Torreya State Park/ Apalachicola River
Updated: May 5, 2021
Now, excited to offer a passive listening component to our blog: https://anchor.fm/lifeandmarketing/episodes/Torreya-Florida-State-Park--the-Apalachicola-River-et5vnf
Once you start glampin' and river roamin', Spring Break will never be the same. This trip was seven days! We had our entire glampin' checklist in full effect as we planned to visit not one but two state parks. That meant, two hours of setup twice and two hours breakdown; my boys were thrilled! Truth be told, the Florida State Parks we planned to visit were quite far away, so we wnated to really invest the time needed to travel and explore properly.
Torreya State Park, created in the 1930's, was named for an extremely rare species of Torreya tree that grows only on the bluffs along the Apalachicola River making it one of Florida's most scenic places. Plus, it provides for some incredible hiking! Keep in mind, even with a check of the weather prior to, it can still be quite chilly that far north in Florida early spring. Sunny and 70 was more like cloudy and 63 with wind; shocker! The park itself was one of the more hands off camping venues for us yet. The building itself to pick up the car windshield tag and purchase wood was pretty interesting; a log cabin was a former civil war registration office. Inside it contained many pictures of local wildlife, plenty of snakes, vegetation and an original native American canoe donated back in the early 1900's to the parks system. Found right in the center of the camping loop, the registration office also had a mini store inside with walking sticks for the various hiking trails, medicines, ice and more.
The campground itself wasn't that big. In fact, all the sites are pretty close together with little forest canopy due to the 2018 Hurricane Michael Category 5 storm having pummeled the landscape. Still, new growth was starting to bud and the view from the lookout balcony made you think you were in the mountains! Thankfully, there were two restrooms on site; both offering showers. The one even provided large wash bins, perfect for tent and pop-up campers to wash dishes. There was even a washer and dryer on site, which we've learned not all parks have and can be a real blessing. One of the most unique aspects was the yurts. Two are onsite and book in advance; no pets allowed. Truth be told, they looked super cool from the outside, we think they were even cooler inside. Of course, for this seven day adventure, three nights at Torreya with our dog, Nemo, in tow; it was tent life for us.
No need for a frozen drink during setup this time, in fact it took all we had to keep moving and stay warm. After setup, Charlie got to drive us to the head of the park to view the Gregory House from it's exterior. Sadly, due to Covid, no tours were being given but we were able to peer into the windows. It's fascinating how much smaller the furniture and people must have been a 100+ years ago! What was even more interesting was that the antebellum mansion house moved to the bluff back in 1935, across the river, to rest on the bluff with picturesque views. Off the back of the house is a wonderful trail. Weather wasn't all that favorable during out stay; however, after much walking one may be able to find a spot near the roaring river water's edge to do a bit of fishing; no docks or intended fishing areas exist. Nor is there a boat ramp as the website explains. So, our efforts focused on hiking the unique Florida terrain instead. That evening, after roasting our delicious Koegels hotdogs and a few games, we all settled in and nearly froze during our sleep.
The next morning, we set out to town in search of some warmer gear and find the local best local boat ramp and bait shop. Just about a 20 minute drive, we found a Piggly Wiggle and Dollar General. Who knew a Dollar General had such a range of items including blankets, jeans, sweatshirts, gloves, dog biscuits, earbuds and deodorant; it felt like we hit the jackpot! The local boat ramp was just a 3 minute drive from the store and had plenty of parking along with a nice concrete ramp at just the right slant. What did shock us was the community life jacket system with signage stating "Kids Don't Float." With the way the waters seemed to flow with fury, it's clear more than a few have drowned in the Apalachicola River. Another interesting thing about Bristol, FL is it's right on the border of the Central Time Zone. In fact, for much of the trip, Michael's phone pinged from one tower using Sprint while mine pinged from another with AT&T resulting in two different times in our first leg of the trip; that was confusing! Anyhow, once you cross into Blountstown home of the Fiddler's restaurant, a local favorite, it was 100% Central Time. Still, this yummy restaurant knew folks from the Eastern Time Zone would want lunch so they opened at 10am their time to accommodate and we were thrilled for it. After a lunch of the local sampler full of mini scallops, blackened grouper, deviled blue crab and sides along with some fresh fried catfish we milled around for a bit viewing the local historical railway signage and props. Just a mile or so up the road, we found a stellar bait shop and sportsmen store. One would think our son discovered his version of a Toys R Us; it was that epic.
That afternoon, we went back to the site to settle in with our new found wares and set off for a long hike into the primitive campground area. There was no doubt, we were grateful to have brought our hiking sticks because in many parts it was a must. Roughly 5 miles or so round trip, the view from the rock cliff look out took our breathe away. The Apalachicola, over the years, became the mightiest and largest of all the Florida rivers and it's easy to see how. Having originally been a part of the Chattahoochee River; it soon became it's own river which empties into the Gulf of Mexico; beyond impressive were it's untamed waters. Later, that evening, we enjoyed a nice meal of grilled chicken with fixings, played a few more games. taught our son how to use flint to start a fire and then enjoyed said fire before settling in for a much warmer sleep.
The next day we got up early for bait and to venture onto the Apalachicola. Once on the water, its rich and strong black waters took us by the local boat ramp in Blountstown and into the Dead River. Thereby, granting us rivers number 19 and 20 respectively. If you are wondering whether or not it rained, oh it did right as we fished near a floating houseboat community. We got lots of bites yet no prize. I'd like to say, our boy did a great job of staying positive as the rains came through and though it was a bit chilly, our little group found the good in it all. Pretty sure this is where they say, " a bad day fishing is still better than a regular day at work."
After easily loading back up the boat, we made it back to camp with a couple hours to spare before sunset; which was beyond beautiful! With fresh wildflowers to decorate the picnic table, we featured on steak with blue cheese and pasta. It was a joy to use their nice big sink for dishes and washer and dryer to clean our clothes prior to packing up to head to our next campsite. Though I still can't figure out how the darn mosquitos are able to live in such cold weather and elevation, it was still a memorable park and stay. Best part, we knew there was a whole second half of our Spring Break 2021 adventure. Can't wait to share; happy glampin' and river roamin!'