When we swung through Central Florida on our way south this last winter we camped at Trimble County Park for a few days, and loved it so much we vowed to come back for a longer stay if at all possible. It made for a reasonable home base from which to visit our many family members and friends in the region, and is a real hidden gem in terms of natural beauty. The challenge is getting reservations for more than a few weekdays, even now that the winter peak season is over.
The park only has 15 sites total, and with a maximum reservation window of 45 days in advance, we were only able to secure three days, arriving on a Monday. However, as we learned last year, the park holds back a couple of spots for walk ups, which are also available to existing campers that wish to extend. And so we did, giving us a full week there.
We had an even greater profusion of wildlife sightings than during our last visit, which is part of the explanation for the post title: No, we did not hunt or kill anything other than midges, mosquitoes, and maybe a few spiders while in the park, but we saw a whole lot of nature, red in tooth and claw. Nearly all day we could see up to five ospreys soaring over Lake Carlton, occasionally splashing down to snag a fish and haul it back to shore or to a nest. We watched swallowed tail kites hunting insects over the lake, scooping a drink of water from the surface while in flight, never landing, as they filled up for their return flight to Central or South America.
In the morning as we sat at the edge of the lake 50 feet from our RV, we would frequently catch sight of the prehistoric jaws of Florida gar piercing upward through the water surface as they hunted feet from the shore. That section of the lake edge was also the preferred night spot for a small, maybe three foot, alligator, that we frequently observed cruising by into the tall lake weeds or up onto the dead vegetation behind the RV next door.
The bullfrogs and squirrels were noisy and active during most of the day, the latter enticing a red shouldered hawk nesting behind one of the RV sites to make several low altitude runs directly through the campground, at one point passing within five feet of Rosemarie perhaps a yard off the ground. The ranger that walked us over to her nest, pointing out the two chicks visible through binoculars, reported that he had witnessed the hawk snatching a squirrel off the ground during such a maneuver. As if on cue she flew by again, landing on the campsite marking post two down from ours.
Pad Kee Meow was in hunter’s heaven, stalking the lizards near our rig, only her leash and our intervention preventing her from killing, or at least conducting an “enhanced interrogation,” of a dozen reptiles during our stay. Though I tried to point it out to her (cats don’t seem to understand the concept of pointing) she completely missed the small black racer that slithered through camp one morning. Though the mosquitoes were present in less abundance than I expected, the harmless but annoying midges congregated in the thousands around our outside night lights, teaching us to turn them off at dusk or risk an intrusion in the hundreds if we opened the door for a few seconds.
One morning as I was positioning our folding chairs I spotted a complete bird nest, with a tiny egg no bigger than a thumb nail in the lined pocket of the chair. The ranger swung by and carefully moved it, informing us that it was likely a Carolina Wren, which will apparently build a nest on you if you hold still for more than five minutes. Sure enough we spotted the culprit all throughout the day looking for the nest, and failing that just laying a second egg directly into the pocket despite the lack of a nest. I moved it to the repositioned nest, but we left without knowing if she found it.
This visit we had more time to explore the park, including the various docks, picnic areas, boardwalks and trails. The easy one hour stroll down the point between Lakes Carlton and Beauclair is particularly nice, covered almost the entire way with Spanish moss covered oaks, cypress trees, and palms.
Lastly, when we were packing up our folding table, which had spent the entire week next to the palm trees a few feet from the lake shore, I had to clear 20 spiders from the underside of the table and associated cloth, yet another lesson that should have been unnecessary since we had commented several times about the abundance of webs filled with midges and other bugs in that specific location. Take note, future Trimble Park campers, don’t leave your gear next to the lake!
It wasn’t all about the lower animals, we had plenty of the higher ones come visit us while there. We met Anthony and Anita, the friends that caught us trying to sneak through Mount Dora last year without coming to see them, at a cute cafe in popular and historic downtown area. We hosted a evening BBQ at which my son and daughter-in-law (Jackson and Andrea,) cousin and cousin-in-law (Brian and Ashley), and one of Rosemarie’s friends (Nancy) recently transplanted to Mount Dora were able to join us.
We also put a good number of miles on Loki visiting everyone who was available in the region. Son Jackson in Deland, Aunt Judy and Bill in Lake Mary, and Nancy in Eustis. We missed visiting the Pineras, hopefully we will catch them early this winter when we come back to Florida, and the Nealy’s who could not secure one of those difficult to get Trimble Park reservations, probably because of all of us weekday guests extending though the weekend, heh.
Our last full day in Trimble we wore our ALS Walkathon Shirts, in solidarity with Team Linda, which crushed all opposition with the most money raised and most participants at the Virginia Beach event.
As part of our “prepare for the future research,” we swung by Kelly Park/Rock Springs (another Orange County park, like Trimble) to check out the campground as an option for a future stay in the region. Basically, we need a few more options since Trimble Park, though wonderful, can be difficult to reserve, and is just a bit too far away from Jackson, Aunt Judy and a few others to be an ideal base for our Central Florida excursions.
This coming winter we are thinking about splitting it up, a week in Trimble/Mount Dora/Rock Springs, a week in Blue Springs State Park (closer to the above mentioned kin) and a couple of days at Uncle Bob’s and Aunt Terri’s in Geneva. As always, we would love to hear any recommendations for the area.