Another way to enjoy CREW – camping

by Allison Vincent

photo by Anthony Eugenio at Gate 3 camp

Whether it’s an escape or an adventure you seek, you will find it in the woods of CREW. There are hiking and biking trails, wet walks through the swamps and diverse ecosystems for everyone’s taste. But have you ever wondered what it’s like after dark? Maybe it’s time to try camping

One of the many charms of camping is that it extends the daytrip and allows you to enjoy a different CREW, one that wakes up right around sunset. As you’re setting up your tent, crepuscular creatures that enjoy those twilight hours explore CREW and often use the trails just like we do. As you roast s’mores over the fire listen for movement with heightened senses as nighttime sets in. Are you ready for your next adventure?

First you’ve got to book your free single-use primitive site – “primitive” as in the campsite includes simply a place to camp, a few fire rings and some luxurious picnic tables. Ready? Then pack the essentials and drive right up to your very own serene camp. There you’ll find space for up to 20 campers to spread out under the slash pine trees at Gate 5 Camp at the CREW Cypress Dome Trails or under the glorious oaks of Gate 3 Camp closer to the CREW Marsh Trails. During the peak of season, when the air humidity is lower and the Florida ‘winter’ temperatures are nice and cool, you and your group can enjoy the solitude of a campsite all to yourself at CREW. If you’re lucky, you may witness a few unique things you’d never see on a day hike. 

photo by Molly DuVall at Gate 3 camp

Camping is like a ritual in that you prepare, you journey and you embrace nature. There are a few fundamentals that every camper does to enjoy the experience – prep your favorite food, choose the right shelter and bring more water than you think you need. Beyond that, your creativity is the limit. Learn to make a fire from a fire starter, try your hand at bush-crafting, or improve your night vision with a flashlight free hike. The night-sky is the limit! 

The right shelter can also be a creative endeavor, with numerous schools of thought on the pros and cons to different options. For instance, there’s the hammock vs. tent debate, both shelter options having strong qualifying attributes that are suited to different conditions. Take the hammock and its lightweight design that keeps you off the ground – which is often wet here in Florida, even in January. Whereas, the tent-packers claim a point in terms of extra floor space to store some things under the rainfly. Camping at the CREW campsites, you can try out many camping styles and still stay nice and snug in the wet or dry season. 

under the stars at Gate 3 camp, by Anthony Eugenio

When you get to the campsite, one of the best or worst parts, depending on who you ask, is the set up. Friends have always joked that, “there’s no such thing as a lazy camper” – meaning that there’s always something to do at a camp. Therein lies the significance of planning ahead for your preferred comforts in mind – you don’t want to end up sympathizing with the “worst part” group. Instead, be sure to bring your favorite pillow, or that extra down puffy jacket if it will help you stay comfortable, with your mind set on the experience, not the drawbacks. 

Another secret to planning is leaving enough time to hike or drive to your campsite before evening sets in, which is easy enough to do with CREW’s two drive-up camps. With daylight remaining, setting up a tent or hammock (or both) and camp kitchen is an enjoyable process and can make you feel at home in the woods. Leave enough time and by sunset all there’s left to do is cook your favorite campfire meal, enjoy the night sky and possibly, go to sleep early!

CREW at night, by Molly DuVall

Sleeping under the stars can have a transformative effect, breaking you away from your normal ecosystem, activating your senses in a wholly different way. This is especially true at a primitive campsite like CREW’s, where civilization can only be observed as far away lights emanating from distant towns. By the light of the campfire, headlights and flashlights you navigate your nightly routine, altered and simplified.

Please remember to Leave no Trace at the CREW trails and campsites!

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