Permanent Vanlife is still about one year away, so I decided to get a feel for it, by planning multiple one-week trips in the van, throughout the US Southeast. This time I visit South Florida.
Jones/Hungryland WEA campsite
Today is a day full of hikes, that starts out at the Jones/Hungryland WEA. With an online reservation, I reserved a free campsite in one of their two locations. With only one spot available here, I was the king of my own kingdom for a day.
I arrived after dark, which isn’t a clever thing to do. Just after going to sleep, I was woken up by a Sheriff, who moved me another 300ft to the right location.
I woke up in a nature preserve, on a lake full of chirping birds and had a good morning walk, before having my breakfast. Shortly afterwards, I headed out to the first of four hikes, that were planned for today.
Spruce Bluff Natural Area TH
About 30mi away, in Port St. Lucie, this nature preserve which is located in a residential area, hosts two different trails. While relatively short, they’re both quite interesting. The first hike is about one mile long and wanders through a former planned community. While some improved paths remain, most have returned to their original state.
Halfway, I pass what remains of an old cemetery and shortly after that, I get to the end of the trail, where a small seat allows me to rest and have a beautiful view of the St. Lucie river.
After returning to the van, I only have to cross the street, to do my second hike of the day. This 1.6mi trail traverses much of the same habitat as earlier, but the end goal is a Native American midden or mound.
A midden is an old dump for domestic waste which may consist of animal bone, human excrement, botanical material, mollusc shells, potsherds and other artifacts associated with past human occupation.
After following several misleading spurs, I found the mound, which like many others, turns out to be much higher than I expected. Though important for scientific research, these middens seldom reveal anything to a hiker, except for the realization that the lives of these Americans, hundreds of years ago, don’t seem to be so much different form ours today.
Oxbow Eco-Center TH
Another 20mi further north, I found this center that hosts several miles of hiking trails. I did spend a couple of hours exploring the southern part of the property, but as I headed north, many of the trails had some standing water from recent rains and I decided to save that for another time and go to my favorite hiking area in Florida.
Fort Drum Marsch ONA
I arrived here just after noon and decided to spend some time in the shade, to beat the afternoon heat of the Florida sun.
It is a special area that has likely preserved its authentic character, because of its relatively remote location and limited access. While you can always enter on foot, a free permit is needed to drive along the 2 mile access road.
The parking area at Horseshoe Lake is a great starting point for a hike on several trails through the marshes of Central-Florida. The blazes on the trees will guide you throughout the property, but actual trails can sometimes be difficult to find.
On the trail one finds himself lost in a pre-historic Floridian forest, with often only the wind to create noise. Alligators are all around you, but so are beautiful wildflowers; and half way through the hike, an owl very quietly flew just past me.
Large oaks are dotting the landscape and a boardwalk adds a special feature to this wonderful preserve.
Bull Creek campsite
I spend the night at another free campsite, but this time I was lucky. Bull Creek is in fact a hunters camp and this was the last night, before closing until fall. I was almost alone, but that is what I strive for 🙂
- Jones/Hungryland WEA ➜ 26.9970, -80.2744
(free campsite – reservation needed)
- Spruce Bluff Natural Area TH ➜ 27.2553, -80.3333
- Oxbow Eco-Center TH ➜ 27.3537, -80.3547
- Fort Drum Marsch ONA TH ➜ 27.6137, -80.7570
(free online permit)
- Bull Creek campsite ➜ 28.0829, -80.9622