Two weekends ago we met our good friends for a little family camping at Torreya State Park. It is about a 3-hour drive north for us and is located on the Apalachicola River. The landscape in this section of Florida is so different than the rest of the state. There are actually hills and changes in elevation. Which, if you are familiar with Florida, is pretty close to non-existent around the rest of the state. So when we were trying to coordinate a camping get-together with the Buzzetts, who live in Port St Joe, both families were excited to meet up at Torreya State Park. It was the first time for all of us.
Besides the elevation and appearance of being in the mountains, Torreya is also unique in that it has some cool history behind it. It was one of the original 8 state parks created in Florida by the Civil Conservation Corps (CCC) during the Great Depression. The CCC was part of FDR’s New Deal and created to employ young men during the extremely difficult times. In case you are curious (like we were) what the other state parks that the CCC created in Florida were, they are: O’Leno, Myakka River, Hillsborough River, Highlands Hammock, Fort Clinch, Gold Head Branch and Florida Caverns.
Normally, we are tent campers, but on this trip we actually went RV for the first time. We usually stick to camping in the winter months and try to wrap up our camping season by March to avoid the heat and critters that start coming out in the spring in Florida. So when we settled on the camping date with the Buzzett family, we were a little nervous that it was going to be in April. You just never know what you are going to get. Thankfully, Brian’s parents generously offered to lend us their RV for the weekend. We were so grateful to have it just in case of rain, or even worse in my opinion, heat and humidity. The weather ended up being perfect though. And it was fun to try out RV camping for the first time!
The campground was so lovely and different from others we have been to. First of all, it seemed like there were not too many sites. It was set up like a loop, with an open green space in the middle. Sometimes, campgrounds are just a little snug, and this one felt so much more open. The other thing we noticed is that it was a mixed bag of the types of spots. There were some for RV’s, some for tents, there was a cabin, and a Yurt. In larger campgrounds it seems like they have different campgrounds for each. In the center of the field was a cabin. This cabin serves as the place to check in. Originally though, this cabin served as barracks for the CCC when they were building the park back in the thirties. They have some photos in there which is really cool to see.
On Saturday, we spent several hours on the trails at the park. Torreya has so many different hiking trails to choose from. It feels like you have them all to yourself. Unlike most Florida hikes, these were filled with lots of ups and downs, streams and changing terrains. It’s amazing how many hours kids can walk when the path seems like an adventure.
One other unique feature of Torreya State Park is the Gregory House. The Gregory House is a home that used to be located on a plantation across the Apalachicola River which belonged to, you guessed it, the Gregory family. By the time the CCC was creating Torreya State Park back in the 1930’s, the house had been abandoned. They decided to move it piece by piece across the river and place it on one of the highest points on the park with a beautiful view of the river down below. The ranger gives tours of the house which we jumped in on and enjoyed. The house is furnished with furniture from the era when the Gregories lived there. It’s a nice little walk back in time in a very lovely home.
The boys had so much fun building forts, walking through streams and playing ball at the campground with their buddies Gannon and Jack. I’ve talked about it before, but I truly still believe that there is nothing more generous than to give children than free time outdoors. Time to roam, wander and explore. To spend time together without the distractions of television, errands or schedules.
Overall, we found Torreya State Park to be super clean, open and tranquil. I would definitely recommend it if you are looking for a new camping spot. Have you ever camped at any of the original eight Florida state parks?