I swear that I didn’t plan this, even though I have a truly impressive ability to overthink just about anything. It turns out that the camping location I was able to secure for our very first period of full-time living in the Airstream at Phipps County Park — in the more rural area of Martin County near the St. Lucie locks (map) — is located less than 2 miles from the house I grew up in. Many of my earliest memories come from this home and this neighborhood, since we moved to the area when I was four years old. As a result, during our morning walks and runs I am regularly encountering streets and landmarks that evoke childhood memories. Some of these encounters emphasize just how long it has been since I lived in this area. Seeing full-grown oak trees in spots where I helped my parents plant pencil-thin saplings as a kid definitely emphasizes just how much time has passed. At the same time, plenty of other things are strikingly familiar. Experiencing this flood of memories during a period of intense transition in our lives has been interesting.
After we left this area and moved closer to town, I rarely came back to this part of the county. When I left Martin County for college and then law school, I didn’t even expect to return to Florida. Despite those expectations, I spent my entire career in South Florida. Now after leaving my career behind for an extended period of full-time travel, I find myself back exactly where I started.
It makes me think that my life at the moment resembles a Moebius strip — despite walking along a winding path life has returned me inevitably to the point of beginning. And our particular campground at Phipps County Park further induces thoughts about change and renewal because one of its best features is a stormwater management area that has been turned into a lovely natural habitat, accessible by numerous boardwalks and berms. Taking polluted runoff and using it as the basis for the creation of an entirely new wildlife habitat is a lovely story of renewal and reinvention. While the area is not as extensive as the Wakodahatchee Wetlands in southern Palm Beach County, it is home to an impressive array of alligators, turtles, and birds, and we spent many peaceful hours watching the wildlife.
Of course, most of our time has been spent on tasks relating to storage, organization, trip preparations, and catching up with family and friends. But in addition to engaging with local wildlife, we also had time for several hikes. The best was a 5-mile sojourn on a spur of the Florida National Scenic Trail that runs along the South Fork of the St. Lucie River through Halpatiokee Regional Park. While I have no doubt that we will be blown away by many different landscapes in our upcoming travels, I hope to maintain my love and appreciation for the understated beauty of Florida’s languid rivers, palm-dominated subtropical forests, and open grasslands.
So I unwittingly found a great place to start our journey, one which takes me back to my own roots and firmly ensconces my sense of home and history.
The White Rabbit put on his spectacles. “Where shall I begin, please your Majesty?” he asked.
“Begin at the beginning,” the King said very gravely, “and go on till you come to the end: then stop.”
Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland
If nothing else, our time at Phipps County Park has put us in the right frame of mind to embrace our new adventures as an extension and reinvention of our old lives. We look forward to years of new experiences that are informed by the paths we have already walked. We can only hope that our upcoming adventures will afford us an opportunity to enjoy those new experiences with the benefit of ever-greater knowledge and compassion, grounded in our past.