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Saturday, March 08, 2003

Camping at Torreya State Park

Torreya State Park is located about 60 miles west of Tallahassee, Florida in the “Big Bend”. This park is noted for its varied terrain, ranging from hardwood to swamp wetlands and an area we Floridians could call “canyons” (large washed out clay hills). It’s the closest thing we can find around here that is similar to the beautiful Appalachian Mountains. The park has a nice network of trails to explore.


 Torreya State Park

My 13 year old son and I arrived at the park on Friday afternoon at 3:00 pm, the first day of spring. We had made reservations ahead to ensure our sites in the primitive camp areas. Because our region had been receiving abundant amounts of rainfall, we knew the mosquitoes would be in full force. We were not disappointed. We came prepared with plenty of bug repellent. 

This trip could be called an "Introduction to Backpacking" for me and my son. We have done car camping, but yearned for a taste of “true” camping. Having enjoyed accumulating our assortment of equipment, aided with numerous gear reviews on Backpacker.com and their magazine, we set out toward our first campsite, Rock Buff.
Camping at Torreya State Park

Rock Bluff is only a 1-mile hike from the car parking lot. This site has four campsites on fairly uneven terrain with each having a fire ring. A port-a-potty and stack of firewood is also located about 100 yards away from the campsite. Rock Buff overlooks the Apalachicola river . This river was at, or just below, flood stage due to the heavy rains we had in the area. The campsites are about 50 feet above the river on a steep bluff.

Camping at Torreya State Park

The weather conditions were wonderful for Florida. The high temperature was about 80 degrees and during the first night dropped to the upper 50s. This created a nice environment for a toasty campfire.   We pitched our tent, snacked, and then explored the surrounding area before hitting the sack.
The next morning, with clear skies and cool temperatures, we sat around our campfire and enjoyed our simple breakfast of instant oatmeal, instant grits, and instant coffee. We utilized our new Primus gas cartage stove to heat the water. Quickly running out of water after morning breakfast, we did a quick hike back to our car to retrieve water left there yesterday and to fill our containers from the potable water supply at the parking lot, plus rid ourselves of needless gear.
Midmorning we packed up and headed off down the trail to our next location, Rock Creek primitive campsite. This site is approached from Rock Bluff by a meandering trail following along the Apalachicola river.


Camping at Torreya State Park

The initial trail is a very steep upgrade with abundant roots and wet slippery slopes. We quickly discovered that in the future we will need to fine tune our packing to further eliminate more unnecessary gear.
Along the way, we were greeted by a stretched out 3.5 foot diamond back rattler about 4 feet off the trail relaxing and digesting some unfortunate animal in his bulging belly. It never set off its rattles, which by my count was 10, with the tip appearing to be broken off.  We allowed it to enjoy its meal as we cautiously move along (rattler in center of the photo, very well camouflaged).

Camping at Torreya State Park, rattlesnake in center of photo

As we continued toward our next site, the terrain changed to lower level flood plains with numerous creeks, flooded areas, muddy trail and mosquitoes. Yes lots and lots of mosquitoes! Thank you Deep Woods Off!

Camping at Torreya State Park
Approximately halfway to the next site we reached an area by the river which is the over-look basin of the Gregory House high above us. This house is an old historic home now occupied by the State Park officials.
Since this area was grassy, we decided to enjoy a break, snack and watch the river flow by. We also got to enjoy watching a family of car campers, who were hiking the short Gregory House loop, try to ford a steam in a flooded area. The wife apparently thought she could walk on floating tree sticks. Even though she was small, with a gasp, she learned quickly that twigs couldn’t hold her weight and sank to her waist!


We marched on and soon arrived at Rock Creek.

Camping at Torreya State Park
The name is partially appropriate.There were stagnating creeks but no rocks. It should be renamed Mosquito creek! There are three flat sites with fire rings but no port-a-potty.

Camping at Torreya State Park
Since we arrived pretty early, we pitched the tent and just relaxed. Nothing much to see in this area as it is fairly dense underbrush with lower areas full of water.



Camping at Torreya State Park

We decided to start a wood fire so I marched back to the provided wood stack about 400 feet away to retrieve some oak firewood. After lifting up my fourth piece of wood, I jumped back upon seeing a lovely coiled snake relaxing in the wood pile. I’m not sure what type it was. I tried to creep close to see if its eyes had slits, as all poisonous North American snakes have, but I really couldn’t tell. If it was poisonous it would have been a copperhead. Anyway, with a stick, I flung it as far into the woods as I could. It cooperated nicely and hardly moved. I guess the temperature was still to cool for it to be slithering about in a robust manner.
After a nice evening camp meal of chicken and rice, relaxing
and sitting around the campfire, listening to wild turkey gobbles and scaring a brave raccoon away, we retired to our humble abode.

Camping at Torreya State ParkCamping at Torreya State Park




Sunday morning broke with even cooler, more pleasurable weather. But since there wasn’t much more to see, and the mosquitoes were having a delicious time, we decided to head home. We packed up, headed out, taking the short cut to the youth camp area. We did stop at the soda machine to enjoy a taste of civilization before driving home.
All and all, it was a fun, educational and enjoyable experience. We realized we need to lighten our load, but also need to add important items to our backpacking gear to enhance our camping experience. Hopefully our next trip will be soon.

4 comments:

  1. An outdoors outing ought to be made arrangements for the diverse sorts of recreations, sights, and exercises found at the different campgrounds found around the nation. Arkansas is an extraordinary state to arrange an outdoors undertaking due to the undeveloped wild found in the state. It is no fortuitous event that Arkansas' state name is the "Normal State."

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  2. Outdoors is an awesome approach to appreciate the colossal out of entryways, investigate new places or simply appreciate escaping for a couple days when you have a restricted spending plan. Outdoors is reasonable and fun on the off chance that you have the right rigging and the most essential of all your apparatus is an open air outdoors tent. An outdoors tent gives you security from the components and a safe warm place to rest.

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  3. What a beautiful camping spot! I have never been and am nervous for the same reasons you were. Hopefully I have an experience like this!I love camping! We try to go at least once a month and my son really enjoys it.

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