Hammock camping is a great way to spend the night somewhere in the wilderness. Even if that wilderness comes equipped with an asphalt parking space, water and an electric hookup, all for twenty bucks a night. Gone is the problem of finding level ground. No more will you search for a space without roots, rocks or other debris that will poke you in the back while you’re trying to sleep. Waking up to laying in a puddle, is a thing of the past, once you take up hammock camping. All you need are two trees, the right distance apart, and you’ve got a high and dry, comfortable place to slumber the nighttime hours away.
Even with all of these virtues, I was still surprised when the Weazel declared she wanted to ditch the tent, and try sleeping in her very own hammock on a camping trip with me.
I had already been on several outings during which I was able to utilize the hammock system for camping. I made not one, but two of my very own hammocks. The first was made from some blaze orange ripstop nylon that I had originally purchased for a parachute project to safely drop a camera from an RC airplane. It turned out I had enough of that laying around that when I decided I wanted to try to make my own hammock that I had what I needed on hand.
That orange hammock was my trial version. It worked well enough, but I wanted something a little less conspicuous, in case I decided to have a little more privacy in the woods than a blaze orange flag between two trees would allow.
So, when my wife declared she wanted to camp in a hammock, I had just the hammock for her to camp in. Next we needed a tarp. I use a wonderful, waterproof, and lightweight cover from Warbonnet Outdoors, appropriately named the Superfly. This was a gift from the wife. With this in mind, I felt it would be rude to offer it to her, suggesting I didn’t want to use it myself. Instead, she got the large blue tarp that I had bought as a backup, while waiting for my Superfly to arrive in the mail.
Finally we needed a place to camp. I had been visiting Blackwater River State Forest quite a bit in the last few weeks. It’s a beautiful expanse of woodlands and rivers located just north east of the town of Milton FL. Or, about an hour and a half from where we live.
We packed a few assorted items, made sure the dog would be attended to, and we made our way north west. The Weazel was very excited about going on an adventure. We hadn’t been camping together since we got married about a year and a half ago. Yeah, we went camping on our wedding.
Following Highway 85 north, we went around the town of Crestview, by way of the PJ Adams Parkway and ended up just west of Crestview, on Highway 90. We turned west, and after crossing the Yellow River, we turned north onto County Highway 4 through Baker where we left 4, for County Highway 189. The first stop on our list was the south campground at Karick Lake.
This is where we encountered a couple different fence lizards, while checking to see where we might spend the night.
As impressive as these guys were at climbing fences, the Weazel tried to prove she would not be outdone.
I dunno Weazel, that fence lizard seems a bit more impressive, and even intimidating…
Yikes Weazel, you win, you’re much scarier!
The Weazel and I did a quick tour of the campground. Checking for sites that had trees the right distance apart for us to hang our hammocks from. Once we had a couple picked out, it was time to go.
Leaving there, we continued north to Red Barrow Road, then west to Kennedy Bridge Road. We stopped here at a little parking area, and checked out an upper section of Blackwater River. It had a real nice white sand beach, but we did find it somewhat ironic and a little sad that right under the sign stating alcohol was prohibited, sat two empty glass beer bottles.
As enjoyable as that spot was, we had lots to do and only a short amount of time to do it. On to Hurricane Lake!
We first visited the south campground where I had spent the night documented in the report in which I wrote that I was sure an alligator had hissed at me. We found a couple potential spots to spend the night at, if Karick Lake didn’t work out for us. I wanted ones away from the water, the weazel chose a few sites that were almost in the water.
We agreed to disagree, the magic that is the glue in our relationship, and we went on towards the northern campground on Hurricane Lake. We traveled around on a dirt service road that bordered the eastern side of the lake.
We continued out along the service road, onto Beaver Creek Road, and turned south. We followed this all the way down to County Highway 4. We turned west, and then north into the access for Bear Lake. This is another area that has several camp sites as well as a fishing dock. Bear Lake also has a six mile long mountain bike trail, which I’ll have to explore in a future visit.
There wasn’t anything interesting enough to get us out of the car this time, so we turned around, and made our way back to 4. We traveled a little west, to the access for Krul Recreation area. On Google Maps you’ll find this listed as the Munson Recreation area.
I had forgotten my annual pass for the State Forests, but they were kind enough to take my word on having a pass, and let us in without charging the day use fee.
I had been here previously as well. This is the site that has both a working grist mill, with an active water wheel, as well as a suspension bridge. I had failed to take pictures of the inner workings of the mill, so I did that during this visit.
We walked the short trek along the boardwalk to the suspension bridge.
By now it was after noon, and we were both hungry for something other than what was to be found in the cooler. I directed us south into the town of Holt, and stopped at Brown’s Grocery. They have a little hot food deli in there, where we picked us up some lunch.
We decided to look for a park we had visited before, but couldn’t recall it’s name, or where it was. It turned out to be the Bone Creek Recreation Area. We picked a table under the pavilion, and sat down to partake of our lunch in the shade, and as luck would have were able to enjoy a breeze as well.
It was not only time to get some food, but a chance to do some planning about where to go from there.
As we left that park, we took note of the boardwalk trail that was there. We’ll come back to do that when the weather is a little cooler.
We meandered our way back to the campground of the Weazel’s choosing. She really liked the looks of Karick Lake, so that’s where we went. It was up to me to set up camp, and the Weazel supervised…
I was assigned the task to get both hammocks set up, prepare the fire pit for use, collect firewood, and set up dinner. The Weazel assigned herself the difficult task of making sure the wind didn’t blow her chair away.
I had just gotten the Weazel’s hammock hung, when I hear a whooshing sound, and some rustling like the sound of a nylon hammock being entered and…
Well, the Weazel saw I was comfortable, and had to fix that. ”Let’s go for a hike!” she declared. Off we went…
On the walk back from the northern campground, Weazel spotted a bald eagle flying overhead. Back in our camp, I tried to take a picture of it with my cell phone, through the binoculars.
“Can I take a break now? No? Because it’s time for fire and dinner. Oh, ok dear, I’ll get right to it…” So much for getting into the hammock.
Foil bags make a great way to cook over coals.
I cooked up some potatoes, an onion, and some stew beef. A couple ears of corn were also wrapped in some foil and tossed into the fire. We recycled the dinner box from lunch, to serve as our plates.
How does it taste? That good huh?
Eventually it was time to kick back, and relax. A nice fire, and an evening next to the lake was just the way to do this.
It was a very peaceful night. The Weazel was slightly concerned that the noise that the cicadas were making would keep her awake, but they settled down after dark. Morning brought some disastrous results when I attempted to make breakfast. I do not think this was documented on any sort of image media. This is a good thing.
We did have one final destination for this trip, and that was the bluffs along Juniper Creek, off from Red Rock Road. I packed all the gear, and we drove off to the west. Once at the parking area, the Weazel jumped out of the vehicle, and proceeded to climb a tree…
We grabbed a couple waters, and followed a trail that was on the eastern side of the creek. A short hike later, about a quarter of a mile according to my GPS tracker in my phone, we were at the bluffs.
It was interesting to return to my little camp site from my solo bikepacking trip. I saw the fire ring I had worked on, had been either destroyed by other visitors, or from a hard rain.
That was it. We finished exploring the bluffs, and followed that section of the Florida Trail back out to Red Rock Road.
As we got closer to the car we saw some folks unloading their kayaks for a trip down the creek, as well as a group of horseback riders, taking a break in the shade by the river. It was a good end to the trip, to see other people just starting their own little adventures as the wife and I were getting ready to conclude ours. We’ll be back before long. Blackwater River State Forest has too much to offer us, to let it go unexplored.