Welcome to Florida – Osceola National Forest

It was hard to find. We’d taken a several mile detour before we realized we were following directions to the wrong place. We were out of cell phone and internet range, so we traded Google Maps for our trusty old (new) road atlas. It was late afternoon, it had been a long drive, and we were all very tired. But we got there.

It was worth it.

The Ocean Pond campground in Osceola National Forest has a limited number of water/electric sites and the website said they fill up fast. When we finally pulled in, a sign said all the electric sites were full. The sign looked as though it’s permanently mounted – not something someone just put up or a sign that’s easily changed. But we drove the loop anyway, hoping the sign was wrong. It wasn’t.

We had a back up option in the next town. It cost twice as much but we knew ahead of time that coming in that late and getting a site was a long shot. But this place… it was the most beautiful place I’d seen in a long time. We loved it. So we found a non-electric site and decided to run on battery for two nights.

Osceoloa National Forest

The view that greeted us as we entered – and compelled us to stay

Our battery can power the fan for the propane heat, the water pump and lights if we’re conservative. No microwave, dehumidifier, or other appliances. No charging cell phones, computers, etc. If we need to, we can use the car to charge the battery, which we did once in Pennsylvania when we woke up at 4am freezing because the heat had stopped working. It’s neither environmentally nor budget friendly, but it works in a pinch. But this is Florida, so a couple of nights on the battery are ok. And again, worth it.

The non-electric site costs only $12 per night (at $18/night, electric sites are also very reasonable!) The sites are large and separated from each other by a little woodsy patch. The parking spot itself is paved, level, and long enough to fit our camper and our tow vehicle (it’s surprising how often this isn’t true at other campgrounds). The rest of the site is grassy or wooded, with a nice picnic table, a fire ring, and it’s right on the bank of the pond so the view is amazing. A short walk down the road is a sandy beach with a swimming area, a roofed pavilion and a playground. It’s beautiful, well-maintained, and quiet (at least until we got there).

Osceola campground

Our beautiful campsite

The atmosphere of this place was amazing. There are several campground hosts and other volunteers who keep things clean and circulate in golf carts throughout the day to see if anyone needs anything. Someone brought by bags for the kids, with pencils, erasers, bracelets, stickers, temporary tattoos and some other little things, plus activity packets with puzzles, mazes, etc. They featured Smokey the Bear and Woodsy the Owl and the kids were absolutely thrilled. Someone else, who we thought was a host but turned out to be just a friendly fellow camper, picked a bag of oranges from a tree by the beach and brought them by for the kids. I don’t think any of us had ever eaten an orange just minutes after it was picked before.

After all our struggles with winter weather, what a feeling it was to open the windows and doors and bring our seat cushions and linens out to air in the sun. We did school outside at the picnic table, spent the afternoon at the beach and ate dinner sitting around a campfire.

outdoor homeschool

Not a bad classroom for the day!

 

ocean pond campground

Sunset over Ocean Pond. And my soul exhales.

 

family campfire

Cozy campfire moments

It wasn’t only our seat cushions that needed sunshine and a warm breeze. Ironically, spending a few days unplugged in a national forest was the perfect way to charge our batteries. Someday, when we’ve installed our solar panel and we’re better prepared for boondocking, we’ll be back. Osceola National Forest and the Ocean Pond campground are now among our favorite places to camp.

Even though there was no sign along the highway as we crossed the border, our first stop said it very clearly: Welcome to Florida.

 

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