Seems odd that just six months ago, while camping on the California Coast, finding a campsite was at a premium. I remember camping a week at Pismo Beach State Park and every night we were in a different campsite. No big deal, just load up Thor and move on down to the site that became open the next day. By the end of the week we had a primo spot adjacent to the bluff with the surf just to the other side.
After traveling all summer, we did figure out the campsite shuffle but the online reservation system hurts the thru camper not privy to it. You see, people will reserve, and pay, for an entire week at a particular popular campground, then show up for the weekend. Even though we had to move every night at Pismo, there were empty sites on both sides and often the spot we just moved from. That became a bit frustrating until we learned how to “charm” the ranger.
Here in Florida, camp season is during the cooler months of November-April. And before having to figure out the reservation system, I just made a reservation in the Florida Keys for the next available date. No foolin’ around here, we have booked the one available site left on Big Pine Key the first week in April.
In the mean time, we decided to “wing it” and take a few days to explore the Atlantic Coast of Florida. Yeah, near Daytona, and ahem, during Race Week.
Pulled into Tomoka State Park, just up the coast from Daytona, on a Thursday. There was one spot left for that night and everything else was booked the rest of the week. We’ll take it!
By the time we went back to “charm” the ranger he had a cancellation. We’ll take it!
Although every site was booked all week, it sure seemed like we had the beach to ourselves, AND the campground was half full. The other campers were at work all week preparing to pull in for the weekend despite paying for their site the entire week. Lucky for us the campground was pretty quiet. For the others on their way to Daytona, not as quiet. Have fun at the speedway~~~> Zoom!Zoom!
So it was here at Tomoka we were turned on to the quiet joy of birding, the meaning of the word hammock, and the history of this spit of land.
As the ranger checked us in, he also handed us a Florida Birds 2016 Checklist. The official guide to Florida’s native birds. This is going to be our Big Year!
The word hammock is a Seminole word for “shady spot”. And although we didn’t see any manatees this time, manatees migrate into these hammocks in the warmer months. All up and down the coasts of Florida there are hammocks (and campers) waiting for the arrival of the manatees.
After the Seminole Indian Wars, this spit of land was once a cotton plantation, then a sugar plantation, all worked on by slaves. Unlike the manatees, these slaves could not come and go with the change in the weather. Historically, that came later.
For now though, we are enjoying a quiet campground and the start of our camping season. And if this is going to be our Big Year, We’ll take it!
For those of us new to birding, a Big Year is the documenting of 200+ native birds in a single year. It’s also a 2011 comedy with Steve Martin, Owen Wilson, and Jack Black. If 200+ species of native birds is not your thing, check out this film. It’s funny AND puts into perspective the “sport” of birding.