ROW, ROW, ROW YOUR TENT GENTLY DOWN THE STREAM
After a week of snow and gray skies in Pennsylvania, Christy and I were ready for a change. The day after we returned, we unpacked and repacked for a trip to Florida. We planned to spend a few days camping and canoeing in the national forest north of Orlando. The 8-hour drive was a headache, especially with a 17' foot canoe on top of a 14' Volkswagen Jetta. We stopped at the last exit in Georgia for our last chance at cheap gas before bravely continuing south. It was on this trip that I confirmed that all of those bad drivers in the mountains with Florida plates really do come from Florida. I'll spare you the play-by-play, but let's just see it was a relief to finally get off I-95.
Things really started to look up when we reached the Juniper Springs recreation area. We got a great campsite at the end (no, it's not a loop) of the tent only area. We were bordered on three sides by semi-tropical vegetation that seemed outlandish after a week in Pennsylvania. Palm trees and palmetto dominated the forest, but they were complimented nicely by a variety of hardwoods. There was only one other campsite nearby, and it was vacant. Things were looking good indeed.
The weather changed abruptly. We were cooking dinner under a tarp we had pitched just to be on the safe side. The storm arrived without warning, in the form of a deluge spiced up with brilliant flashes of lightning. The tarp threatened to collapse under the assault. We were nearing panic when Christy wondered aloud if we had anything to prop it up. I sloshed over to the car and returned with a paddle, which miraculously fit perfectly. We relaxed under the tarp and watched the storm. By now, several inches of water were rushing through the campsite. Vegetation, furniture, and some small animals floated by. That's when it hit me. The tent! I abandoned the security of the tarp and waded in the direction of where I thought I put the tent. It was raining so hard that I couldn't see a thing. I wandered around the campsite, fearing that it had been swept away. Then, I nearly tripped over it. I was almost relieved, until I saw that several inches of water were flowing under it. The sleeping bags and our clothes were already in there! I returned to the car, which was still safely anchored under the canoe. I returned with the other paddle, and repeated my aimless sloshing about until I relocated the tent. I then proceeded to dig a trench around the tent, which had no noticeable affect. The dam I built of sand and leaves did though. After what seemed like eons of shoveling, I had a pretty effective moat. I returned to the tarp, where Christy was still bravely keeping an eye on dinner.
We wolfed down a couple of chicken fajitas and the rain slowed to a dull roar. Afterwards, I returned to the tent to assess the damage. By some miracle, it hadn't taken any water. I think I'll credit myself with an excellent staking job, and some hard work with the paddle. I'll give a little credit to The North Face as well, for building a pretty good tent.
After all of that excitement we calmed down with a bottle of wine and a couple of games of scrabble. The games must have been intense, because we completely forgot to celebrate the New Year at midnight. Oh well, we'd bring it in the next day out on the river.
Back to Florida
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Please remember to Leave No Trace!