Camping in Florida during the winter, should be reclassified as “Combat Camping”. These retirees are damn competitive when it comes to claiming campsites, and they give no quarter.
The system is not set up for a guy like me, who likes to avoid crowds, fly by the seat of his pants, and pay as little as possible for the opportunity.
Florida State Forests require campers to get a permit two weeks prior to camping. They are automatically ruled out due to my schedule. National Forests are wonderful, but they are located across the northern part of the state. After picking up my car, I finally had the opportunity to visit one.
Located north of Orlando, Osceola is an absolute gem. A beautiful park, with a ton of trails, and no shortage of camping possibilities. The official sites have competition to stay overnight, but some seem to go almost unnoticed too.
I started at the historic Olustee Depot, to get the lay of the forest. The depot has a huge history, although firm dates seem to be a tad evasive. Officially, the freight depot was built in 1888. Although part of the structure, or possibly a predecessor was in use during the Civil War. The waiting rooms were added on in the 1920’s.
Inside, one gets some great information of the area’s two main exports: timber and turpentine. At one point, Florida supplied 20% of the world’s turpentine.
The depot is a great place to start, the staff was wonderful and full of information. Plus, I loved the old building and its construction.