Ocala, Ross Prairie Trailhead Campground, Tampa (Winter 2017, Part 2)


Our first night on Campsite 9, Ross Prairie Campground.

Our first night on Campsite 9, Ross Prairie Campground. It’s a pull through, electric and water. No sewer. Nice bath houses and a dump station.

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:

This is the entrance as we turn off of Highway 200 into the park, called a Trailhead!

This is the entrance as we turn off of Highway 200 into the park, called a Trailhead!

This is where the "blue" hatch mark hiking trail starts.

This is where the “blue” hatch mark Ross Prairie State Forest Hiking Trail starts.

This is a prairie park after all, but we will hike around this which looks a bit like a sink hole!

This is a prairie park after all, but we will hike around this which looks a bit like a sink hole!

We hiked to the primitive campsite on the Ross Prairie Trailhead trail.

We hiked to the primitive campsite on the Ross Prairie Trailhead trail.

This trailhead runs right beside the campground.

This trailhead runs right beside the campground.

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:

Map by Google

Jacksonville to Ocala Area to Zephyrhills

(We know our posts are not always up to date, while this one is, if you want to check in on us, you can follow us on our Travel Adventures Facebook Page. You don’t have to have an account to just take a look!)

19 thoughts on “Ocala, Ross Prairie Trailhead Campground, Tampa (Winter 2017, Part 2)

  1. I’m enjoying reading about your Florida travels! We love staying in the Florida state parks but have never stayed at Ross Prairie. It looks like another good one. We have stayed at Silver Springs State Park several times (back when it was still called Silver River) and at Salt Springs National Recreation Area in the Ocala National Forest, both near Ocala.Check it out next time you are going to be in that area. All full hookups, a lot of first come first served, and you can use your National Parks Senior pass for a discount. While you are in Zepherhills be sure to check out Hillsborough River State Park. It’s beautiful with lots of trails along the river. We’ve stayed there many times and it’s convenient to Tampa. I can tell you my top secret favorite site numbers if you decide to give it a try one day!

    I’m with you on Trader Joe’s. I’m not a big fan of Whole Foods, either. Some people call it “Whole Paycheck”. There wasn’t a Trader Joe’s around there when we used to go to Hillsborough River.

    I’m currently working on my Florida post for my Wandering Around America Series. Having a hard time narrowing it down to just a few pictures!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh WOW, thanks Beth!!! We actually did look at both and since we had a Sat night stay, they were booked! Peak season.
      We’re not far from a TrailHead in the Hillsborough River State Park when drove to Tampa. And there is another one near us. So far, we only got in one hike! Just too busy with the RV show and now family. But we’ve got two weeks of just us and State Parks!
      You’ve done an amazing job of showing the best pics of your locations! Can’t wait for Florida! On my personal Facebook page, there was a memory from 7 years ago when we went to the Sunkin Gardens, and urban garden! We hit so many great places on our motor cycle. If only I could find those pictures-just wants on FB.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Let me know if you have any other questions about Florida. How far south are you going? There is a wonderful COE park in LaBelle but it is almost impossible to get in these days. Also have a couple of favorite places in the Everglades.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks Beth! We lived here for 10 years and toured most of it on our motorcycle! LaBelle was a favorite destination to eat at Flo and Ella’s restaurant (bought out as they retired). The only places we didn’t see much of were in the panhandle. We hit a bunch of state parks in our 5th wheel when we traded the motorcycle for our new RV lifestyle! Our favorite SP has been Florida Caverns! But we saw merit and had a great time in each!
        We hope to see more of Georgia! Just been to 3 places. When we come back from Alabama the end of February, we’d like to see places in Georgia not far from FL as we’ll head to Jacksonville to begin trek back to Virginia For the month of April. So we’d love some suggestions there! And hopefully the weather will cooperate!

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      • Stephen C Foster State Park in Fargo in the Okefenokee National Wilflife Refuge is one of our favorite places. It’s close to the Florida border and not too far from Jacksonville. The Brunswick area is nice with St. Simons and Jekyll Islands to visit. And of course Savannah is a wonderful destination. If you aren’t going up the coast there are many beautiful state parks and COE parks around the state. And there are many places in the north Georgia mountains. Just depends on what you like to do.

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      • Thanks. We keep hearing about the Stephen C. Foster….we’ll need to make that happen! We fell in love with Jekyll Island! Bill went to St. Simon in his younger days and wants to go back. We’ve tried hitting Savannah a few times – planned to on our way to FL this winter, but that darn Helena winter storm ruined it for us! We’ve had it on our list several times, just things keep happening. We love to hike…We are also history buffs. We loved Milledgeville! We really enjoy old mansions and Milledgeville scored the BEST in all of our travels. Best preserved, loved the movie first and we had a history major college student give us the tour. He was just awesome! We visited there in our early RV days and my knees weren’t wanting to do much hiking/walking at the time. So we had great history tours. We plan to do more inland, but right now, gotta skirt it to always head back to Virginia. That’s why we want to visit someplace on the GA/FL border. We enjoyed our time in Columbus area, the Callaway Gardens and Providence Canyon State Park….I can’t believe it that I didn’t get a post written about our time there! We hope to see more, but must avoid the Atlanta area which is just too big of a sprawl!!!

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  2. I love it when we score a great campsite when least expected. Looks like you found a beauty. I never mind staying around horses.
    Since I suffer from food allergies, we rarely go out to eat. Some might not approve, but we do use paper plates a lot to combat the dishwashing. Not having a dishwasher is probably my top dislike about this lifestyle lol.

    Liked by 1 person

    • We just have trouble walking in trampled trails! But no problems here!!!
      Oh we have our paper plates and bowls! We cooked for our friends-no complaints! We didn’t mention the lack of a sewer hook up since they’re not RVers. I’m living for the dishwasher though because we’re using so many other dishes to cook! But loving new diet!

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  3. A good state park is tough to find sometimes. I’m glad you found good camping in Florida. I have a few years until we visit Florida. Great Post!

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  4. Those short travel days are wonderful and make time to visit the area if just staying overnight. Glad you were able to find a site in the SP. With so many people making reservations so far in advance, it seems like cancellations are always popping up.

    I cook almost every night and do everything from scratch since I suffer from high blood pressure (now under control with no meds) and want to control the sodium level and use fresh ingredients. Thank goodness we don’t mind doing all the dishes and some nights it is a mountain. But I have learned to cook almost everything on the grill from fish, veggies, Romaine, pizza, and even mini apple pies which helps with the dishes. I also do a lot of foil packs which makes one “pot” meals so easy! With the grill there are only two plates and a few utensil many nights. Here are some foil pack ideas. Maybe you could adapt for Bill’s diet:)
    http://www.homemadeinterest.com/10-easy-foil-packet-meals-family/

    Enjoy your time in Florida!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Wow, these are great ideas!!! Thank you so much! Yes, the doc told Bill he can live without chemicals by changing his diet! So I am glad to know we’re not the only ones in the kitchen so much – but we are used to cooking once and eating 3-5 meals from it, and just supplementing with a fresh salad. Getting him off the wrong salad dressings has helped. We started using a food app to see exactly what we were eating…and while we thought we were pretty “healthy” eaters, we were just playing dumb and dumber! LOL

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      • One of our favorite salads is grilled Romaine. I slice a thick, heavy heart of Romaine in half, spray it with a good Olive Oil and then pepper and use a very small pinch of garlic salt. I grill it on the cut side for just a couple minutes for some grill marks and then turn over and do the same on the other side. We usually just eat it like that. Sometimes I put a drizzle of balsamic vinegar on it. Makes a simple salad and it is delicious:) No mess!

        Another salad we love is from the Pioneer Woman on the Food Network Show. It is field greens and spinach, apple, dried cherries, gorgonzola cheese, and pecans. There is a dressing she made but it was too much work. I just use White Fig Balsamic Vinegar which is perfect alone. I change it up a lot. I generally use apple, blueberries, raspberries, and/or strawberries and skip the dried cherries. I served it to a friend who doesn’t like salad the other night and he loved it! I get my balsamic vinegar in Florida at the Florida Olive Oil Company (Sarasota, Naples, and Venice). When I run low, I have it shipped. They will send an order of six bottles for free. I also use several of their EVOO. Any fruity balsamic vinegar works well with the salad. I love the thicker vinegar because it sticks better.

        Liked by 1 person

      • This is GREAT! Thanks. We are struggling with the salad dressing issue. I can just use a Balsamic Vinegar plain, so I appreciate this info. Bill not so much. We found “Skinny Girl” which seems to have the least bad stuff for him. We do use Romaine Lettuce in our salads, so this sounds wonderful for a change.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Debbie, just thought of another Georgia park you might enjoy. Just north of I-10 across the Georgia line is Eastbank COE campground. Beautiful, lakefront sites. It’s in Georgia but it’s really close to Chattahoochee, Florida. And in Florida along I-10 we love Stephen Foster Folk Cultural Center in White Springs, Florida.

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  6. […] catch up, Part 2 of our winter travels left off with us in Country Oaks RV Park in Zephryhills, Florida. We stayed […]

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