Laurie has been studying Scrub Jays for a couple of years, so when the Scrub Jay festival came to Oscar Scherer State Park, it was time for a road trip. We hadn’t been camping in a while so it was a great excuse to go. Course, who needs an excuse to go camping!
It’s only a 3 hour drive to the West coast of Florida, but the scenery changes dramatically from the sandy, scrubby and beach terrain of the East coast. Across central Florida, you’ll find vast, wide open, grassy prairies for cattle grazing and various types of wildlife call home. Wood Storks, Spoonbills, Osprey, Cara Cara, Eagles, Foxes, and of course you can always find an alligator. Those guys are everywhere and just because you don’t see one, doesn’t mean it’s not there.
We had never been to Oscar Scherer so we weren’t sure about the camp sites. Sometimes camping in a state park, the hum of generators, stereos, and other reminders of civilization often intrude your space. Not so here. Our campsite was right on the river, complete with electric, running water, and an alcove to launch kayaks. It was perfect!!
The campground was filled with a variety of trees of all shapes and sizes. South Florida isn’t known for tall trees so it was a welcome treat to camp among them. Although the gentlemen who had to back his 4 door, full size pickup and travel trailer into his campsite would’ve preferred a few less trees. Or at least preferred them at different locations.
After setting up camp, we hopped on our bikes and went exploring the area. The Scrub Jay festival was the next day so it was a good time to see where everything was happening.
Around dusk we returned to camp and enjoyed one of my favorite camping pastimes; sitting around the fire and eating. I can sit and watch a campfire for hours. Cooking is always fun to plan because you want to eat something besides PB& J sandwiches, but you want something as simple as PB& J sandwiches.
For this trip, we decided to try the one pot meal concept. I’m sure I’m not the first person to think of this, but it worked really well. Surprisingly, there are some great things you can put in one pot. We had beef tips, broccoli, onions, and yellow rice. Cook the yellow rice in beer for added flavor; it doesn’t taste like beer, but it has a nice flavor. The next meal was simpler; chicken strips over Caesar salad.
For the vegetarians in the group, we used the Guardian brand of products and those were really tasty. I’ve compared the Guardian beef tips to regular beef and it’s very close. Much closer than other products I’ve tried in the grocery store. I still enjoy a good hamburger or steak though.
After breakfast the next morning, we explored a couple of the peaceful hiking trails along the water. While Laurie headed to the festival, I found the perfect bike path. It was a rails to trails path which is an old railroad bed; flat, straight, zero cars, driveways, curbs, or other obstacles. There are very few bike lanes at home, so I relished riding on the trail free from the usual obstacles. An open road or open bike path, there’s just something about being able to just go.
The trail did cross one street via a cross walk and then it went over a 4 lane highway. The ascent up the pathway over the highway was steep, but the descent was fun. The trail follows the water along the water all the way and ends near a nature center. The whole scenic trip was 21 miles which is enough to enjoy without wearing you out.
The last day we hiked and explored the trail along the water. The shaded trails were a welcome change from the open, sandy trails that we hit the previous day. The walk along the water was very peaceful with the tall trees, various birds, and variety of vegetation.
We sat on a few benches and soaked it all in. Could’ve relaxed on a few of those benches all afternoon, but it was time to head home.
All in all, a great trip not too far away and yet far enough. The park is filled with large trees, a gentle river, hiking and biking trails. The rails to trails bike path is a fun place to just ride uninterrupted. The camping is peaceful, the facilities are great (actually had hot water two nights in a row!), and modern conveniences are just a few miles down the road. If you’re headed to the West coast of Florida looking for a little oasis, be sure to swing by Oscar Scherer state park and stay awhile.