After a week (plus) in "civilization," the girls and I continued our trek south toward the southernmost tip of the United States. On our way, we figured we'd make a few stops and see some more of the beautiful, unique spots our country has to offer. First stop, Dickinson State Park, east coast of Florida half a day's drive south of Orlando.
The park was a pleasant surprise. Though mapped directly adjacent to the highway (and with one of its campgrounds conveniently placed near highway for busy travelers), the park extends for 11,500 acres and includes waterways, woodlands and accessible parks with amenities including a swimming beach, 'gator culvert, canoe rentals, guided tours up the river (for groups of two adults or more - children don't count toward this number), boardwalks and picnic spots. We were originally slated to camp near the highway (through the reservation system - we hadn't picked our own spot), but when we talked to Ranger Robert Shuhr about the park, he gave me some other options, and recommended a site which was, indeed, much better for us. We were only about 150 feet from the Loxahatchee River, and even closer to a restroom with running water. Ranger Shuhr also assured us that swimming in the river's swimming beach was perfectly safe - no big current, no big drop offs, and 'gators only rarely.
While watching out for snakes (I never thought I'd be glad we have only one specie of snake to worry about in most of California) and spiders (big ones here), we followed the trail to the river where we spotted some boys our girls' ages playing in the river. I talked to their parents for awhile and learned the boys hadn't been sent out to swim with the 'gators as any sort of punishment. So, we donned our suits and joined the family in the refreshingly cool water as the gray skies grew darker and more forboding.
Just before sunset, we took the short walk back to camp for dinner away from the mosquitos (inside trailer) and a night of heavy rain. (More rain in Florida...go figure!)