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Early Spring on Florida’s NE Coast

Fiona the Fearless Kitty was happy enough to be back on the road to come out and perch on the dash, rain and all.I have been doing too much driveway camping lately – it’s nice to see my family and all, and to take care of doctor’s visits, maintenance, and pitching in on home improvement projects with various relatives, but we’re not civilized people at heart. We belong out in the open spaces, not clustered in an urban setting. After enduring week after week of city noise and smells, we decided to take a break and head to a Florida beach to regain our spiritual equilibrium.  Fiona the Fearless Kitty was happy enough to be back on the road to come out and perch on the dash, rain and all.

Waiting for the ferry on the south side of the St. Johns river mouth.
Waiting for the ferry on the south side of the St. Johns river mouth.

Gamble Rogers was full (of Yankees, probably) so we headed north to Little Talbot Island State Park, not south to Gamble Rogers. We crossed the mouth of the Saint Johns River on the Mayport Ferry, which was an adventure in itself. It’s fun to sit there waiting and hear the horn as the ferry leaves the opposite bank. It’s not much of a ferry ride, really – the river’s only a few hundred feet wide, and you can see the opposite ferry dock from the side you’re leaving, but a boat ride is a boat ride, no matter how short. Besides, I like to watch my GPS go crazy as we move while the speedometer says we’re standing still. It gives me a stern lecture about disabling the GPS safety features which lock the DVD player while the vehicle is in motion.

Shrimp boats docked along the riverbank as we pass on the ferry.
Shrimp boats along the riverbank as seen from the ferry.

There’s a tiny bit of Florida north of the Saint Johns, mostly barrier islands and tidal wetlands. The main local employment up here is fishing. Mayport is known for its shrimp and other seafood, and the folks here continue to fish as the price of diesel fuel goes up and the price of shrimp gets undercut by foreign farmed shrimp. But it’s what they do – many are third or fourth generation. They’re gonna keep fishing until the bank comes for the boat.   I make it a point to buy fresh local seafood whenever I’m in town, just to throw a little business their way.

My sister's photo of the Little Talbot Island snowy owl.  That white camoflage coloration works great on our sand dunes.
My sister’s photo of the Little Talbot Island snowy owl. That white camouflage coloration works great on our sand dunes.

Little Talbot Island was briefly famous back around Christmas because of the snowy owl sighted there. Yes, we had a snowy owl in Florida during the recent snowy owl outbreak, which is sort of like spring break for owls.  My sister, who is more motivated than I, got up at 4 AM and ran around the dunes in the bitter 40 degree temperatures to get a photo of the Florida snowy owl. The owl was long gone by the time we arrived this afternoon, but we’re accustomed to visitors from the far north here, and hope they come back.

Unlike Gamble Rogers, where the campground is right behind the dune face, Little Talbot’s campground is on the inland side of the island.  Fine with us – we have a Roadtrek, and can day camp wherever there’s a standard size parking space, so we spent a glorious afternoon all alone in the beachside day stay area as the rain blew through, eating barbeque and coleslaw and watching the clouds out over the ocean. As dark fell we went to find our campsite, which is under trees so dense we can’t use the satellite dishes, but we’re just going to sleep there, and will be back out on the beach as the weather clears in the morning. We’ll be here three more days, soaking up the solitude and seascapes.




4 Responses to “Early Spring on Florida’s NE Coast”

March 03, 2014at10:52 am, Debbie Broadstreet said:

Thanks for your campground reports. I appreciate your information about camping spots you have tried out. It is nice to hear what you like about them. Also, nice to get info about choices for camping while traveling. We agree, the more secluded, the better! What if you created a Campskunk campsite rating scale for your campground reviews…1=outstanding seclusion, 4=pretty good, 3=OK, 4=feels croweded and 5=OMG a parking lot (ha ha).

March 03, 2014at10:12 am, john Caplins said:

I agree, it is a lovely spot. We were just down that way last month and stayed at Fort Clinch State Park. It is also a very nice, clean and friendly camp and beach and not crowded at all. The Snowy Owls were there and we did get to see one. Also there were a couple of Harlequin Ducks which are also a rarity as they hardly ever come south of the Chesapeake Bay. The Pier was full of Birders with their huge cameras and equipment taking picture of everything that flew.

John 2010 C190P

February 27, 2014at12:31 pm, Martha Crafton said:

Little Talbot is one of our very favorite spots. We discovered the island while anchored in the FT George River just off the Intercoastal Waterway. A short dinghy ride to the island or to the nearby historical site, a plantation, made for a very pleasant stay. We since have returned in our Roadtrek for a day hike along the beach and through the forest. Campsites are for vehicles under 30′, so is well-suited for our Roadtreks.

February 27, 2014at11:54 am, Judi Darin said:

Glad you found your solitude! It sounds wonderful. After the obligatory family visits in California, I will return to Oregon, then head head up to Alaska for July and August, and will find my solitude there.

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