Friday, August 18, 2017

Our Return to Fore Lake Recreation Area

After spending a week with our host near Inverness, we returned to Fore Lake Recreation Area, at the western end of Ocala National Forest. We could have gone somewhere else, but since our storage facility was close by, and Fore Lake, as well as Silver Springs, had everything we needed... why change?

The Silver Springs Post Office and Walmart are less than ten miles away, along with just about any other business we would need in the Silver Springs/Ocala metropolitan area. And even closer, across the street from our storage unit, is a Winn Dixie grocery store, in case we need anything that Walmart doesn't have. It's nice to be in a rural area, isolated from traffic and crowds, and yet have everything we need within a 15 minute drive. And other than the first five hundred feet of sand/limestone road getting out of the park, all the rest is smooth paved roads.

We also had found a reasonable RV park near here, for when the weather started to warm up and we would need air conditioning. Their summer rate was to begin on April 1st, and they will hold the rate through the winter if we stay all summer. Otherwise the monthly rate would go back up considerably higher. The only problem was that we had more than two weeks to go before we could get into it. I'll talk about that in a "near future" post. 

We explained our situation to the host at Fore Lake, and they said it wouldn't be a problem if we stayed a little longer... unless they got busy again or their supervisor said differently. So we paid for the first two weeks and then went back and paid for the additional time... just so it wouldn't show up all at once on the sign-in sheets. We didn't want it to look obvious and alert anyone "higher up", but on the other hand... if the park isn't busy, and the park service needs all the income that they can get... what can it hurt? Sometimes logic must override the rules!

Our previous site #30 was occupied, but they directed us to site #3, at the very end of the straight portion of the main drive, on the right and just past the beach and picnic pavilion. That is a pull-through site, although that was pretty much lost on us, other than getting into it for the very first time. We dropped the trailer, which blocked the entrance, and we had to back in after that anyway.

Our RV at the end of the main drive at Fore Lake RA.
A closer view of our RV from the crossroads by the beach at Fore Lake RA.

We did have one advantage, in that there appeared to be a hiking trail right behind our site. We decided to follow it one day. It paralleled the lake and dead ended at a residential area and a chain link fence. We could get down to the lake at the end of the fence, but that was about all. Nothing much to see anywhere except dense tropical jungle.

Angel and Sharon starting down the hiking trail at Fore Lake RA.
Dense jungle underbrush on the hiking trail at Fore Lake RA.
The public beach at Fore Lake RA from the end of the hiking trail.

This site had one of the many fresh water spigots right next to it. These are provided at roughly hundred foot intervals around the roads in the park for campers to use... but not hook up to... although the one near us was close enough that we could. I did stretch a hose to it a couple times and refreshed our tank, but put the hose away afterward. About 50 feet behind us was a small bear-safe trash dumpster, which are at about 200-foot intervals around the roads in the park. In the photo below, the dumpster was just past the large curved tree at the end of the clearing.

Our RV and trailer with patio at Fore Lake RA.
Our RV and patio at site #3, Fore Lake RA.

The roads in these main campground areas appear to be a combination of packed white sand over limestone. The limestone in many places appear to be the tops of larger rock formations under the road. Nowhere did we find any soft sand or anything that we had to worry about. The roads were smoother than many of the forest roads we encountered out west, but far from being "blacktop smooth". Any size vehicle would have no problems using any of the sites here, except for the fact that some sites are longer than others.

We did see a couple of larger Class As come in, and there are a few sites that they will fit. If those are full, there is always the overflow lot, which can accommodate any sized rig. One lady had a very nice converted tour/limo bus built on a van chassis, but that was the only mid-sized rig we saw, other than our own. For the most part, the campers we saw were in smaller units, ranging from Class B's, vans and similar-sized travel trailers to cars, trucks and tear-drop trailers.

The weather was beautiful during our stay here, both in early to mid-February as well as this stay during most of March. The days ranged from 60s to low 80s, and the nights dropped into the 50s and 60s... enough to turn our Buddy heater on for a few minutes in the morning to take the chill off. It only rained a few times and very lightly, although the days were normally partly cloudy. We could tell it was more humid than out west, but was well within our tolerance.

As far as insects, we really didn't think they were that bad, even for being near a lake. We had more mosquitoes on our farms in Indiana far away from lakes than we did here in Florida being right next to a lake. But they only get serious at sunset, as is normal everywhere. In general, we didn't see any more bugs here than most other parts of the country (except out west in the deserts), and probably even fewer.

We didn't even see any "critters" (other than a few squirrels) while we were here. They have an alligator warning sign on the beach at the lake, but we have yet to see one in the wild since we have been in Florida. And despite the bear-proof trash bins, we haven't seen any bears, either. However, they do have a few sand hill cranes in this area, and we did see some by the beach one day, although we were too far away to get a good photo. They have a very distinctive call (and rather loud), so we always knew when they were near.

Two sand hill cranes near the public beach at Fore Lake RA.

We had an enjoyable time during our stay here, and would definitely come back again. As I said, the stay limit is two weeks in most national forests, but one could rotate between Appalachiacola NF to the west, Osceola NF to the north, and Ocala NF, and remain within a half day driving distance of any of them. There are a few places to camp within the national forests in Florida that are totally free, but many of them are on loose sand roads, and we were told it's better to have a smaller 4WD vehicle with high ground clearance to access them. Also, those camping areas are strictly primitive, with no amenities at all, and the parking spaces are also very small.

For even more free and low cost primitive camping, there are many campgrounds maintained by the Florida Water Management Agency, similar to the Corps of Engineers parks. We have talked about trying them when we are actually out boondocking again, but that may have to wait until next spring.

For our size RV and trailer (with both solar power and a generator), we really don't need hookups (for about a week at a time), but we do like to have a dump station nearby, and a fresh water supply of some kind. Having dumpsters to dispose of trash is also a bonus. As long as we have those things, and roads that are passible with our somewhat low ground clearance, we can park anywhere... as long as the weather is suitable. However, after mid-May, the weather here in Florida is no longer comfortable to just leave the windows open. We knew that would be coming, and had a RV park already picked out, but I'll tell you about that in a "near future" post.

We also made one other huge improvement to our lifestyle, and I'll talk about that soon. Changes are coming, but they are happening gradually. Most are brought on by simply adjusting to the lifestyle. Anyone who says they jumped into a full-time RVing lifestyle without making changes along the way is probably lying. Even after having 35 years of RVing experience behind us, it was all done previously while retaining a home base, and long before we had the luxury of the Internet and smart phones. Once the home base is gone, there's a lot of adjusting to do... with personal possessions, and even with getting along in tight quarters.

Expenses can eat into one's plans more than anticipated, too, and limit the amount of actual traveling and sightseeing... especially when it must be done in the RV that one is living in. On top of that is the constant shuffling and securing of everyday items, just to be able to move the RV safely down the road without breaking anything. Having a larger RV to live in and yet still be able to move it when necessary, and a smaller vehicle to do the daily running with, is definitely a better way to go.

As we settle into one place for awhile, the travel stories will become limited to Florida, but we hope to keep them interesting and informative. We do plan to get out more and see more things while we are here. Later on, we want to travel out farther again, and see more of the east coast while we are at this end of the country. But only time and fate will dictate whether we stay in this area. For now, our plan is to remain here through another winter, including the impending hurricane season. Only by staying for a longer term can we determine whether it suits us. For all we know right now, we could end up out west again. Future plans are never written in stone... until they really are.

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