There's only one way to camp in Florida in the summer... on the water. Last weekend we took the girls and my nephew for a one-night campout at a nearby state park where we pitched our tents under the oak and palm hammocks along this beautiful, brackish creek.
For our first official family camping trip, things went pretty well. (I think I exclaimed "this is so much fun" and "we will never do this again" an equal number of times!) At the campsite, the kids stayed busy exploring and filling up their nature journals.
They watched for the threatened Florida Scrub Jay, which makes its home in the scrubby and pine flatwoods of the park.
And collected natural treasures from the creek bank and surrounding area.
After setting up camp, we cooled off with a long swim in the park's lake, and some playtime on the sandy beach. The kids caught little minnows in the shallow waters and I kept a vigilant - near obsessive - watch for alligators (thankfully, I never saw any).
Of course, no camping trip would be complete without a campfire and some toasty marshmallows for s'mores. After a glorious night's sleep in the fresh air, we cooked up a Father's Day breakfast of pancakes and bacon on the still-smoldering fire pit grill.
Then before it got too hot, we took a nature hike to a scenic outlook on the creek, where we sat and watched mullet leap out of the water, and waved to folks canoeing by...which we promised we could try on the next trip. Because - despite the sweltering heat, the effort of setting up camp, and the grumbling and squabbling amongst the kids - for some reason, I find myself wanting to go again. Perhaps it's the lure of quality family time, spent discovering the good and the bad of the natural world around us, and of each other. That, and the promise of memories made that none of us will ever forget.