We have so many campgrounds to stay week or less lined up for the month, we’ll just post our travels in various parts. We were in Jacksonville in our last post, found here. We really enjoyed our time there. We’ve stayed around Jacksonville in the past, just for a few days, to allow Bill to reminisce about the “good old days” and for us to explore sights unseen. Little did we realize we would be able to get in a workout regime, get a handle on our new way of cooking, find such a great campground on the beach with great trails for hiking and get our itinerary set for the month.
Our trip to our next stop near Ocala was just over a 116 miles drive and took us just over two hours. We love short trips as it minimizes the drudgery of a travel day. In fact, if we are going to stay a long time, we are willing to travel farther. But for our shorter stays, we won’t be driving very far or for very long.
We moved our home on January 13 (yes it was Friday) to the Ocala area to visit dear friends of 28 years. We are trying to visit them at least once a year but sadly last year, we had too much on our plate with my step dad’s passing and our untimely tire blowout. But this year, we made it. Initially, we decided we’d just stay in the same park we did two years ago, not to far from them. But it was booked. Oh, yikes, what to do? Turns out a pipeline is being laid and that has filled up most parks in the Ocala area in addition to the snow birds.
Not being optimistic since we planned to be there over the weekend, we turned to the Florida State Parks system. They are amazing, you just have to learn how to maneuver the Reserve America reservation website. Fortunately, we were experienced from our 2015 winter in the Florida Panhandle, which started at the Florida Caverns State Park. This was our first State Park campground and it was a home run!
SCORE!!! We found a state park campground, Ross Prairie Campground, relatively close to our friends! We were so happy and it turns out, we only got in because someone had just cancelled. It’s geared towards Equestrian sites, so I called to make sure we were OK to stay there without a horse. And if you read about our feelings about sharing space with horses from our time in Myrtle Beach, you may suspect we weren’t too excited about it. But we needed a place to stay! So when I called, I found out about our good fortune. Only on Saturday night were all 15 sites booked. This also meant we would be able to attend church with our friends. What an excellent church service it was. The topic was one of our favorite, focusing on marital love as opposed to all the other loves: “…Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her….” Ephesians 5:25
We did not mind sharing the campground with horses since only a few stayed on site and we never shared the trails with them. Although quite a few were there on Saturday. Here is the information about this sweet and relatively new campground:
Ross Prairie Campground: Located on the Marjorie Harris Carr Cross Florida Greenway, the Ross Prairie Campground Day-use area has a large paved parking lot with a picnic pavilion. Restrooms and horse wash rack are available. The Campground, which is very popular with equestrians, has 15 pull-thru sites with water and electric. Sites can handle up to 50 Amp electric loads. A bathhouse/restroom, dump station and two-horse wash racks are located in the campground. A campground host resides year round. There are miles of hiking and equestrian trails. Picnic tables are located at each campsite and fire rings are at the pavilions and at the equestrian sites. Gates close at 7 P.M. during daylight savings time.
The Florida Trail System is right next to the campground, but you have to cross Highway 200 soon after your get on it. That discouraged us from trying it, so we took one of the camp hosts suggestions, and went on the Ross Prairie State Forest Hiking Trail, a “blue hatch mark” trail. He didn’t know how far it went, but we decided to explore it. Our first evening there, we went out on it for a two-mile round trip. It was getting dark, but the trail was so wonderful, we hated stopping. We were on it the next day for a four mile up and back and really loved it. But we couldn’t figure out where it led. So the next time, we decided to check out the Florida Trail System, which is miles and miles and miles long, but we only had time for a two-mile hike. It was a very nice trail but the downside was running across a highway! Bill thought (oh well, things happen) about putting in a 10 miler while I went to visit another friend for the day. Finally, we stayed on the blue trail until we figure out it was simply a three + mile loop back to the campground! Here are a few pictures from our hikes while staying here:
It was too short of a stay here, but we realized the Super Tampa RV Show began the next day. We have been so many years now, it’s like a great tradition. You can read about the last time we attended here. There are always a few good deals at the show and we are always needing new ideas for some modifications we have in mind. Right now, the big one is to install a dishwasher. Our new diet means lots more cooking and lots more dishes. We love a simple lifestyle but cooking whole foods from scratch means more dishes!
Again, we just had a short drive to our next campground in Zephryhills. It was about 70 miles and took us under two hours. This one is a private campground with full hook ups. We will be able to attend the show, hike in some State Parks, go to an Apple Store, do some shopping in Trader Joe’s (it’s a big deal to find these stores as they are hard to find in our travels since we try to avoid big cities) and visit a nephew and his wife who live not too far away. We have to go visit them and meet our 7th great-nephew! What a blessing we will also attend church with them.
We will share more about our time here in our next post! Here is a map of our two stops from Jacksonville:
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