Little Manatee and Alafia Rivers via the Canoe Outpost
Updated: Nov 11, 2020
Who knew that cabin glamping over the Halloween weekend would have been a thing for us a year ago; however, I am thrilled we did! It was an epic experience with all the stars and full moon aligning for many things to fall in our favor. For starters, the kids had no school that Friday so we were able to bring a buddy and leave early in the morning to embark upon our 3 hour journey. While in route, we came upon a town full of Central American people who sold fresh fruit, vegetables, tamales and papusas from the various street corners. For a gal raised on papusas, this was a real treat! We picked them up and enjoyed them as soon as we arrived at the campground, oozing with anticipation as we had no idea what to expect.
What we found was pretty cool! A slue of old school buses converted into camping trailers sprinkled throughout the large property with open area for tent campers, rv's and a few signature cabins onsite. For us, it was the first time staying in a cabin as river roamers and we were lucky the site had enough space for our trusty pontoon. Sadly, there was no way we were getting our boat in the river there, hence the three campfires for that category.
Still, we saw many folks canoeing with ease from the launch area and we were excited to get right to the water. So, with the help of Brian, the campground big boss, we learned about the Wildcat boat ramp and off we went for a short drive to our destination to embark upon river #14.
As luck would have it, the fancy rv park, River Oaks, was across the street having some professional footage taken for an upcoming video. Since they needed some images of a boat going into the Little Manatee River via their ramp, the timing couldn't have been better. That's how we scored this awesomeness!
Now, it's important to notate that most people ask where I get my energy from...most times I joke it's all about the espresso. But, these days I can 100% say it is IDLife! By taking the DNA test, I now am taking the exact vitamins my body needs and am compelling it with the special Slim drink. I am already down 2" inches and have stamina that is second to none and have the ability to actually fall asleep and rest the entire night no issues! That means, I was ready for this trip and the great outdoors! Perhaps that is why everything just kept working out so well.
While roaming down the Little Manatee River, we found so many epic nooks and crannies that were worth exploring as the sun started to slowly set. Though we didn't catch any fish, we did have lots of good laughs and listened to some great music. The journey back to the boat ramp and campsite was quick and easy and the roads getting there humorously named after the Wild West.
Once back at the Canoe Outpost, we grabbed the boys and some fishing poles to check out other parts of the park we didn't see earlier. This place was huge! Folks were friendly. Xavier, a nice tent camper just a few sites away, suggested we use the boat ramp at Williams Park so we could explore the Alafia River and the Tampa Bay. May I just say, thank heavens for the localers!
That evening, dinner was simple with the use of the gas grill provided. We enjoyed hamburgers with all the fixings and used the microwave (another item not typical in our glampin' gear) to heat up some stellar macaroni and cheese. We played cards that night and taught the boys how to play Euchre; it was great! For the record, Charlie and I won but Rowan and Michael put up a good fight. After a fire, a total necessity as the air was super chilly; we welcomed a nice sleep in the security of this adorable cabin with giant white board for writing funny phrases.
The next morning, there was no real rush to wake up; however, I did enjoy making sure cereal bowls were filled and clothes laid out for the boys so we would be able to roll out easily. I packed the lunch cooler, made coffee and enjoyed a good book. The air felt warmer than the day before and I welcome the change as we looked forward to river #15. Our new friend Xavier also mentioned there was a terrific bait shot right next to the tire changing depot before the bridge; excellent landmarks! We stocked up on shiners and discovered the boat ramp at Williams Park was easy with plenty of parking. With a desire to start casting, we began fishing right away and the concrete pillars of the bridge proved fruitful. It didn't take long for the morning coffee to hit papa glamper and the two minute boat ride back up to the park was appealing in his state. Once again, fate was on our side and there was a guy unloading bait from his stash he sells to the local shops. He gave us several net fulls at no cost and it was clear we were in store for a good day.
We headed up the Alafia River at a nice leisurely pace, taking in all the sights and taking notes of the several restaurants/bars along the way; different from other rivers thus far. Each house was distinctly different the next and though we had fresh bait we came up mostly empty handed. When I saw the Beer Shed on our journey, it was a must we swing in with visions of cold beer and fried pickles in my head. What we got was Cajun boiled peanuts and PBR in a mug; definitely worth the visit! Tempting fate yet again, we went back toward the Tampa Bay and that is when it got really exciting! One after another the boys caught some sharks and a mackerel that a keeper. We also witnessed two giant freight liners with young dolphin in front of them riding the waves; unbelievable images! Then, a spectacular sunset helped to give us the best sendoff possible. Each boy was on cloud nine with the day's epic events and we actually kept our first fish on board the River Roamer!
With such an epic day, we got in quite late so our little gang kept dinner super simple by picking up some chicken wings and tenders from Publix pairing it with a few microwavable sides. The air that night was much warmer and being that it was Halloween; which we nearly forgot, many were shopping in costume. Once back at the campground, many campers were also in complete costume with groups of witches dancing while holding hands under the full Blue Harvest Moon. Seriously, you can't make this stuff up and it was cool to witness from a safe distance.
*Special shout out to our dear friend and Halloween birthday girl, Vicki Wild, we loved having the chance to face time you that night and show you all the cool parks of this place!
After a few rounds of some Skip Bo, while the boys placed the Play Station inside the cabin, we enjoyed a nice fire and conversation before heading to bed in the early morning hours.
November 1st welcomed us with the easiest breakdown of camp EVER! That's right, I simply made some breakfast sandwiches to go and once all bathroom and fridge items were packed; we hit the road. If you are wondering whether or not we missed the experiences of actual glamping, the answer for me is yes. Though, on occasion, a cabin scenario is quite lovely. Still, because there was no phyical labor in breaking down a campsite, we had no need to stop for pizza. So, we made it home in the pouring rain with plans of a quick offload and gave the fish to our friend Rowan's parents to brine and smoke for us all to enjoy the next day. Yes, it was insanely delicious and we had it two ways; as a dip and simply smoked; super cool!
All in all, these two rivers were spectacular and for different reasons with the Tampa Bay being a surprising highlight. Looking forward to seeing what more treasures we can find in the west coast of the state and hope you all find this piece useful. Happy glampin' and river roamin' everyone!