Due to changing plans associated with the Easter holiday, I decided at the last minute to go down to Paynes Prairie state park, about twelve miles south of Gainesville. Here in Florida, we've had a pilot program running for about a year in the state parks for a study on the feasibility of using hammocks in their campgrounds. Until this past year, it was (and is, with the exception of the pilot program) illegal to tie anything to any plant in a state park. This was mostly due to the high impact that these areas see from tourism and the fact that the phrase "LNT" has, unfortunately, not entered the common public's lexicon as of yet.
This is an area I've biked to multiple times; the tiny municipality of Micanopy (pronounced "mick-ah-no-pee") has a wonderful bike lane between it and Gainesville proper, one that runs through the beautiful Paynes Prairie.
Paynes Prairie is an interesting geological formation; it's a drainage for the local area and a "wet" prairie. The Alachua Sink is located at the lowest point in the prairie and almost always has standing water located there. At several points in the prairie's history, the drainage for it has become blocked, leading to several feet of standing water over the entire prairie. The most recent time that happened, in the late 19th century, paddlewheel steamboats were run from Gainesville to Micanopy for the transfer of goods and people from the railroad that ran into town to points south.
The prairie proper is surrounded by rolling hills, some of which comprise the majority of the accessible state park (most of the prairie is fenced off as a wildlife preserve; there are horses, bison, cattle, and gators there, along with about a zillion birds). I biked down US 441 through the hills of south Gainesville, into the flat portion across the prairie, and up into the hills of Micanopy. It took me about an hour's ride from my door to the ranger station at the entrance to the state park.
The rangers seemed amused and interested in my form of transportation and were helpful with information regarding hammock camping. I'd already done my research and made a reservation for a site appropriate to hammock camping (#33; it's a nice one, by the way) and was checked in without any trouble whatsoever.
I biked the mile or so to the campground and began setting camp.
Florida state parks require a set of straps for the tarp as well as the hammock (understandable, considering the amount of folks these trees are likely to see if this becomes permanently approved), and I think I need to sew up some longer straps for my tarp for next time. I had to use my bike strap (the one that holds my pack to my seat supports) for one end of the tarp and two of the straps, tied together, that normally hold things to my pack frame. I think that a pair of straps, ~6' long, with a loop at either end (so that it's easy to tie the tarp to them) will be a good solution for this. As it was, I used the 'biner on one end of my tarp line and an hex wrench (part of my bike tools) on the other as a pair of toggles for marlinspike hitches to connect the tarp line to the straps. They held nicely, but it would've been nicer with loops on the ends of my straps.
Otherwise, set up of camp went smoothly and easily. The folks in the next campsite over, who were down from Ohio to visit Disney, were interested in my set up. I did the "hammock ambassador" thing for twenty minutes or so and then set off in search of dinner.
I biked the rest of the way down into Micanopy proper (maybe two or three miles), looking to see if any of the restaurants down there were open. None were: Micanopy's a small town, and it was Easter, so... I wound up at the Pearl Country Store, purchasing some RTE foods and then heading back to camp. I spent the evening hanging in the hammock and enjoying a good paperback. I nodded off sometime between seven and eight...
...Only to be woken at nine-thirty by someone backing their RV into one of the sites, maybe twenty yards away, and being yelled at by the person trying to spot for them. Meh. What you pay for when you get a front-country camp, I guess. After fifteen or twenty minutes of shouting and a rumbling diesel engine, they were done and into the spot. I nodded back off fairly quickly and slept heavily until shortly after dawn.
I woke somewhere around seven-thirty and spent an hour or so just enjoying the relaxing feel of lying in the hammock. I lazed for a bit and then rose to make "coffee" on my alcohol set-up (my first time using it without my hobo stove--it worked just fine, but I think I'm going to stick with the wood burner as a pot stand/windscreen for the mornings).
After my second cup, I wandered over and took a shower at the bathhouse there. By this time, I checked the weather and decided to skip my planned hike of the Chacala Trail in the park there; thunderstorms were forecast for the afternoon. I didn't want to be trapped out on the (flat) prairie in a thunderstorm as the tallest object around, so I packed up and headed back to Gainesville. Mrs. FLRider texted me to say that she was at a local coffee house, and I went thataway instead of home.
Here, my tale ends, meeting the most wonderful woman in the world for an afternoon of conversation over a cuppa joe and a water. It was a relaxing trip, one that I might just have to repeat some time soon.
Sorry, no photos or video.