Sand Pine, Silver Water, and Service: An Alternative Spring Break Adventure, Florida
- Discover new leadership skills in outdoor workshops
- Work to protect a unique ecosystem, the largest of its kind in the world
- Play in clear rivers and silver springs
- Build friendships with other college students for a spring break adventure
- All meals featuring hearty, healthy camp food
- Relaxed camping in a lakefront group campsite with our own bathhouse
- Canoe rentals
|Dates||Mar 10–14, 2014|
This trip has already run. Here are a few others you may enjoy:
- Critical Bird Habitat Restoration on Mauna Kea, Big Island, Hawaii (Mar 23–29, 2014)
- Mammoth Cave National Park Spring Service, Kentucky (Mar 30–Apr 5, 2014)
- Nantahala Toil and Trek, North Carolina (Mar 30–Apr 5, 2014)
To search our full lineup by destination, date, activity, or price, please visit our Advanced Search page. Or give us a call at 415-977-5522 to find the trip that's right for you.
A limited amount of financial aid is available to qualified students. Please contact the trip leader for details.
Please note that the price of this trip has changed from what was originally published. If you have questions, please contact us.
College students (over 18 years of age) looking for an alternative to traditional spring breaks will find this service trip in Florida’s Ocala National Forest a great pick. The trip will offer meaningful work projects that will protect a one-of-a-kind ecosystem, fun and challenging workshops that will improve your leadership skills, and the opportunity to meet like-minded students from other schools.
One of central Florida's last remaining traces of forested land, “the Ocala” comprises 383,220 acres in north-central Florida, north of Orlando. The Ocala's sand pine scrub ecosystem is the world's largest continuous forest of this type. Native to Ocala, the sand pine is the only tree capable of growing to a usable timber size in this forest's dry, sandy soil. The variety of topography and vegetation found in the Ocala National Forest includes salt springs, lakes and rivers, palmetto bushes, sand oaks, subtropical vegetation, slash pine, hardwood hammocks, and cypress. Trails range from interpretive to canoe, hiking to bicycling -- including the Florida National Scenic Trail, which runs north-to-south through the Ocala.
The location and length of the trip make it an ideal choice for your spring break. Our campsite is just 80 miles from Orlando and 65 miles from Daytona Beach. The trip begins with an orientation meeting at 5:00 p.m. on Monday and ends after breakfast on Friday. This schedule gives you the option of spending the first and last weekend of your break playing at Disney World or basking on the sand at Daytona Beach or some other awesome Florida destination (optional weekend activities before or after this trip are not included).
The Ocala’s ecosystem faces unique threats from development and overuse as more people move to and visit the warm climate of Florida's central area. Despite the fact that the Ocala receives more visitors than any other Florida forest, its size and undeveloped atmosphere make it seem remote and undisturbed. The impact from all these visitors would quickly overwhelm the forest without vigilant protection and continual maintenance. Unfortunately, the Forest Service is struggling with budget cuts and is challenged to do more work with fewer resources. The work that we do will allow Forest Service staff more time for critically important ecosystem management and program development.
Throughout the week, you will enjoy being challenged by entertaining and eye-opening workshops that will teach you the habits of highly effective leaders, improve your team building and communication skills, and forge bonds with the other students. Workshop activities may include journaling, blogging, and v-logging. You might figure out how to paddle a canoe through an obstacle course without talking to your canoe mate, or you might have to design a process to clear a spring that has become clogged by an invasive water weed. Whatever the challenge, by the end of the week you will be a better leader and you will have made new friends through your shared accomplishments.
Our specific service projects are not yet identified, but the trip leaders will be communicating often with our Forest Service partners and will update you about the projects as the trip nears. Nevertheless, it’s best to come with an open mind and flexible attitude because projects may change at the last minute, based on Forest Service needs. Service projects in previous years have included: restoring wildlife habitat, monitoring rare plants, removing alien plants, surveying ponds, blocking unauthorized off-road vehicle trails, and planting trees.
Day 1: Arrival day. Your spring break begins with your arrival in camp. Leaders will be on site at 3:00 p.m. Please plan your travel so that you arrive in camp with enough time to get set up and organized before our first activity, an orientation meeting at 5:00 p.m. Our first meal will be dinner at 6:00 p.m. After dinner, we’ll build a campfire and spend time getting to know each other better.
Days 2-4: Work, play, and learn days. We’ll work on service projects that have been identified by our Forest Service partners. Please understand that Ocala NF is a very big place and it may take as long as 45-60 minutes to drive to our work site. We’ll carpool to the work site, and we’ll pack a lunch to take with us. At any time, you might be surprised by an impromptu leadership lesson or a fun team building activity. We won’t return to our campsite until the end of the day.
Day 5: Departure day. The trip ends after breakfast on Friday morning. We’ll break camp, say good-bye to new friends, take away new leadership skills, and enjoy a well-earned sense of satisfaction for helping to improve and protect an important ecosystem. Please plan your departure so that you can remain in camp until at least 10:00 a.m. on Friday morning to help organize and stow group gear. Have a great trip home and don’t forget to pack a few fun memories.
Note: the leaders will make every reasonable effort to meet the goals outlined in the itinerary. Please keep in mind that weather or other conditions beyond our control may cause us to modify the itinerary in order to ensure the safety and well-being of the group.
If you’re flying, we suggest that you arrive and depart from Orlando International Airport (MCO). This airport has an extensive schedule of flights, generally reasonable airfares, and an array of rental car agencies. Our campsite in the Ocala is located about two hours north of Orlando. You'll receive complete directions to the meeting place prior to the trip.
Carpooling is encouraged, and your leaders will provide a participant roster to assist you in making carpool arrangements. To help us prepare the roster, please send us your arrival and departure times as soon as you know them. If you’re driving to camp, the roster will let you know about other participants you might pick up on your way. If you’re flying into Orlando, the roster will have information about participants’ arrival times so you can meet up at the airport.
Accommodations and Food
We’ll camp in a quiet, shady, auto-accessible group campsite with a bathhouse that contains hot showers, sinks, and bathrooms. You will need to provide your own camping gear. Three meals a day, plus snacks, will offer healthy menus with lots of variety. The Sierra Club tradition of sharing the daily cooking and cleaning chores will be observed during the week. Please discuss any special dietary needs with the leaders prior to signing up for this trip.
Our goals are simple: safety, fun, and learning. Most of the work projects will be moderately strenuous; however, you will never be asked to do something you feel is beyond your ability, strength, or endurance. We will take regular breaks but you are encouraged to take additional breaks whenever you feel it’s necessary. Leadership workshops will test your creativity, resourcefulness, and imagination. On this trip you’ll exercise your muscles and your mind.
Equipment and Clothing
- Sleeping bag
- Sleeping pad or air mattress
- Work boots
- Work gloves
A detailed equipment list will be sent to you closer to the departure date.
Sierra Club provides group gear such as kitchen and cooking gear. The Forest Service provides all work tools.
- The Sierra Club Guide to the Natural Areas of Florida.
- National Audubon Society Field Guide to Florida.
- Rawlings, Marjorie Kinnan, The Yearling. The novel is set in what is now Ocala National Forest.
- Maxwell, John C., Leadership 101.
Throughout the week, there will be numerous spontaneous “Conservation Moments." We may walk through a burned area, which prompts a discussion of the role of fire in the ecosystem, or we may discover an unauthorized ATV trail, which causes us to talk about the impact of roads on the forest floor.
We’ll also have pre-planned activities:
- The District Ranger will talk to the group about the unique conservation issues facing the Ocala.
- Leave No Trace outdoor ethics will be discussed.
- Our group will identify a major conservation issue in the Ocala and propose strategies to overcome it.
In 2014 America celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act. The Sierra Club, various other organizations with a wilderness focus, and the four federal wilderness management agencies are vigorously planning this celebration. The goal of the effort is to assure that a broader public knows about the concept and benefits of wilderness. Sierra Club Outings is a vital part of the celebrations for wilderness.
While the Act was far in the future when our outings program started, we were already promoting the principle behind it: to forever set aside from human developments certain special places, by civic agreement. This is the basic principle on which the Sierra Club was founded. The wilderness anniversary gives us an opportunity to highlight our organization’s leading role—in publicizing this principle, in passing the 1964 Act, and in achieving more designated wilderness since then.
Sierra Club National Outings is an equal-opportunity provider and will operate under a permit from the Ocala National Forest.
Notes for Sierra Club Outings
- Carbon Offsets
- Electronic Billing and Forms
- Electronic Devices
- How to Apply for a Trip
- Leader Gratuities
- Liability Release and Assumption of Risk
- Medical Issues
- Non-discrimination Statement
- Participant Approval
- Reservation and Cancellation Policy
- Seller of Travel Disclosure
- Travel Insurance
- Trip Feedback
- Trip Price
- Wilderness Manners