Locations Off the Beaten Path

It was 5:15 p.m. on a humid afternoon. My wife, daughter, and I emerged from traveling miles of sun-drenched north Florida roads. We finally reached town. We were weary, but determined as we went on a search for our reserved lodging.

Asking our waitress for the location of our resort, she replied in a slow drawl, “It’s…oh, I don’t know how many miles. It’s just down the road on the right.”  The waitress’ customers looked on as if this afternoon would last forever. They had no particular place to go as they looked at me as if I had lost my mind. They were probably correct in their assumption. I was on a mission to find our room for the night. We were definitely worlds apart.

“I’m on the right path,” I announced to my wife and daughter as they shot me skeptical looks. I hurried back to the car, slammed the door shut, put the pedal to the floor mat (or close to it) and got back on Highway 51 north. We arrived at our destination within minutes.

“We got here in time for check-in!” I exclaimed, while parking the car at the welcome center. I ran to the front door, eager to meet the resort’s staff. Every door was locked and most lights were off. The sign informed me that the office closed a half-hour ago.

“It’s only 5:30! How could this happen?” I asked no one in particular. I glanced next to the door where there was a note with my name on it. It instructed us to go to our cottage and phone the staff if we had questions. I called the number on the paper and got the property manager. “Just go on to the cottage. Everything you need is in there,” he answered in his folksy tone.

We arrived at our two-story, front-screened porch, one-bedroom cottage. As we unpacked, we were reminded that we weren’t in the big city anymore. We were in Steinhatchee (pronounced Steen-hatch-ee), Florida at a resort for those seeking an outdoor-type vacation with all of the comforts of home but within walking distance to the Steinhatchee River where guests can kayak, canoe, swim and fish.

After unpacking, we relaxed on the cottage’s front porch just talking. We could have zoned out to cable TV, watched a movie or even listened to CDs a few feet away in the cottage’s entertainment center. Instead we connected. We felt like we were at camp. The crickets were singing, the stars were shining and the outside fans were whirring. It doesn’t get any better than this if you’re seeking serenity. On a typical day, many of us are bombarded with moving images in our modern media world. Every now and then, we need to detoxify at places like this.

Steinhatchee is a boating-fishing-hunting hamlet filled with beer, deer and pickup trucks. The locals welcome visitors to this part of the world with open arms. If you would like a getaway that doesn’t involve those same old “pristine sandy white beaches,” go to where the sun is warm, the beer is cold and the fish are biting.

–Robert Nebel

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