The Sumter Oaks RV Park in Bushnell FL is an unusual park. It’s part of the Escapees family and has a rate system that’s a bit different from other parks we’ve been to, as well as unusual site layout. The property was once a mobile home park, and many of the sites retain features of that former use, including a concrete patio next to the area where you’ll park your rig.
Unlike most parks we’ve stayed in, you don’t park your RV on the concrete at Sumter Oaks; instead you park on the gravel and use the concrete area as a patio. That’s a fine thing except they don’t tell everyone about that during check-in, and we had a short period of confusion after we pulled up to the site. We parked on the concrete, but fortunately before we hooked everything up, a camp employee came by to tell us the back story on the camp and that we should have parked on the gravel. Due to the rain, the heat, and our schedule, we were never able to enjoy the patio, but it was kind of nice to have one when working outside on our coach (Fay).
Speaking of heat, if you’re in the area in early June you can expect wet and hot. Make sure your AC is ready for the load, because you’ll be using it most of the day, every day.
On the other hand, the rain is good for the plants, and there’s a load of plant life around the camp, flowers of all kinds, trees, moss, resurrection ferns and mushrooms. We didn’t actually learn what the ferns were called until late in our stay when the rain stopped for several days and the heat began to dry them out. We thought they were dying, but it turned out they were just going to sleep for a bit. A bonus on our site was the ground-hugging weed we grew up playing with called touch-me-nots, which fold their fern-like leaves when you tickle them.
Some of the critters around the camp are small black lizards, which might adopt your site number block and hide if you get too close but otherwise will sit still and watch everything you do. Green tree frogs and Mediterranean geckos hang out around the office porch lights at night to feast on smaller insects. The occasional fearless moth will join them from time to time, apparently unworried that they might become dinner. Before you leave, flush underneath your AC units to make sure you don’t have any froggy hitchhikers. We picked at least one here that joined the one we picked up near Destin and it took a few months for us to get rid of them all. Also beware of the Florida roaches; we sprayed around the coach when we landed but still ended up finding two BIG roaches within a week after leaving camp. Fortunately it would seem they didn’t have time to lay any eggs as we haven’t seen any since.
We were told that it’s wise to keep a sharp eye out when you’re near the swamp, as people have seen snakes and gators. While we kept our eyes peeled, we had no luck seeing either critter and would have liked to find some, from a distance. We did see plenty of egrets and other blindingly white birds, as well as families of sandhill cranes. The latter can be found wandering all over the camp in groups of three at a time, digging at the ground with their beaks, looking for food. If you’re a late sleeper, prepare to be woken up by the most gawdawful racket you’ve ever heard when two groups of cranes come together and the males declare their dominance over all they survey.
Mushrooms. As you walk around, if you pay close attention to the grass, stumps and trees, you’ll see several species of shroom about the place. We had a good time cataloging them and getting IDs online but didn’t eat any of the ones we found. The time for that was coming. 🙂
There’s a common room next to the office where residents regularly meet for coffee and ice cream socials, and where you’ll find sign-up sheets for the occasional group lunch. We only made it out to one lunch gathering, held at a nearby sushi restaurant, but we had a good time talking with the other campers and eating some good sushi.
At camp there’s also an activity building that, while open, was generally empty since this was early June and most residents head North out of Florida around that time. Here you’ll find games, a stage, a kitchen, craft room and a video room containing DVDs that you can watch there or borrow.
There’s a nice fenced-in dog park with a bench and water for the pups. Given that most of the camp was empty during our stay, Chip seldom had company while we were there.
What’s there to do outside of the park? Not a lot in nearby Bushnell. An exception is the Dade Battlefield Historic Park at the south end of town, which has an excellent set of exhibits, helpful rangers, events throughout the year and easy walks on the grounds. There are several nearby wildlife areas to explore, but during the summer you’re more likely to want to head north.
One thing you’re likely to have trouble with at the camp is cell access if you have AT&T. Our phone and online access via Google Fi (T-Mobile, Sprint & US Cellular) was ok, but we spent a maddening several days trying to stay online via our subscription through OTR Mobile. I finally solved the problem when I hacked the LTE channels used by our router. If you don’t have this option, you may need to see if you can get a spot on the western edge of the park, where we’ve heard general cell reception is more reliable.
If you’ve got a site near the road, keep a white noise generator (or your AC units) going at night. There are trucks of all sizes going by at all times of the day and night, and many of them have extremely loud engines. It would have been nice if some previous owner had planted a line of trees or bushes along the road to dampen the noise.
The camp is going to be of most interest to Escapees members and is absolutely full during cooler seasons, but if you find yourself in the area during the off season and want to spend time with friendly people and interesting critters, give Sumter Oaks a try.