Friday, April 12, 2013

Green Swamp Wilderness Preserve Camping Trip

Green Swamp Wilderness Preserve West Tract
I traveled with my friend Robert on an overnight backpacking trip with several members of the Tampa Bay Sierra Club to the Green Swamp Wilderness Preserve West Tract east of Dade City, FL.  The drive over was enjoyable; Robert and I had worked together for several years and caught each other up on life's latest events.  We arrived right behind Ben, the trip organizer.  The rest of the group arrived soon and one member would arrive later in the day.  We geared-up and backpacked about half a mile along the shell road to reach the Florida Trail crossing, where we headed North over two miles, directly into a group of trail runners.  The trail runners were with the Dances With Dirt event starting from Colt Creek State Park, through the Green Swamp on various distance trail runs of up to 50 miles.  We stepped aside every few feet for a while, until the heavy breathing runners had all passed.
Concession Stand Campsite.  Nothing like what it sounds.
This section of the Florida Trail is hilly (yes, we have hills in Florida) and we came to our reserved campsite side trail at the top of one of these hills.  Small lakes had surrounded the campsite below but the water level was very low now, so we had 3 or 4 separated ponds around us.  The site had 2 picnic tables and a fire pit with a rusty horse shoe hung on the tree by the fire.  A previous group had left a stainless stock pot by the fire ring.  Everyone setup their tents and hammocks, and the faster hikers ate a quick lunch to hurry back to the trailhead to meet the late arriving backpacker.  Robert and Gerry setup their hammocks and were asleep in minutes.  I laid in my tent and snoozed about an hour in the mid-70's degree weather.  Afterwards I drank tea, checked out the lakes and watched the thin, high clouds through the afternoon.  Later on, firewood was gathered for the night.
Gerry's peaceful and laid back campsite with a view!
After a few hours the rest of the group arrived with their late-arriving member in tow.  These Sierra Club people have backpacked and camped together for several years and were constantly joking and teasing each other.  A few had "earned" funny trail names over time and the others were afraid they might earn a trail name based on their foibles.  The group took off again on a short hike a little later before dinner.
Just one of the various stoves for the trip.  Robert's wood-burning stove with blower.
We all fired up our various and functionally different stoves or cook fires and each person made and enjoyed a unique meal.  My meal was a regular box of mac and cheese, cooked with chicken in a cozy, (details in a later post).  On the menus that night were also pizza, cold pasta salad, Mountain House foods and some scrumptious homemade meals.
The Starry Sky App and the "Campfire Channel".
The rest of the night was spent listening to funny stories being told about each of the backpackers.  We built a nice fire, looked at stars in the sky using cell phone apps, talked about comets and past backpacking trips, then watched the "Campfire Channel" until we were sleepy.  Sleep was good and we awoke to a peaceful, clear morning.  Coyotes and owls had howled and hooted through the night, with sand hill cranes warbling in the morning.  Having lived in Colorado, I still find it odd to hear coyotes in Florida, though they have been here for over 20 years.  Robert said it was 52 degrees at breakfast.
Howard, Bryce, Howard, Robert, Julie, Gerry & Ben, preparing to strike camp.
Breakfast also involved everyone using multiple and different stoves and various means to boil water for coffee, and cook granola and eggs or eat cold pasta from the night before.  It didn't take very long to strike camp, and backpack back to the parking lot.  Near our campsite, we found an old kitchen stove and pieces of a building that had been there at one time, maybe the actual concession stand the camp is named for?  On the trail, we met a FT through-hiker who said he was hiking all the way to Maine on the AT when he finished through-hiking the Florida Trail.
I've never seen a "Come Back Soon" sign at a camp site before!
As for the weight of the Kumo on my back, it was like there was nothing there.  There will be some updates, but overall, my equipment performed flawlessly and I am very pleased with my first ultralight backpacking trip!
We enjoyed a group brunch at a locally-owned restaurant in Dade City, then drove home.  It was a good backpacking group of neat people and we all had a wonderful time.
Thanks to Ben for organizing such a great trip!  Robert said he hadn't thought about work for the whole weekend.  I'm looking forward to more trips with this Sierra Club group next fall.


  1. Camping is a great way to help you reduce stress. Being in the outdoors gives you a sense of natural peace and serenity. And it also gives you a chance to stretch out those cramped muscles of yours.

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  2. We just camped there this weekend. We saw an annual meteor shower and the fellowship was awesome. Your story was awesome.