KPPSP: Close to Home and A Million Miles Away

Until we actually took Terrapin on the road, TG and I had no idea how much we (or the pups) were going to enjoy camping.  But after that first over-night out at Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park in November, we knew we had made the right decision in purchasing a camper. 

campsite #34

We have always enjoyed our day visits to Kissimmee and since it’s so close to home, it has been the perfect spot to get used to all the ins and outs of RV life.  By our third visit we had our electric hooked up, water tank filled, and a campfire going in no time.

it took us no time to set up including Christmas decorations and a campfire!

While TG relaxed by the fire,

TG’s campfire

I took a short walk on the Prairie Loop trail, which winds its way through old oak hammocks on one side and sweeping prairie views on the other, west towards the Kissimmee River. 

pano on the Prairie Loop trail

The path was a little soggy in places but much to my delight, about a dozen or more robins were taking advantage of the puddle baths.

robin enjoying a puddle bath

The afternoon sun was golden and I stopped to admire a beautiful buck grazing in the tall grass.

beautiful buck grazing in the grass beside me

We drove our station wagon along with Terrapin this visit, so after dinner I took a 5-mile (each way) night drive to the park entrance.   On my drive I saw three barred owls, but all were too skittish for photos.  While I was gone, TG took advantage of the clear dark sky and got some beautiful star shots.

starry night view from our campsite
Milky Way from our campsite

The next morning, we were up before sunrise.  It was foggy so we enjoyed our coffee indoors, snuggling with the pups until it was light enough to go for a walk.

morning sunrise over the berm

We took some shots of the very foggy sunrise,

foggy sunrise

Captured deer crossing in the eerie light,

deer in the early morning fog

And stopped to admire the flock of wild turkeys that call the berm by the dump station home.

TG capturing wild turkey jennies on the berm

By the time we were back at our campsite, the sun had burned the fog away and we were treated to a juvenile caracara finishing his breakfast on a tree snag.

caracara joining a vulture on the tree snag

Later that morning, I decided to look for the highly endangered Florida grasshopper sparrow, found only in the dry prairies of central and south Florida.  They are so rare that there less than 150 in the entire 50,000-acre park.

#1 on the “Must Do” list: listen for and observe the Florida grasshopper sparrow

I saw many beautiful birds including Eastern meadowlarks, palm warblers,

palm warbler

Eastern phoebes, blue gray gnatcatchers, and even another yellow-rumped warbler.

yellow-rumped warbler

The only grasshopper sparrow I was able to spy was this blurry “POL” (proof-of-life) shot.  But considering how rare they are, I’m happy I was able to capture even this!

endangered Florida grasshopper sparrow

I also saw deer bounding through the prairie,

white-tailed deer

And happened upon a “congregation” of baby alligators.  Although that is the correct term for a collective of gators, I think “pile” is a much more apt description!

a congregation of baby alligators

As dusk turned to dark that evening, the air echoed with the familiar “who cooks for you?” call of barred owls.  I followed the sounds past the campsite back into the oak hammock.  And there he sat, on a branch right above the slough.

barred owl

He was answered by a cacophony of hoots and calls from further along the path and I headed in that direction.  I suddenly heard something rustling in the grass to my left, and shining my flashlight realized I was walking uncomfortably close to two rather large wild hogs. 

Feeling a bit nervous, I decided to turn around and head back towards camp.  By the light of my flashlight, I illuminated a raccoon foraging in a treetop, and another large buck.

raccoon in a treetop

Wild hogs notwithstanding, I made the right decision for no sooner had I turned around than I felt a few raindrops.  And then I heard it:  the unmistakable roar of an approaching storm as it moved over the saw palmettos across the prairie. 

I heard, rather than saw, the rain as it moved across the prairie

By now it was pitch dark so all I could do was run as fast as possible back to our campsite and the safety of Terrapin.  I made it just as the full force of the rains hit.

Thursday morning, we loaded up the pups and took a pre-breakfast drive on the Magic Road.  

CR724, the “Magic Road”

Ever since we first moved to Okeechobee, we have called County Road 724 the “Magic Road.” More often than not, we see something wonderful and this morning was no exception.  We saw three bald eagles: two approx. four years old

4 yr old bald eagle

And a still very brown juvenile, probably about a year old.

juvenile bald eagle

We also saw two northern harriers, sandhill cranes, wood storks, great blue herons, ibis, egrets, kingfishers, red-shouldered hawks, kestrels,

kestrel

Loggerhead shrikes, mockingbirds, crows, vultures, and a caracara posing so beautifully behind some red berries it could have been Okeechobee County’s Christmas postcard!

Okeechobee County Christmas postcard!

After breakfast we broke camp and headed home, but not before stopping to capture a pair of caracaras grooming each other on top of the platform near the park entrance. 

a pair of caracara grooming each other on the wooden platform

TG even climbed up into Terrapin’s rooftop basket to take advantage of the higher vantage point

TG taking advantage of the rooftop basket

While I stayed below with the pups.

Oscar and Maddie patiently waiting while we snapped our photos

We pulled into our driveway around noon, and were pleasantly surprised to have a message from the DMV:  Terrapin’s customized plate was ready for pick-up.  The next time we’re on the road, her make-over will be complete!

our new customized license plate: TRRAPIN!

Author: TG&jet

Nature photographers - wildlife, landscapes, underwater; travelers; bloggers

2 thoughts on “KPPSP: Close to Home and A Million Miles Away”

  1. So awesome.
    Way to go!
    Can’t wait for more adventures further afield.
    TG standing on the roof looks like a lighting rod or “the straw that broke the Terrapin’s back “.
    Love all the pics.
    Wishing you both have a safe and exciting New Years
    Thanks. Keep the information and Inspirational pictures coming!!!!
    Thank you.
    J
    J

    Like

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