Hipcamp Host Spotlight: Grateful Hammock, Bohemian Eclectic Camping in the Ocala National Forest

Over 20 years Daniel has turned his 8 acres in The Ocala National Forest into bohemian eclectic camping. His desire to commune with like-minded people went from hosting friends on his land for potlucks, music and more fun, and has now become a way for him to welcome in campers from all over the country. Own land? Share it.

Daniel and his wife bought their 8-acres of land, in The Ocala National Forest, 20 years ago. They have since created a vibrant and eclectic gathering ground for friends and strangers alike. And with a drive to connect with more people, they turned their personal oasis into Grateful Hammock campground.

Hipcamp: Why do you do it – Why did you decide to join Hipcamp, and allow campers on your land?
Daniel: We’ve actually been hosting weekend campouts on our property since we bought the land in 1999. But that was just for friends and friends of friends. When we were first introduced to Hipcamp we thought it would make a good match, especially since you can screen potential guests to assure that they would be a good fit. Why do we do it? We love meeting like minded people and we love building community on our land.

Hipcamp: What is the history of your land?
Daniel: We live about 1/2 mile (as the crow flies), from the Ocklawaha River. In the mid 1800’s there was a thriving community with steam boats that took travelers from Jacksonville to Silver Springs, (from Silver Springs they could catch a train to Tampa). Towns such as Conner, Gramsville, and Bruceville, (where our property is), sprung up out of the steamboat travelers. There were hotels, lumber mills, post offices and schools. That’s all gone now, but the history continues. Our specific land was owned by a man named Daniel Long. We were told that what was left of his house was burned down by the fire department as practice back in 1966. But much of the foliage on the property remained for all of those years. Citrus, ginger and many other plants grow wild here from those times. We have a rose bush that has survived from the previous owner that blooms almost constantly. We bought the property in 1999. Only remnants of the old house remained. Cleaning up we found pieces of a concrete foundation, which we used to build the fire pit, that is the heart of our property.

Grateful Hammock Community Space, Photo by Dan Florez

Hipcamp: In 3 words, how would you describe your land, and what you offer?
Daniel: Community, fun and eclecticism.

Hipcamp: What kind of activities do campers participate in at your Hipcamp? Near your Hipcamp?
Daniel: At Grateful Hammock we have what we call Giant Hippie Jenga, each piece is about 18 inches long and 4 inches square, we also have an outdoor pool table, rope swing and a play house suitable for adults or children.

Just two miles from our house is the beautiful Silver River. The Silver River is spring fed and so clear you can see the bottom. You can rent kayaks and canoes from the park, or just rent a couple of ours if you’d like. The Silver River features not only alligators, manatees, otters and turtles, but wild monkeys as well. A small group of wild monkeys where brought to The Silver River in the early 20th century as a way of increasing tourism for the riverboats. A riverboat captain but the small group on an island to attract tourists. I guess he didn’t realize that these Rhesus monkeys could swim. So now we have several hundred on the 5 mile stretch of river.
There are also numerous other springs near us, as well as The Ocala National Forest for hiking and exploring.

Photo by Dan Florez

Hipcamp: What’s coming up in the pipeline with your Hipcamp? Any improvements or special events coming up?
Daniel: We just built a camping platform for our guests . We’re also in the process of building tiny homes. Our vision is to have a tiny home village that would be available to rent to our Hipcampers. My hobby for the past 20 years is to make our property attractive as an “artists community”. Now that we have Hipcamp, we can turn that hobby into extra income, therefore making it easier to do more improvements.

Hipcamp: When is the best time to camp at your property? Why?
Daniel: We have 5 “potlucks” per year. One for my wife’s birthday in early March, one for Earth Day (aka 4/20/), one for Halloween weekend, then Thanksgiving and New Years.
Although there’s almost always something going on here, those dates are the dates that you’ll meet a lot of other like minded people, and we always have live music on those weekends. Those weekends are when Grateful Hammock shines in community and friendships, new and old.

Hipcamp: Tell me about how the land has changed since you first bought it. What are your dreams for this property?
Daniel: Well, when we first bought it, there was nothing here but remnants of a couple of old buildings, a driveway and a bunch of junk that people dumped on our land because it was convenient. We cleared the land for our house, cut trails through the property, and built everything from ground up. People always ask me how long It took to build all of this, my answer is about 20 years, but I’m not done yet!

Hipcamp: What do you love about where you live?
Daniel: I love the natural beauty, the springs, the hiking trails, the history and of course the weather is a lot more temperate than other climates.

Hipcamp: Do you have any favorite Hipcamper experiences?
Daniel: We had a great time over New Years. We added Hipcampers to our annual party and it was fantastic! We had one Hipcamper, Nate, that brought his bass ukulele and jammed with us on our stage, then helped me put cables away the next day. We also had Katie, who is a fire dancer, do a show for us. But really everyone we met so far has been fun and interesting to talk to!

Daniel and his wife, Photo by Dan Florez

Hipcamp: What’s one thing you want for visitors to take away from your property?
Daniel: A sense of feeling like a part of an always changing community of like minded people.

Hipcamp: What advice would you give someone who is thinking about becoming a camp host? And for someone who is a camp host?
Daniel: I’m not sure if we’ve been doing this long enough to give advice. But so far we’ve enjoyed our experience. Make sure that when you make other plans you block the dates out on your calendar. We’re having a hard time using our RV since we have people coming here so often.

About the Author

Rachel Petri, writer, yogi, and travel junkie. Rachel is a firm believer in the importance of tree hugging, climbing above the tree line, and taking to nature to find deep connection. Follow her stories, inspirations, and adventures on Instagram.

View Rachel’s adventures on Hipcamp

Rachel Petri, writer, yogi, and travel junkie. Rachel is a firm believer in the importance of tree hugging, climbing above the tree line, and taking to nature to find deep connection. Follow her stories, inspirations, and adventures on Instagram. Follow me at Hipcamp.

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