Sweetwater Camping Trip 2014

I’ve been so slack on posting this week, but I swear it’s because I’ve been ridiculously busy.  Good things in the works, folks! Big things! Fun things!

But there was also lots of fun this weekend.  This will be a picture heavy post.  I feel like the pictures will speak for themselves for the most part.

This past weekend was my family’s annual camping trip at Sweetwater.  Actually, my post on our Sweetwater camping trip was one of my very first posts last year!  Anyway, we camp at “Sweetwater,” which is my parents’ property near Torreya State Park.  It is unbelievably beautiful there, and I highly recommend you go camp or hike at the Park.  There is no other Florida camping trip you could take where you can get these views and/or elevation changes.  You really don’t feel like your in the Sunshine State!

The day started with me making some macaroni salad to bring along for the ride.  I’ll post that recipe separately, for the Recipe Box Page’s sake!

Once we arrived at Sweetwater, we set off on a booze cruise hike.

Sorta Swampy - Sweetwater 2014 | Oysters & Pearls

Sweetwater Ravine  | Oysters & Pearls

Looking back up the side of the ravine:

Looking Back up the Side of the Ravine - Sweetwater  | Oysters & Pearls

This area of the State is special for a lot of reasons, but one reason is the incredible diversity of flora and fauna here.  It’s why The Nature Conservancy has worked so hard to preserve the area and restore the longleaf pine ecosystem.  Of the many, many, many endangered, threatened, unique, and rare plant and animal species found in the Apalachicola River Basin and the area surrounding Torreya State Park, here are a couple our loud and noisy tour group ran across:


Trillium - Sweetwater 2014  | Oysters & Pearls

Florida Yew:

Florida Yew Tree - Sweetwater 2014 | Oysters & Pearls

Florida Torreya:

Endangered Torreya Tree - Sweetwater 2014 | Oysters & Pearls

Note on the Torreya: The Torreya tree has quite a few common names, including “Stinking Cedar,” due to the distinctive smell of the wood and sap, as well as “Gopherwood.”  This, along with a couple of other indicia, led Bristol resident E. E. Callaway to believe that he had found the Garden of Eden in Bristol, Florida.  Rather than rehash it, I will copy and paste verbatim an exempt from ExploreSouthernHistory.com (who shared it from Two Egg, Florida: A Collection of Ghost Stories, Legends and Unusual Facts by Dale Cox).

The Garden of Eden is one of the best known parts of the Book of Genesis. After He created the heavens and the earth, the plants and the animals, God created man. The first man was named Adam and, as a place for him to live, God created a magnificent garden:

Now the Lord God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed. And the Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground – trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
Genesis, Chapter 2, verses 8-9.

The Garden of Eden was watered by a river that flowed from four headwaters. One of these came from a land where there was gold, the second wound through the land of “Cush,” the third was the Tigris and the fourth was the Euphrates. Because God did not think it was good for Adam to be lonely, He created a woman named Eve to live in the garden as well. Adam was warned, however, that he was not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If he did, he would die.

What happened next is well known. The serpent tempted Eve to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and she shared the fruit with Adam. God then drove them both from the Garden of Eden and placed cherubim (Angelic beings) before the entrance to the garden and a flaming sword that flashed back and forth to guard the tree of life. These protected the garden until the flood of Noah, when the Garden of Eden was washed away.It has long been assumed that the Garden of Eden was somewhere in modern day Iraq. The Tigris and Euphrates Rivers still flow there and the region has long been called the “Cradle of Civilization.” A more controversial theory, however, holds that the garden was nowhere near the Middle East. This theory, first advanced by Bristol resident E.E. Callaway, places the Garden of Eden on Florida’s Apalachicola River.

For Callaway, this theory was not just a flight of fancy. The Apalachicola is fed by four primary tributaries or “heads,” exactly like the river described in the Book of Genesis. In addition, some of the rarest plants in the world grow along the bluffs and steephead ravines on the east side of the river between Bristol and Chattahoochee. Among these are both the Florida torreya and the Florida yew. The torreya was officially discovered by botanist Hardy Bryan Croom during the 1820s and named for Dr. John Torrey, a famed naturalist of the time.

In sum, basically you should go visit Torreya State Park and The Nature Conservancy’s Apalachicola Bluffs and Ravines Preserve and check it out for yourself!

Red Buckeye (blooming):

Buckeye Blooming - Sweetwater 2014 | Oysters & Pearls

Adult Nature Walk - Sweetwater 2014 | Oysters & Pearls

Log Crossing - Sweetwater 2014 | Oysters & Pearls

Sisters on a Log - Sweetwater 2014 | Oysters & Pearls

Girls on a Log - Sweetwater 2014 | Oysters & Pearls

The hiking is far more intense than your average Florida hike.  Case in point: at times, it’s almost completely vertical.

Nearly Vertical Incline - Sweetwater 2014 | Oysters & Pearls

Repping Jones Country Meats at Sweetwater | Oysters & Pearls

I would venture to bet that you wouldn’t think the picture below was taken in Florida.

Apalachicola River Basin - Sweetwater 2014 | Oysters & Pearls

It’s pretty much stunning, and made for a great photo opp. stop.

Anna Jo & Marc - Sweetwater 2014 | Oysters & Pearls

Yup, that’s my sister and Marc from Southern Restoration Furniture.  Remember him?  Small world, huh?

Natalie and Wheat - Sweetwater 2014 | Oysters & Pearls

When we got back, the good Doctor had the smoker going full steam ahead.

Smoker - Sweetwater 2014   | Oysters & Pearls

Smoker - Sweetwater 2014 | Oysters & Pearls

We snacked on some venison summer sausage and cheese.

Venison Summer Sausage and Cheese | Oysters & Pearls

And we swung.  We upgraded our swinging capabilities by bringing Marc into the fold.  He had a fancy rock-climbing harness that we rigged up.  Fun was had by all who swung.

Marc about to Swing - Sweetwater 2014 | Oysters & Pearls

Marc Swinging- Sweetwater 2014 | Oysters & Pearls

Laughing it Off - Sweetwater 2014 | Oysters & Pearls

Bump in the Swinging - Sweetwater 2014 | Oysters & Pearls

Anna Jo Swinging - Sweetwater 2014 | Oysters & Pearls

Natalie Swinging - Sweetwater 2014 | Oysters & Pearls

Swinging Out Over the Ravine - Sweetwater 2014 | Oysters & Pearls

Lizzie Swinging  - Sweetwater 2014 | Oysters & Pearls

Lizzie Swinging - Sweetwater 2014 | Oysters & Pearls

It finally got dark, and we finally ate and hung out around the fire all night.

Grub - Sweetwater 2014 | Oysters & Pearls

Sides, including macaroni salad in the center closest to the camera.  Recipe forthcoming.

Sides - Sweetwater 2014 | Oysters & Pearls

Smoked Meats - Sweetwater 2014 | Oysters & Pearls

It may be hard to tell in these blurry night-time fire-lit photos, but everything was thebomb.com.

Standing Beside the Fire - Sweetwater 2014 | Oysters & Pearls

Standing Around the Fire - Sweetwater 2014 | Oysters & Pearls

Fireside - Sweetwater 2014 | Oysters & Pearls

The end.

Until Next Time

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7 thoughts on “Sweetwater Camping Trip 2014

  1. Dianne

    There is no place like Rock Bluff and Sweetwater!!!!!! It is great to call it home too!!!!!
    Looks like you all had a fun filled time. Also appears the good doc can cook!!! Looks delicious.
    Enjoyed the pics!

  2. Helen

    We live about 20 miles from Torreya. Used to love to take our kids and walk the woods years ago when not many people knew it even existed. Never saw much likeness with what I thought the Garden of Eden would have looked like though!! lol! We even had deer come right up to us and want a snack! Loved seeing your trip and I know it was so fun! thanks for sharing!

    1. oystersandpearls Post author

      It is such a special place, even if it isn’t really the Garden of Eden! It does make for an excellent cocktail conversation starter, though. :) Thank you for stopping by to share your memories of it!

  3. Patsy Saint

    I still call it home…..lived there for a lot of years after marrying a Rock Bluff “boy”. We walked all over those woods. Still have property adjoining the park and enjoy visiting it. Family still lives in area. I also have a copy of E. E. Callaway’s “In The Beginning” I got when visiting him at his home in Bristol. There is a place called Steep Head in that area that is so deep, my husband use to tell me it had sea shells in it. As you stated, this is a very unusually area.

  4. Jim McClellan

    That’s some beautiful country and your pictures really brought it to life. (Especially the meat off the smoker!) Also, I think you were wise to keep a doctor close by while you were playing on that swing!


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