Places That Rock: Ochlockonee River State Park Florida

{Dates of Visit Jan 15-17, 2014}

A strange thing happened during our stay in Cedar Key, Florida. The first month we were there I was sure I had found my shangri-la and I spent some time riding my bike down quite, residential streets looking at the views and wondering if the way a particular house was situated would offer both amazing sunrises out of one window and spectacular sunsets out of another. I imagined owning one of those houses, wearing shorts and flip flops 365 days a year and and drinking classic daiquiris at the local bar (Hemmingway style) as I wrote the next great American novel. By month two reality set it...I don't really like the constant humidity and actually enjoy the changing of the season. Having lived in Florida as kid (Homestead and Mexico Beach) I know that I'm not a big fan of hurricanes, and while I really could live in flip flops year round I'm not so sure writing a novel is in the cards for me. Much to Clark's relief the travel bug had wormed it's way back under my skin and it was with great joy that we hit the road again on Jan. 15th (but of course it was sad to say "bye, for now" to all of our new friends).

Note to self: Drinking Ernest Hemmingway's favorite cocktail does not make one a writer.
Being surrounded by friends (old and new) was a great way to celebrate the holidays without family. It's hard to be lonely when someone is knocking on the door with a pitcher of homemade margaritas or inviting you to their campfire to sing Christmas carols. But when we left this little community we knew we were ready for some alone time and purposely chose a more remote campground as our first stop in 2014, Ochlockonee River State Park in the Florida panhandle.
We opted to pull in to this site (rather than back in) so we could watch the sun rise. The site was pretty secluded and several others nearby were suitable for even larger rigs.

If you don't mind being in a remote area, meaning no big towns nearby (the nearest town of Sopchoppy has a population of 460), limited stores for groceries, gas and restaurants and no microbreweries in a 50 mile radius, then this is the place for you. Actually, what the campground does have to offer far outweighs the lack of town access. Bike paths, hiking, canoeing and kayaking, fishing (both fresh and salt water), serenading frogs, beautiful sunrises and sunsets as well as some pretty cool wildlife like this:

1) A piebald deer!!

2) Yellow-bellied sapsucker (female).

3) The famous white squirrels...these guys are not albinos but they are a genetic mutation of the common Eastern grey squirrel.And they're very cute.

4) Swimming deer...the early bird gets the photo op. Waking up with the sun allowed for this little gem, a momma deer crossing the river with her twins.

 Still wonder if the place is pretty?

Although the park is fairly isolated we managed to take a road trip to the town of Panacea to visit the Gulf Specimen Marine Lab Aquarium. Now, I am not a fan of keeping wildlife (including marine animals) captive however, this marine lab's mission is "to promote protection of marine life and the marine environment". They also rehabilitate sea turtles, many of which are harmed from swallowing fish hooks.

Our stay at Ochlockonee was brief but rewarding. I imagine it gets pretty busy during certain times of the year but it was perfect for us this past January. Be sure to stock up on groceries before you arrive. The campground offers water and electric sites for $18 per night (dump station is available at no charge during your stay). It's a great deal for an awesome experience.

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