Summer Camping in a Florida State Park

Little Talbot Island State Park is 30 minutes east of Jacksonville on the Atlantic Ocean. Driving along A1A, I notice the flat road sloping upward slightly on each bridge, which are plentiful. Water is everywhere. 

I notice a policewoman standing in the middle of a bridge waving her arms at me. It takes me a moment to realize she wants me to stop. Right now. I’ve already gone too far, and she is pissed that I didn’t stop sooner. To my left, obstructing the other lane, is a mangled car. Empty. Whoever was in it has been taken away already. I hope they are ok. 

Seeing car accidents always unnerves me, and I am thankful for the still moment to regroup. Behind me, a line of vehicles grows. The policewoman, satisfied that I will stay where I am, begins to direct oncoming cars across the now one-lane bridge. I wait and hope that I gave them enough space to maneuver around the mangled car without hitting me. 

It’s a hot day. The policewoman clearly looks like she has a million other things she’d rather be doing than directing traffic. I wave to her as we pass by, but she only glares back. I’m sorry your job sucks today.

Eventually, we arrive at Little Talbot Island State Park and splurge on a campsite for two nights, costing us $60. Site #18, our new home for the next two days, has electricity and a water spout just for us. Running water: luxury that still fills me with gratitude after being without on the Appalachian Trail

After supper, we bike over to the beach for a sunset swim. The water reflects all the colors of the sunset, taking my breath away. I stop. I stare. I smile. I am thankful for this moment. The warm water is still a refreshing contrast to the hot, humid air. 

When the sun dips below the horizon, we emerge from the water. Suddenly, the no-see-ums launch their attack, biting every piece of exposed skin we have. Screaming in pain we jump onto our bikes. We can’t move fast enough. I itch everywhere. A shower is the only relief. 

The wind has died. The temperature remains high, and the humidity makes me sweat just sitting still. Inside the tent is even worse. We leave the rainfly packed away; the need for more air circulation trumps the risk of rain. The bugs make sleeping outside the tent an impossibility.

Campsite #18 is tucked away, protected from any breeze. All night long, I drift in and out of sleep. 

Finally, the sun paints the black sky with blues, purples, and eventually reds and oranges. I go for a morning run to shake off the unrestful night. 

The park ranger allows us to move to a site with a breeze for our second night. The view is spectacular (all of the photos were taken from our new site #34), and we have a friendly chat with our new neighbors. Things are looking up. 

Until we see the tide coming in. Relentlessly.

Within minutes, our clothesline is hanging over several inches of water. Soon, the water will engulf our tent! What should we do? Should we move again?

Our flooded campsite #34

Site #34 has a tiny hill upon which the picnic table fits perfectly. We cram the bikes, the car, and the tent onto that hill. The salt water continues to rise, and soon we are surrounded by 6-12 inches of water.

But we are dry. Whew.

Again, we leave the rainfly off to enjoy the cool(ish) breeze coming into the tent. I sleep. Soundly.

Until I am no longer dry.

A rainstorm hovers over our campground. Leaping out of bed, we scramble, still half asleep, to put up the rainfly in record time. Taking a quick look around before climbing back into the tent, we notice all the water that had pushed us onto the tiny hill has receded again. Low tide.

Life is never dull when camping in Florida. 

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