Kevin Cassidy, Neil Fellowes, Tommy Fellowes and Conal Cassidy around the campfire circle at Fort De Soto Park. Islander Photo: Courtesy Lance Bieker
Tommy Fellowes, Billy Jackson, Audrey and Lauren Bieker, Jayson Berzowski, Robbie Fellowes, Ryan Fellowes, Sam Bieker, Shelby Morrow, Sydney Morrow, Emma Horne, Gillian Cassidy, Kyle Guet, Liam Allen and Conal Cassidy in the Ft. De Soto brig. Islander Photo: Courtesy Lance Bieker
A sunrise over the Sunshine Skyway Bridge starts the day at the youth campground at Fort De Soto Park in Pinellas County. Islander Photo: Courtesy of Lance Bieker
Change in weather signals start of camping season
The cooler weather that signals the beginning of our winter also kicks off camping season. This writer and several dads typically take our kids camping around Thanksgiving and Christmas — and the area boasts several nice parks fantastic for family camping.
If you have never been camping, don’t worry, these parks are close enough to civilization that you can abandon the plan if necessary. But for around $200, you can be geared up and ready to camp. Just remember — don’t skimp on the air mattress and don’t go crazy buying a multiroom tent.
A short drive across the Sunshine Skyway Bridge is Fort De Soto Park, which offers a fantastic camping experience for all experience levels, including a youth campground. The campground provides lighted rest rooms, campfire circles, cold-water showers and it is free.
The natural beauty is breathtaking. The area is a great spot for fishing, kayaking and biking among the 1,136 acres that make up the park. Fort De Soto beach also comes in near the top in the America’s Top Beach awards from Trip Advisor.
While camping at De Soto, visit the historic fort that guards the entrance to Tampa Bay and was built as a defense during the Spanish American War.
This writer and three friends recently spent two nights at the park with our children and some of their friends. The 15 kids in attendance ate us out of tent and home, but mostly played tag in the woods, although we did also manage to wet some fishing lines. Tommy Fellowes was the only one to land a fish when he hooked up a small sheepshead. The weather was perfect and everyone had a fantastic time.
Fort De Soto Park is in Pinellas County at 3500 Pinellas Bayway S., Tierra Verde.
Another park close by that is great for camping is the Little Manatee River State Park in Wimauma. This park is fantastic for kayaking, canoeing and fresh-water fishing. Wildlife enthusiasts can enjoy a 6.5-mile trail through the wilderness area and the park offers a 12-mile equestrian trail, as well as four equestrian campsites. The park also offers a youth/group campground that can accommodate up to 20 people. The only downsides with the group site are no running water and no bathrooms.
Little Manatee River State Park is at 215 Lightfoot Road, Wimauma.
Myakka River State Park is located within an hour of the island provides a great camping experience. The area is completely shaded and campgrounds offer include running water, picnic tables, grills and a fire circle. There is no electricity provided to sites, but there are bathrooms with hot-water showers.
The park provides a multitude of activities including biking, hiking and a canopy walkway that puts one 25 feet above the ground and extends for 100 feet. Visitors can also climb to the top of the observation tower, which soars 74 feet in the air for a spectacular view of the treetops and wetlands. The park also offers airboat rides and tours, canoeing, fishing, equestrian trails and cabin rentals.
Myakka State Park is nine miles east of I-75 at 13208 State Road 72, Sarasota.
Center sports on break, adults play golf, horseshoes
While team sports at the Anna Maria Island Community Center are in the process of registering and trying out for new leagues, there’s action on the links at the Key Royale Club in Holmes Beach.
Golf action at KRC is heating up as winter brings cold weather to the north and members returning from summer in northern states.
The women and men joined up for a nine-hole, two-best-balls-of-foursome match Nov. 30. The team of Jerry and Joyce Brown and Nell Bergstrom rode two chip-ins by Bergstrom to a team score of 13-under-par 49 and a runaway victory.
The men played an 18-hole, low-net-of-foursome match Nov. 28. First-place team Pieter Thomassen, Neil Hammer, Jim McVicar and Dave Kruger combined to card a 9-over-par 265, four shots over Joe Dickinson, Gerry Taylor, Art Hibbs and Andrew Barber.
The women took the course Nov. 27 for a nine-hole, low-net-in-flight match.
Helen Pollock fired a 4-under 28 to take first in Flight A, while Marilyn Thorton and Marcia Helgeson tied for second with matching even-par scorecards.
There was a battle for the top spot in Flight B as Joyce Brown, Terry Westby, Heather Pritchard and Renee Allan each carded 2-under-par 30s. Joyce Lathrop was a shot back in second place, while Christina Mason finished third with an even-par 32.
Kathy Porter rode a chip in on hole 7 to win Flight C going away with a 5-under-par 27, four shots ahead of second-place finisher Barb Lindwall.
Sally York had the round of the day with an 8-under-par 24 to grab first place in Flight D. Marty Clark’s 4-under par-28 gave her second place, while Trish Kruger took third with a 1-under-par 31.
The men played a nine-hole, modified Stableford — quota points — game Nov. 26. Art McMillan and Tom Nelson tied for first place with matching plus-four scores in the individual competition. Nelson and McMillan teamed up with Lex Halakan and Barry Anderson to also take the team event with a combined plus-10 score.
Two teams advanced to the knockout round at the Anna Maria City Hall horseshoe pits Dec. 1. Gene Bobeldyk and John Crawford blitzed the team of Tom Skoloda and Bob Heiger 22-0 to earn the day’s bragging rights.
Two teams also advanced to the knockout round during Nov. 28 horseshoe action. The team of Norm Good and George McKay defeated Paul Sheatler and Hank Huyghe 22-15 to earn the day’s championship.
Free play gets under way at 9 a.m. every Wednesday and Saturday at the Anna Maria City Hall pits. Warmups begin at 8:45 a.m. followed by random team selection.
There is no charge to play and everyone is welcome.