Wednesday, March 28, 2018
Camping rules vary by campground. Even here in the Ocala National Forest, the campgrounds are not run all the same. They aren't even run by the same private vendor. Personally, I think they should all be run by rangers instead of contractors, but I'm not in charge.
A lot of the “rules” are the same, on paper anyway. In reality, there's a huge difference on how they are enforced. For example, no campground in the Ocala allows dogs in the swimming areas. One campground we stayed at never enforced that rule, so there were always dogs at the beach. That's just one example.
Another good one is the rules concerning how long you can stay at a particular campground. The official rules may differ between campgrounds, but the unwritten rules differ even more. Some places will basically let you camp for as long as you want -unless someone complains. These rules and the enforcement of them are always in flux.
There are people who basically live in campgrounds. Campground rules and their enforcement are major issues in their lives. It's not like they can just pack up and go home. Home is where they park it. The vast majority of these people are on limited income. They also belong to one of the programs where they can camp in Federal campgrounds for half price.
In past years we barely noticed the long term campers. Sure, we knew they were there, but we usually spent only a few days a campground before moving on. This year we've been staying at campgrounds longer. That cuts down on a lot of travel time and burned fuel. We are also watching the budget more this year. With that in mind we are taking advantage of my lovely wife's Access Pass that gives us Federal camping discounts. Because of that, we've had more opportunity to get to know the long term campers.
Some of these campers are super invested in the places they are staying. They get involved with the campground management. They suck up every bit of news and rumors. Close attention is paid to management and rule changes. It causes a fair amount of stress in their lives. Sometimes there are serious personal conflicts. Campers have gotten campground managers fired. Campers have also been thrown out of campgrounds. Such drama!
Personally, I know I'm going to be moving on. While camping, I'm enjoying the natural wonders the different places have to offer. If a campground starts to have a weird vibe, we fire up the van and move on down the road. There is also some comfort in having an actual home to go back to. We don't even know for sure what we'll be doing next winter. Maybe we'll be living on a boat and won't even spend a single night at any of these campgrounds.