O'Leno State Park Dogwood Trail

The Dogwood Trail in O’Leno State Park

I feel like I’m parked in a ghost town. Or, more accurately, I guess, camped in a ghost campground.

I got here last night after a long, long day. Because I’d done ALL the things during my stay at Komoki Mounds, packing up was more of a chore than usual. I like the kayak but getting it clean enough, dry enough, and packed small enough to stow under my bed is a chore. And I love the end products of the grill, but it is a serious pain to clean. Also, since I hadn’t really had internet while I was there, I stopped in the front parking lot and spent an hour catching up online — answering emails, posting to my blogs, responding to comments and so on. Once I got on the road, I had a three plus hour drive to my next campground that turned into a five hour drive while I searched for dog food.

It was hot — in the high 80s — and I was tired and feeling sort of grouchy. But as I drove into the park, all that resentment faded away. The road into the campground was packed white sand, narrow and winding, totally bordered by trees with bright green leaves everywhere. Everywhere I’ve been recently has been in early spring but Florida is in late spring, with everything full and lush and not yet dried out. It felt magical.

I got Serenity connected, then immediately took Zelda for a walk, out of the campground and onto a trail. Well, it felt more like a path than a trail. It was one-person wide, not very big. Dead leaves and dried pine needles crunched underfoot as we wandered through rich, dense forest with tall, tall trees. I kept thinking about a scene in Grace that takes place in the forest outside of General Directions and thinking, “This! This! This is Grace’s forest!” I am not going to go back and rewrite that scene — I think the forest descriptions in it are fine — but I was sorely tempted.

The campground was close to full, I think. Lots of people and lots of sounds of people. Kids on bikes, campfires, dogs barking. Loads of tents. There are a couple bigger RVs here and a few long trailers, but I can’t imagine trying to get into most of the sites with a big RV. Honestly, I can’t even imagine driving on the road into the campground with a big RV. At least not this part of it. There’s another loop, farther into the park, and it might have easier sites for bigger rigs. But the whole place had the friendly, cheerful atmosphere of a busy campground in spring.

And then morning rolled around and people started leaving. Through the day, it got quieter and quieter and quieter. Last night, every site near me was occupied. Tonight, three sites in either direction are empty. It’s not like being alone… well, no, it’s a lot like being alone. I guess I mean it’s not scary solitude, it’s peaceful solitude. But at the same time, it definitely feels a little spooky to have gone from busy, busy, busy to completely quiet.

I’m sitting outside now, at almost 8, and it’s still light, but probably pretty close to sunset. Also still hot. It was 95 degrees today! It’s so hot that it smells of hot, like the sand is cooking. It’s a smell that you get on beaches sometimes, usually balanced by the smell of ocean, but here it’s just the smell of hot sand. I’m listening to the birds and an occasional clank from a neighbor many sites away as it slowly gets darker and darker. And the mosquitoes are getting just a little too happy about my presence. I pulled a tick out of Zelda today and one off of me, so I’m feeling a little bug paranoid, but I’m getting munched. Time to go inside.

Despite the heat, I took some long walks during the day. Apple Health tells me I walked 5.5 miles. If I felt very moderately ambitious, I could break my step record for the year, which I’m actually pretty tempted to do, just because.  Later: One loop around the campground to reach 12,518 steps, aka 6 miles, comfortably beating my previous high on March 9th of 12,103 steps. I think this is sort of a silly thing to keep track of — I definitely wouldn’t be doing it if my phone didn’t make it so easy — but there is something satisfying about seeing that average number going up.

This is definitely a park that makes it easy to take good walks. Between the trails and the roads and the signposts and the interesting Conservation Corp history and even the river, there’s enough to look at to keep me wandering. It reminds me of Palmetto State Park in Texas in that way.

My day here was not so glorious, though, mostly because 95 is just too hot for the dogs. For B, panting is not just a cooling mechanism, it’s a necessary part of getting enough oxygen because of his malfunctioning heart. He sometimes works very hard to breathe, even when he’s cool enough, so I don’t like to let him get anywhere close to overheated. Therefore I was running the AC from about 1PM on.

Also, I forgot to dump the tanks when I arrived yesterday, and they’re full, so I’ve been trying to be very sparing of water. If I was here for longer than a day, I would have just gotten my act together and packed up for a run to the dump station, but I’ll do it tomorrow when I leave. Still, it meant very simple eating, since I don’t want to make any dishes dirty. It’s not a big deal, but it’s not a relaxing attitude to be anxious about using water.

Also, ticks. Let’s face it, no day with ticks in it can be a glorious day.

All that said, it was still a pretty darn good day.