Torreya State Park – Weeping Ridge Campground – Bristol, Florida February 7 – 14, 2024

We left Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park around 11:30 am on Wednesday, February 7, 2024 and drove a little more than 200 miles northwest to Torreya State Park just outside of Bristol, Florida for a 7-night stay in the Weeping Ridge Campground.

Torreya State Park was a project that was developed by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930’s. The CCC was a New Deal program established during the depression to hire unemployed people to work on environmental projects around the United States of America. Comprised of 13,735 acres, Torreya State Park is known for camping, hiking on its numerous trails and bird-watching. More than 100 species of birds have been cataloged in the park, making it very popular for avian aficionados. We personally enjoyed the sweet sounds of mockingbirds in the trees around our campsite and the beauty of cardinals on our hikes.

The park is located along the Apalachicola River and is named for an extremely rare species of Torreya tree that inhabits the bluffs along that river. The tree was discovered there around 1835 by Hardy Bryan Croom, a botanist. He named it in honor of Dr. John Torrey, a well-known 19th century scientist. The Torreya is only found in parts of California, Japan, China and…here. In 2018 Hurricane Michael did a lot of damage and today only 200 of the trees survive in the area.

The Weeping Ridge Campground (named for a nearby “waterfall” found on one of the hiking trails) is an oval-shaped campground with sites along the outer edges of the oval and an empty grassy area in the center inhabited only by the office and host site at one end. We were in site 26 and the site was level on grass (dead grass, but still grass). The sites were all cramped and almost on top of each other. Fortunately, we had enough room on ours to erect Cindy’s screen room. Most of the neighbors were quiet (I’m looking at you, people across the oval with two noisy basset hounds) and the signals for T-Mobile and Verizon were strong while the AT&T one was just OK.

Thursday morning we walked Bella down to the campground entrance road and then back around the site loop. We checked out the bathrooms, which were clean. But the showers were almost communal in that your clothes and towel have to be left out in the open area while you shower in a stall. Not for us and we need to use ours in Nomad anyway for dumping purposes. Afterward, as we sat outside, we were serenaded by a mockingbird in the leafy trees next to our site and then by a woodpecker who blasted out percussive beats in a tree behind our site. That night we watched “The Marvels” on Disney+ and really enjoyed it.

Friday morning we hiked the “Blue Trail” near our campsite for two miles to where it dead-ended at the small “waterfall” that gives the campground its name. The trail was pretty rough, looking like it has not been maintained much since Hurricane Michael came through more than five years ago. I will say they have taken great pains to make sure the “Blue trail” is marked by spray painting blue paint on standing tree trunks, fallen tree trunks across the trail and even above-ground roots in the middle of the trail. That last one was a first for us. Still, it was a fun and tiring hike.

The Gregory House Tour

The park’s website stated that the tours of The Gregory House which sits on Torreya State Park property had been suspended, but we drove down there Saturday morning anyway to at least see the outside. We’re glad we did as the website has not been updated (despite the rangers’ requests) and they were indeed conducting tours.

The Gregory House is a beautiful Southern mansion that was built in 1849 by Jason Gregory, a prominent Calhoun County farmer. The house originally was erected on the opposite side of the Apalachicola River, about a mile upstream. When it was first built, it was atop 5-foot high brick pillars in order to protect the home from the almost annual floods of the river.

Like most Southern, slave-owning farmers, Gregory’s plantation was a prosperous one until the beginning of the Civil War and the subsequent abolition of slavery. When he could not keep the farm going on a profitable basis without slave labor, Gregory abandoned the home and it fell into disrepair. Years later, one of his daughters moved back for a time and restored what she could of the home. But, she too left. By the time Torreya State Park was created in the 1930’s, the home had become dilapidated. Eventually the Neal Lumber company took ownership but then donated it to the State Park.

In 1935, the Civilian Conservation Corps took the home apart, board by board, and moved it across and down the river to its present location on the river bluff. In the years since, The Gregory House has been restored and cared for as a historic location. You can see many photos of it in the accompanying album.

After the tour we came back to the campsite and took down Cindy’s screen room because the winds were picking up and storms were forecasted to come through that night and into Sunday. At dinner, while scrolling through Netflix, we stumbled upon “All The Light We Cannot See” and watched all 4 episodes of the limited series. It is based on a book that I meant to read a few years back, but never did. I’ve since learned that the ending of the miniseries was completely different than the novel, but we were entranced by the entire story as told in the simple four episodes.

It never did rain that night.

But boy did it rain Sunday…and Monday with added thunderstorms. The dead grass was soaking up the rain so fast it barely had time to puddle. We started watching Manifest on Netflix and it sucked us in, lol! I’m pessimistic that this is a storyline that can be successfully sustained for the four seasons it lasted. I’m afraid it will be another “Lost” and that ended horribly. But I guess we’ll see if we watch it all the way through.

Tuesday morning was dry and sunny so we took another hike; this one to see a historical stone bridge. But the trail was SO horribly bad with ruts that were two feet deep and extremely uneven traction that we could not take Bella all the way to the end and had to turn back. When we got back to Nomad Cindy baked fresh bread AND made a key lime pie for us. And, since we’re traveling on Wednesday (Valentine’s Day) I gave her, at her request, her Valentine’s Day gift. It was a set of Tarot cards she wanted and this gave her time to explore them that afternoon and evening.

On Wednesday we weren’t planning on leaving until the checkout deadline of 1 pm since we only have to drive less than an hour to our next stop and we’ll be gaining an hour as we cross time zones. At 11:15 am we got a call from our next campground telling us that they were cancelling our stay due to possible flooding in the campground. Now we had to scramble to find another place to stay in the same area because we were going to be meeting up with Cindy’s daughter and our middle granddaughter for a tour of Florida Caverns. Cindy found an RV park that was not far from our original place, but it was about $100 more than we would have paid at the State Park we were originally booked at. Still, it’s better than getting flooded out of a site.

Join us next time for a week in Marianna, Florida and a tour (maybe, if they’re not flooded) of the Florida Caverns.

Thanks for following The Wandering Wetheringtons.

3 thoughts on “Torreya State Park – Weeping Ridge Campground – Bristol, Florida February 7 – 14, 2024”

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