Kelli and I decided to take the kids camping this weekend, that’s four kids ages 9, 12, 12, 12!!! Looking around on Receration.gov last week, I was hard pressed to find any campgrounds that had 2 sites right next to each other so I decided I’d run out to Alexander Springs and see if they might have to of their walk-up sites available. Which wasn’t the case, the attendants at the guard house were nice enough to call over to Clearwater Lake campground and see if they had any. We were in luck, they happened to have sites 2 & 3 which were next to each other so I took off and reserve them. Clearwater Lake Campground contains two loops of campsites and a day use area for swimming with several picnic table setup. They offer canoes rentals as well and have a spot a little ways around the lake from the beach where you can launch a kayak.
Hiking – Clearwater Lake
Clearwater Lake is the historical starting point of the Florida Trail, which I have on my bucket list to at least section hike. In the early 1960’s Jim Kern, had stated the Florida Trail Association and had received permission to start blazing a trail through the Ocala National Forest. A group of led by Jim Kern, started blazing a trail through the Ocala National forest starting at Clearwater Lake and traveling north to Alexander Springs. This section of trail is 11 miles long and takes the hiker through some pine forest, wetland prairies, and ventures through some areas of scrubby flatwoods. There is also hiking loop that traverses the shoreline of the lake is is approximately 1.3 miles but while we were there this weekend the lake was up and the trail was flooded.
Mountain Biking – Clearwater Lake
Also located at Clearwater Lake is a trail head for Paisley Woods Bicycle Trail which is a 22 mile loop consisting of a cross connection creating 2 loops, Alexander Loop and the Clearwater Loop. The trail is blazed with Yellow Triangles with the cross connector blazed with Blue, with each of the loops being 11 miles.
Friday evening while waiting on Kelli to arrive I waled down to the guard house to ask a few questions and posted in the window was a warning about an alligator breeding. So I inquired and the attendant stated that there had been a sighting early in the day of a pair of 5’ alligators breeding in the lake that anyone fishing or swimming should take this in advisement. Living in Florida I am aware that ANY body of water can and probably does have a resident alligator population. That by no way means that I want to tussle with them. I try to stay as far way from them as possible, but sometime since we occupy the same geography I like to maintain a safe distance, meaning I stay as far away from them as possible. But in the late winter and into spring alligators start becoming more active as the temperatures begin their upswing, so the antennas are a little more sensitive to my surroundings. Kelli and I had walked down to the beach Saturday morning and noticed the hiking trail that traverses the shoreline just off to our left. This part of the trail travels right behind a couple of campsites and the path was mowed down from the taller grass to form about a 4 foot pathway. We walked it and came across the ‘kayak launch’, but just past this the trail was flooded and I didn’t want any part of it. I could just envision slugging through it and walking up on a bedded gator or come around a bend and a gator be laying across the path sunning. It didn’t take long for me to say “wanna go back to the site”. Most of Saturday was spent relaxing around the campsite. I hung the hammock and the kids played some cards and board games. I jumped in on a couple of games of BS and Kellis son had to be cheating because, I never lose, and he won both games. I’ve gotta watch this kid, LOL! The weather was warm, mid 80’s, for being the first weekend in March so hiking or biking in the middle of the day was a no go with the kids.
After a late lunch of fire grilled hot dogs, we took the kids down to the beach to do a little bit of fishing. We started off to the south side of the beach area since there was a sign posted “No Fishing”. Since no one was there the kids started drifting over and out further into the water. The girls started bringing in a few small brim and Kelli grabbed a rod and started wading out to fish with them. She first brought in a brim, which according to her was the first non-catfish she’d ever caught. After she’d caught the brim not but a cast or two later she reel’d in a 10” bass, score!!! Taken Kelli fishing twice and she has not only caught something both time, but now has added 2 more species to her list. I also learned that Kelli’s daughter had never caught a fish until then as well. She was super stoked and was asking her mom if she could go fishing for her next birthday. As the sun started to set we called the kids in from the lake. There’s breeding gators out there somewhere and while they might drive us nuts sometimes I don’t think we’d have enjoyed watching one of them have their leg grabbed by an aggressive gator. That evening just grilled some hamburgers on the campsite grill with charcoal.
Sunday morning woke up and one of the first things out of Kelli’s daughter mouth was “I wanna go fishing”, love it!!! Made breakfast of scrambled eggs and sausages, with the background of “Can we go fishing now?”
Being the parents we are are after breakfast decided that we should tear down camp before taking the kids fishing before we left Clearwater Lake Campground. After we had the cars loaded up and the site cleared of all our stuff we drove around to the parking lot just behind the beach area. Grabbed the fishing poles, worms and headed to the beach for some mid-morning fishing. There were to woman, sunbathing when we got down to the beach and I thought “oh, shoot their gonna complain” but they were nice enough to let the girls wade out about waist deep to fish and didn’t really say anything to us. On Kelli’s daughter first cast she reel’d in another small brim, way to go girl! Several casts later she wound up catching a small bass that was probably 6”-7”. They probably fished for an hour before a park attendant came down and very politely told us that we weren’t allowed to be fishing off the beach. I asked him if he knew of any spot around Clearwater Lake’s shore line that was easily accessible. Which he gave me the response of “well theres a trail that goes all the way around the lake, but I don’t know if there’s any accessible spots”. So we decided to go ahead and pack-up and head down to Ferran Park on the south side of Lake Eustis.
Ferran Park is about a 20 minute drive from Clearwater Lake and the park is located in downtown Eustis. Ferran Park is a very nice destination right on the lake with plenty of area bordering the lake to fish. There is a concrete and stone wall where the kids could sit. Unfortunately my daughter and I were the only ones who got even a nibble though. I think that the park has been fished so much that you’d be hard pressed to catch much. We fished for a couple fo hours and Kelli, grabbed some Subway for lunch. After we ate our subs we walked over to a quint little ice cream parlor for a scoop of ice cream to wrap up our weekend.