Camped out at Forgotten Coast Visitor’s Center on the “Big Bend Scenic Byway Coastal Trail.” I always wait too long to start looking for a suitable place to pitch a tent. Sometimes the thing materializes quickly and easily, though. Of course at other times, like this one, it’s a struggle and takes some doing to discover.
Wanted to camp on the beach tonight, but the beach is only yards off the highway and so was extremely noisy. Too, because it wasn’t terribly broad either, I was concerned about the tide coming in. Continuing on I swung into a huge K-12 school complex but I was seen scouting things out and grew nervous and didn’t want to have to explain myself. I was surprised because it was 6:30 and damn well dark enough that people were driving with lights on. Did not expect to see cars and a bus driving up the long, winding drive from the highway. The place was enclosed by a fence too. That played into the idea of outsiders not belonging. Like sneaking into a gated community where all the fancy-pants live away from the dirt and deprivation of the world of regular folks. I probably should not have let it bother me, but if I had got halfway into setting up camp or making dinner then run off the property I would have been none too pleased
It’s impossible to wildcamp because Florida is a jungle, and all the vegetation seems to have thorns or sharp edges or woody stems or grows so thickly that a machete would be required to clear a space for a tent. The forests beneath the canopy are just a tangle of vines, shrubs and other plants; and fields leave one extremely visible, and are the homes of stiff, tall-growing grasses and sharp viny plants. Lucky I am to have stumbled upon this place then. I remember my first night in Arkansas crossing the Mississippi river in the dark, sadly missing what was a stunning sunset. The first building I came to, if memory serves, was the welcome center, and so I camped there around back on the manicured lawn. It was already closed, as this one is, and I didn’t think I needed to fear discovery. It was of course quite a bit larger as it was a state welcome center and not just a regional one. So, my personal opinion is that visitors centers make pretty good places to camp. I tend to not bother with being too inconspicuous because I tend to think being upfront and honest about what you’re doing, especially as a bicycle traveller is a good way of going about things, and most people don’t seem to care if you tell them you’re just camping overnight and moving on the next morning. The place was closed well before I arrived anyway, and they reopen at nine tomorrow morning, so the risk of discovery, if there is a risk, is slim, and if they want to kick me out in the morning, if I’m not already gone, well, I’ll be in the process of leaving anyway.
Today has been a long, excruciating day. Eighty miles of cycling, the first forty of which went by quite smoothly, the latter forty not so much. Legs are feeling pretty wrecked.