Camp in the Real Florida
Junior Lake near Interlachen, Florida
A quarter of a century ago, I found the perfect lake in North Florida. I'd been looking in a 50 mile radius around Gainesville for five years for an unspoiled site which is the Real Old Florida. Always on the way to Crescent Beach, driving through Melrose or Interlachen, I enjoyed seeing the small and large lakes. Most property for sale included a 75-100 foot patch of land on the water, with the property stretching back in a long rectangle to the road. Over the years, I've watched many of these lakes dry up, turning into meadows.
The day I found Junior Lake and the two acres on a peninsula between two lakes, I knew it was mine. I bought it that day. Instead of the usual 75' water access, the owner designed the plots pie-shaped, but the point of the pie is on the road, not on the lake. My waterfront footage is 360 feet.
The land is a peninsula surrounded by three deep, sandy bottomed lakes: one a perfect circle, one a mile long elipse, and one another circle. Spits of land divide the lakes, so that two peninsulas divide the large and smaller lakes. I own one of those peninsulas.
You drive down a one lane dirt road past the house of the former owner of the entire land mass. He retains many acres filled with oaks and fruit trees. Curve around a sandy banked road to pass what was the owner's brother's house, facing the third lake in the triad. The road ends at the owner's son's property, which is between two lakes.
The owner allowed me to buy the most desirable of three lots for sale, one acre on his lake, and one acre on his son's lake, the largest of the three. I've never cut a tree down, but over the 25+ years two tornadoes and some hungry beetle have killed a few of the beautiful moss-draped oaks. Cypress trees line the bank, planted by the owner years before my purchase. Tall, straight, majestic pines rise above the forest, where Osprey, Fish Hawks, and an Eagle sight their prey. The lake is full of fish and turtles. I never see them, but I've found dead raccoons along the water's edge.
For years my answering machine announced, "Leave a messge; I'm either at the lake or wanna be." My family and friends enjoyed the lake until...
I found the river house. I've been around the Ichetucknee and Santa Fe Rivers now for 16 years, allowing the lake property to languish back into jungle.
Revisiting the property this year, I began the daunting task of pulling vines off of the dead trees, cutting away blackberry bushes, working all day until my sore hands could do no more. We burned the vines in gigantic fires day after day. Jungle in Florida is mostly vines.
Busy with other endeavors, I left the lake again for a few months. Returning, the sunlight I created by clearing away vines allowed them to rejuvenate with vengence. The property returned to jungle.
Finally my neighbor came to my rescue with his bush hog, and within hours his heavy equipment had cleared a lovely spot for camping.
Promptly I set up camp, unchained my row boat, and began enjoying that beautiful property and lakes again.
Now I am willing to invite others to use my lovely two acre peninsula between two lakes. You may be eligible for this treat if you meet the criteria I must set to protect my property and my relationship with my neighbors.