Crappy Campground amid Royal Palms

Pro tip: Never book a campsite on the inside of a campground loop.

We’re wedged in here at Collier-Seminole State Park like one of the pie pieces in a Trivial Pursuit game. The folks on the outside of the loop all have plenty of space to set up chairs and tents, but we can’t open our awning.

Trees to the left of us, campers to the right of us. Stuck in the middle again.

[Actually, the camper to the right of us could be categorized as a joker (you know: ‘Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right, stuck in the middle with you”), but that would be mean-spirited. He’s an old hippie—older than we are!—with long, greying yellow hair and a headband, plus a big ol’ chopper that he unloaded from the back of his trailer/camper. Last night before he lit his campfire, he sat in the evening sun with his shirt unbuttoned and ate a gallon of ice cream out of the container. This morning I watched him sit out in his chair, fill his bowl with pot, and have a quick toke before he headed off. This guy’s not the joker on the right; with this guy, the joke’s on the rest of the world.]

Other state parks we’ve stayed in with crappy campgrounds but also with access to beautiful trails:

  • Shawnee in Ohio, where, when we stepped down out of the trailer, we had to walk along a precipice to get to our campsite, and
  • Myakka River near Sarasota, where we were right next to a tent crammed with two people and three off-leash dogs, one being a Great Dane. Right next to them.

All these places are well worth visiting though, once you get away from the crowded, kind of squalid life of the campground. There are no $500k Class A motor homes here. There are a bunch of single old guys in ancient trailers and a few families in tents, getting a weekend away, any way they can.

One of the amenities here is a lovely boat launch into what I imagine is beautiful kayaking territory.

We won’t be here long enough to try it out though; we’re here for literally one full day, during which we go to the dentist in Naples. I never knew how often I went to the dentist until I had to drive across a state and camp in a Trivial Pursuit wedge to get there.

This state park also has a lovely boardwalk trail through mangroves and wild royal palm trees, which were part of a plantation built by some rich, white guy named Collier (Barron Collier, the largest landowner and developer in Florida), who did try hard to make it into a national park.

You can see why; the royal palms are indeed stately. We saw three types of woodpeckers during our short evening walk through them: pileated, red-bellied, and yellow-bellied sapsucker. These tall, slim trees are like Manhattan penthouse buildings for woodpeckers.

There’s also what we thought to be a recreation of a Seminole village, but it turns out to be a fake dug-out canoe (nevertheless impressive) and a hut. I’m guessing the Seminoles lived here much longer than Collier.

Worth It All

Look, just look at this amazing find.

An outdoor washer and dryer! I don’t even have one full load of dirty clothes (because laundry was the last thing I did when I left the Keys), but you betcha I put all questionable laundry in this machine. You stand around inside a crowded, maskless laundromat in some strange, small town while people cough and sneeze, and then see how fast you jump on this outdoor opportunity.

And I even got this view while I waited for the lady before me to empty her wash.

Royal palms to the rescue.