Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Favorite Spots

i'm sure i'm not alone when i talk about favorite spots to do things that i love. Everyone has one whether its a beer joint, music venue, or store. But what is it about "That Place" that makes us want to go back?

For me, my favorite places seem to go hand in hand with a great experience whether it be great food, great fishing, great company, a spiritual experience, great weather, aesthetic beauty, or a combination of these things.

Often times, while Mama and i are taking a camping trip, we go back and rate the parks we've stayed at, our personal favorites and why we like them, as well as the bad trips. What we can never agree on is a 5 star, full out, 100% favorite.....i'm looking for the backpacking trip in the mountains like Rocky Mountain State Park to converge with a Caribbean grass flat and be fly fishing for bones....all in the same day. i know....i know...not asking for too much am i?

Here is a small list of highlights and lowlights and why.

i think it's safe to say that Long Key State Park(http://www.floridastateparks.org/longkey/default.cfm) belongs at the top of the list because not only is it visually beautiful, but you can step out of your tent and into the water with ease. Tide not right for bones? Just change it up and you can be catching barracuda, snook, redfish and a host of other tropical fish. Just so happens to be one of the best bonefish flats in Florida and, at roughly $30.00 a day to stay at the park, one of the least costly places to stay in the entire island chain. Nice bathrooms and a sweet canoe trail help complete the positive experience.

Of course on the not so glorious side of Long Key is the always dreaded highway being 50 feet away from your tent.....and, at no fault of the park, the wind was howling at a 30mph clip the entire 4 days we were there which, as you can imagine, puts a big damper on fly fishing.....but i made the best out of a difficult situation.

Manatee Springs State Park (http://www.floridastateparks.org/manateesprings/default.cfm) is another favorite. Mama and i have a rule; when we go camping during the summer, there has to be a spring in the park. We arrived at this conclusion after a few sweltering trips last year and figure that heat is only a problem from around noon 'till about 5pm. What better way to avoid the heat then to be splashing in the72 degree spring during that time.....The Suwanee River is in the park as well and even though there isn't a lot of access to it, there is good bass fishing right there in the spring run and at the river. Not a great place for fly fishing. After not using spinning gear for a while, i pretty much decimated my lure supply by making the branches across the spring run look like a Christmas Tree at the MirroLure factory. Also, wild deer foraging near the boardwalk and spring run close to sundown give you an opportunity to observe and photograph them in their wild habitat. They will also pay your campsite a visit so make sure to stow any sort of fruit or veggies that you might have along.

The wild deer also help to create the big negative for this park - Deer Ticks. Never had a problem with these voracious creatures before. You need to check yourself and your partner constantly and have tweezers or tick pickers handy at all times.

Fort Desoto (http://www.pinellascounty.org/park/05_Ft_DeSoto.htm) is a Pinellas County Park which is located right near the mouth of Tampa Bay just south of St Petersburg. (Is it really a camping trip if one doesn't leave the county to get to it?) A saltwater fly fisherman's playground, an island connected to the mainland via the Pinellas Bayway, the park features a 238 site campground, an old Spanish Fort, 7 miles of coastline and voted as America's Favorite Beach 2009 by TripAdviser. The entire park can be fished and has quite a diverse range of habitat; lush grass flats, several former deep shipping channels, oyster dotted backwater bays, a prominent pass and 2 quality fishing piers. A well renowned springtime schooling redfish and spotted trout haunt and great spot to catch snook on the beach in the summer might even make you forget about the migrating tarpon in Bunces Pass. Facilities and campsites are very nice.

Being located in the most densely populated county in the state make Fort Desoto a popular destination among local campers and weekend warriors mark the negatives of this park, as does tent camping in the summer....of course one could swim in the 90 degree water at the beach but i don't believe it to have any sort of cooling properties during the summer in Florida.

And lastly on this short ramble of special places, The Weeki Wachee River. Home of Mermaid shows and Buccaneer Bay water park recently purchased by the state, it's a slice of old Florida. The real attraction for me is at the confluence of the river and the Gulf of Mexico. A pristine brackish ecosystem awaits those in a canoe or kayak with mangrove shorelines, oyster bars and sand flats. Snook and redfish are popular game fish and manatee are common in the river. If you go upstream, part of the river is in a residential neighborhood but past this distraction, is a virtual rain forest, pristine and lush with a few sandy beach area's to park the canoe and relax. No campsites anywhere along the river.....

This stretch of water can be quite crowded on a weekend summer day but don't let that stop you. Access to the river can be had at Rogers Park.

So there....these are a few of my favorites. Why did i leave out RMNP? Because i had to draw the line somewhere.....lest this post keep going and going and going....

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