the many downed trees or snags, you are in for a very long walk to anywhere.
All in all, Juniper Springs was a great experience. It gave us some confidence in handling Florida’s Rivers. They move so slow! But, there is always something great to look at.
While we were in Juniper Springs, we ran into Jim and Laura, who were winding up their work camping time in the forest. They also have a 33C Bounder and we traded stories and updates over beers when the weather cooperated. Jim was on his way to get new lithium batteries installed so we were interested in following up with them over time to see how the batteries worked.
Between rainy days, we did quite a bit of walking – there is a short hike around the campground along a trail and a section of the Florida Trail passes through the recreation area. We also did a little bit of off-roading (Florida style) and found a couple of lakes, one of which we are sure we can get the short bus to if we are ever in the area again.
We did manage to get out to eat once, at Bubbaque‘s in Silver Spring. It was the closest restaurant we found and it is serviceable – it fed us -and well priced. We wouldn’t go out of our way to eat there but would choose it again in a pinch if we happened to be passing through.
He visited us a lot while in Juniper Springs
From Ocala we made a short jump down to Orlando to Thousand Trails Clermont RV Park.
It was a purpose visit, as we really needed to do laundry. It didn’t hurt that the campground was free for the four nights we were there (our Thousand Trails Zone Pass). The Park is good enough for us considering the price but we really hate the site selection process: get there around 11AM and drive around and around and around until you manage to find an empty spot. Considering there are about 1000 sites, it can take a while. We headed over to the 30A sites about as far away from the clubhouse we could find and managed to get a decent site overlooking a cow field. Each day we had two visitors.
We also wanted to visit with our friend Marie, who lives not too far away. We had a great time meeting up with her for a walk and lunch and with she and her husband for dinner. Walking around Eola Lake was our first time every in downtown Orlando. It is a pleasant walk around a well cared for lake and the Pizza at Anthony’s Pizza is very good.
We thought about going to Disneyland or Epcot or one of the other parks, but we never got sufficiently motivated to actually get there. It is much easier to motivate me to hike, kayak, or the like, but I barely budge when being enticed with loud, crowded, hot, traffic-y places. Oh, well. there is always next year.