Under the Live Oaks of Tampa

I’ve realized I have a tree theme going in my pictures of Florida: the regular and Dwarf Cypress, Mangrove, Gumbo Limbo, Strangler Fig, so many Pines, Royal Palm, and, here, yet more Live Oaks wearing cloaks of Spanish moss.

We’re at Hillsborough River State Park, very close to Tampa. Although I can hear the highway while I’m walking the entrance road to the park, I feel like I’m much farther away, surrounded by tall pines, palms, and very old live oaks.

“Who, who cooks for you?”

And it’s not just a general impression: the animals around us confirm that these are some serious woods here. During my first morning walk with Banjo, a black bear crossed in front of us, and both evenings so far we’ve heard my favorite, the whippoorwill. Tracy and Banjo have seen an armadillo and an alligator. Late at night, we hear the barred owl call, “Who cooks for you?”

You’ll have to crank your volumn to hear this one.

When these owls fly from tree to tree they sound like monkey owls, or at least that’s what’s Tracy and I call them. “Eww ewwww oooow oooooow, Who Who cooks for you?” It’s an eerie and delightfully deep-nature sound.

Hillsborough River State Park

This is a beautiful park that’s being maintained along a winding river darkened by bald cypress, longleaf pine, and sand live oak. Unfortunately, the only photos I’ve gotten are of our campsite.

That’s because half of our eight days here we’ve set aside for errands.

I spent our first morning in a shopping mall in Tampa at an Apple Store (I cracked my iPad screen). Have you been in a shopping mall since the pandemic started? Those things are creepy these days anyway: half-abandoned throwbacks to a pre-internet world. And now they’re an even more surreal environment, with whole families strolling along as if casual window shopping and eating Aunt Annie’s pretzels aren’t now life-and-death activities.

That scene exhausted me. So afterwards, I snoozed here with my feet up on this log while Tracy biked around the park, and only later did I think to stand up and take a few shots of our private and lovely campsite.

Tomorrow we really need to wash the Airstream, but I’ll be sure to also take photos of the park’s oaks covered in Spanish moss. The one on our site hasn’t much, but it’s glorious without.

Plus, Banjo-approved.

Full-time Friend

A cool new development has been how much I’ve enjoyed texting with Sherri, part of one of the full-timer couples we met in the Keys.

We spent only a tiny bit of time together, but I can tell we would really click if we could hang out more. As I mentioned in that post, we started full-timing in Airstreams at the same time last year, and now we’re both following similar paths north out of the Keys; Sherri and Mooch are in the same campground now that we stayed in last (the lame one with the Royal Palms). If so many danged people weren’t also out camping because of the pandemic, we’d be able to switch our plans and camp together.

There’s actually an app for that: it was developed by full-timers and lets you log in your current location and see where other full-timer friends are camped near you. I’m not joining in that reckless data share (I already do that enough here), but I did send Sherri our itinerary for this spring, hoping we can join up somewhere.

I hear that full-timers’ stories intertwine more than you’d expect. Maybe that’s true. Back in Small Country Campground where we met our first full-time family, Chris gave Tracy a jar of moonshine made from a recipe directly from Popcorn Sutton—the real recipe, not the one now made for tourists. I told Sherri that Tracy and Mooch should make drinking that ‘shine our goal for getting together, and she added that they’ve actually met the Suttons—of course—in a campground.

I can see we have more stories to share once we get back in person.

Okay, you guys stay safe out there.

2 thoughts to “Under the Live Oaks of Tampa”

  1. Hey Gavin, do you know where I could find stylized map icons for the map I’m working on here (in the top menu)?