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.
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.
While TG relaxed by the fire,
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.
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.
The afternoon sun was golden and I stopped to admire a beautiful buck grazing in the tall grass.
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.
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.
We took some shots of the very foggy sunrise,
Captured deer crossing in the eerie light,
And stopped to admire the flock of wild turkeys that call the berm by the dump station home.
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.
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.
I saw many beautiful birds including Eastern meadowlarks, palm warblers,
Eastern phoebes, blue gray gnatcatchers, and even another 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!
I also saw deer bounding through the prairie,
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
And a still very brown juvenile, probably about a year old.
We also saw two northern harriers, sandhill cranes, wood storks, great blue herons, ibis, egrets, kingfishers, red-shouldered hawks, kestrels,
Loggerhead shrikes, mockingbirds, crows, vultures, and a caracara posing so beautifully behind some red berries it could have been Okeechobee County’s 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.
TG even climbed up into Terrapin’s rooftop basket to take advantage of the higher vantage point
While I stayed below with the pups.
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!