Day 6 – Florida Roadtrip – Highlands Hammock State Park, FL

We felt warm in our tent all night. Yelisei had some sniffles the day before and I was starting to be worried that he was getting sick from all this cold. I got the kids some vitamins and I guess that helped. Yelisei was waking up much less at night. So when I was unzipping our tent I realized that the inside of our rain fly was covered with a sheet of ice!! We are in Florida and it is the end of March! Our car and picnic table and our chairs were all in ice. The sun was out though and soon it melted. I started cooking breakfast in two sweaters and a down jacket and by the end I was wearing just a t-shirt.

This morning breakfast was a long forgotten Russian staple: last night’s dinner leftovers fried with eggs. It was a first time my kids seen anything like this for breakfast and it took some convincing to make them eat it. They could not believe that it was legitimate food to eat in the morning.

We picked this park because on the pictures it had lush tropical forests and lots of trails. By 10:30 we were at the head of a 20 minute swamp trail that promised alligator sightings. Just as we got out of our car a school bus full of children pulled in and went down the same trail. I thought we will never see alligators. To my surprise we did see some animals on that trail. They were a flock of beautiful birds that were having lunch in the shallow waters of the swamp. They were duck size birds with long flamingo like legs and a thin long beak that was curved down. I was very impressed. Our children were not impressed. Yelisei wanted to poop. People in front of us and people behind. It reminded me of me wanting to pee when we were hiking in Machupichu on a trail three feet wide with a wall to the left and a cliff to the right with 50 people in front and 50 in the back, all walking as fast as they can.

In any case, if you smell poop when walking down that trail, it was Yelisei.

After having lunch in the park we are on the road again to the Everglades.

Day 7 and 8 – Ocala National Forest, FL -> Okefenokee Swamp, GA

We found the paradise. Here is the address: 14753–15021 Salt Springs Hwy, Silver Springs, Florida 34488, United States.

After a minor detour to nothing, we arrived at Fore Lake. Out of 30 sites only five were occupied. We picked the one furthest from the bathroom and the beach. With so much driving, we have not walked much, so a few little strolls in this fairytale forest was much appreciated. Even at night, it was beautiful to see all the fire flys twinkling in the low palm trees and up in the sky the bright stars. So walking to the shower and bathroom was like a mini wonderland trip. The beach had alligator signs posted, but apparently it was safe to swim there. Timofei and Yelisei had a blast, running in and out of the water with me and Renzo. While sitting by the camp fire, we saw an armadillo walking through our site. He looked at us briefly and went on sniffing the ground. The beach was full of animal footprints. But we have not seen anyone else.

It was such a nice place, we stayed for two nights. But the next day the boys were not interested in the beach, but kept asking if we can go take shower, which was clean and warm. I am wondering if we ever go back to backpacking. I am starting to get used to this luxurious way of camping. Eating and sitting on the ground and not takin a shower for a week seems crazy now.

Is there a law written somewhere that says that as soon as you mention any good behavior of your children they turn into monsters? Yesterday, they did not stop screaming! This reason or that, one stops, the other one starts. It was just crazy. They would stop briefly to see the fire flys or for swimming but otherwise it was the worst children day in the best camping spot. Why? Oh why!?

I really liked that area of Ocala National Forest though. It is truly in the sticks. The guy who sold me some kerosine looked like ‘Crocodile Dundee’ – my favorite movie from when I was 12 years old. Everybody has a pickup truck and at the local gas station we were parked in between the two fanciest wheeled pick up trucks I have ever seen. The drivers were some hot studs as well. Very young and very tan. Our closest grocery / gas station had a wall of killed dear with hunters displaying the kill in various ways, including one holding the dead dear by the antlers and holding his eyes open.

Okefenokee Swamp, GA

Download

Everglades National Park, FL

Download

Everglades National Park, FL

Download