Date Visited: 12/7/2019
Sometimes when we visit a state park we are motivated purely by our interest in discovering whether we would plan a future camping getaway at the location. Our trip to Faver-Dykes State Park located south of St. Augustine, Florida was such an occasion. Or so I thought.
As it turned out, I spent less time gathering information and learning about the park, than I did discovering things about myself.
We made our usual trip to the ranger station where Mr. McGee inquired about the park amenities and received approval to take a tour of the campground. Then we proceeded to take advantage of a few of the day use activities including a short hike (we saved the longer hike for a future camping trip) and checked out the boat ramp and picnic areas. We stopped to read the memorial marker and this is when the day turned from an outdoor experience to a day of self-discovery.
The inscription on the memorial below spoke to me when it said…
AND FOR A “CLASSROOM IN THE HAMMOCK” FOR NATURALISTS, CONSERVATIONISTS, TEACHERS AND CHILDEN—NOT MERELY TO COME AND SEE NATURE, BUT ALSO TO LEARN ABOUT NATURE
As the monument alludes to this is not so much a destination location loaded with lots of fun things for the family to do, but more a park for study and contemplation as you enjoy a quiet paddle along the Pellicer Creek, or take a slow stroll down one of the few trails that meander through the park. That’s not to say that you can’t enjoy these recreation activities for the pure joy of getting outdoors with no learning required, because you can and most visitors to the park aren’t there for the “educational” experience that it has to offer.
In fact many of the activities included at the park, such as fishing, picnicking, boating, canoeing, camping and wildlife viewing are all equally pleasurable without a classroom experience. I guess what I’m trying to explain is that the quote above made me realize I’m just cut from a little different cloth. When I go on a half mile hike it can take me an hour, or more. I study the animal foot traffic to see their patterns of behavior. I take note of which plants thrive in the sun and which ones prefer the shelter of shade. I look up in the trees, study nesting habitats, take note of changes in the landscape and the canopy. I scan the river for fish and insect varieties and other signs of life while simulantiously being in awe of specific species that can move from fresh to salt water habitats. I guess you can say that I’m a student of nature receiving an informal education and have been blessed with a patient husband that both indulges me and who also has interest enough to enjoy our outings when I’m pulling back on the high gear exercise throttle.
As we drove into the park along the windy dirt road we were assured that this wasn’t just your typical state park. Having grown up in Florida I’ve seen the transition in many of the local and state parks that have replaced that drive out into the country with paved roads wide enough to accommodate the two-way passing of vacationers and part-time residents and their massive mobile housing units. This park didn’t really give us that feel. It was indeed a pleasant experience. I kind of had the feel that we were in “the real Florida” — or as close as you can get today without bushwhacking your way through a virgin scrub to get to the perfect fishing hole. The experience felt unrushed. It was laid back — something us “getting-older-timers” can still remember. To us it was a gem, to others probably viewed more as a navigation inconvenience. “To each his own.”
I’ve never been very vocal about conservation efforts. Progress is indeed necessary on many fronts of our human existence, and although I often find myself mulling the logic of bringing your house camping I do understand that my bias toward natural preservation more than clouds my judgement. I also realize that I’m not a purest either. I prefer to sleep in the SUV over a tent or under the stars with no protection at all and I realize that some people just take that one step further. But it is nice when you find a place that tries to strike a balance between the views of the naturalist and the industrialist. That middle ground is often where I find myself both physically and mentally.
Now I realize that this post has so far been more an exploration of introspect than of a review of the actual park. But I don’t think you can journey in the physical sense without also taking a personal one. With each new adventure the window into the world opens wider and with that comes a modified view of our place in it and the continued struggle to discover how to fit in.
I remember some 30+ years ago being in my 20’s and thinking I had myself and our world all figured out. I remember wanting to beat my head against the wall because I just knew my way was the right way and that if everyone just listened to what I had to say the world would be a much better place. Well, I was wrong about much then, and I’m still wrong about much now. In fact, I realize I’ll go to my grave being wrong about things I don’t even have an opinion on yet.
I guess I’m trying to draw a comparison between being human and simply being. Just as our natural spaces are in a constant state of flux as we try to utilize them in a way that respects the delicate balance between preservation and recreation while sadly and incrementally losing sight of what they once were, I too, am in flux trying to strike the balance between who I am now and who I will become against the reflection of who I once was.
The funny part is that all this introspect came about though the simple act of trying to find a quiet place to camp and because someone almost half a century ago took the time to set aside a small place to learn and to validate people like myself with a few words in stone.
As for the park itself it has the amenities I listed above. The campground can accommodate rigs up to 35′. There are a couple of half mile trails and a longer 2.5 mile hike. The Pellicer Creek offers a great place to paddle and smaller boats are okay as long as you first get good information about navigation because you can get stuck if your not familiar with the shallow waters. Ticks do tend to be a big problem in the park so take adequate precautions. We didn’t check out the campground bathrooms, but recent research shows they have done some work to update them. Surrounding activities easily reached by car include: downtown St. Augustine, Fort Matanzas and the Atlantic shoreline.
Here is a video of our return trip in 2022 when we finally got a chance to camp here for a few days.
Faver-Dykes State Park 1000 Faver-Dykes Rd. St. Augustine, FL 32086 Website
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