The Tent Learning Curve

Ever since we sold Terrapin back in June, we’ve been hoping for a tent-only camping trip out at Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park over the new moon.  But the forecast called for cloudy skies with thunderstorms in July, so we nixed that.  The same thing happened in August, so nixed once again!  I was beginning to despair we’d never get a clear enough night to shoot the Milky Way this summer. 

June 9, 2021 our last clear night sky (with meteor) out at Kissimmee

But we booked three nights over the new moon in September and hoped for the best.  This time I was particularly anxious as we had friends also camping at the same time and we had invited them to join us for dinner one night.

Our first night was the Sunday before Labor Day, and the forecast again called for afternoon thunderstorms and cloudy skies overnight.  Rather than risk getting rained on our very first night in the new tent, we drove the 45 minutes to the park that afternoon to check in and let the host know that we would be back the following morning to set up.

roseate spoonbills on our drive out to Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park

Monday dawned with a cloudless blue sky and bright sunshine.  We left for the park around 8am and planned a couple of photo stops on our way.

Just as we turned onto CR724, we spied a bald eagle on a power pole, beautifully positioned against the blue sky.

bald eagle in flight

A little further along, there was a sunn hemp field in full bloom.

sunn hemp field in full bloom

Sunn hemp is a cover crop, used on farmlands during the summer months to rejuvenate the soil with much-needed nutrients, to control weeds, to prevent soil erosion during thunderstorm and hurricane season, and add herbage back into the soil before the next planting.

TG doing what he does best!

So not only are they beautiful to look at, but they also provide a valuable service to farmland!  I thought the bright yellow flowers against the clear blue sky looked perfect in the eastern morning light.

sunn hemp flowers close-up

We arrived at the park a little after 9 am.  It took us about an hour to set up our new CRUA Core tent and by then the temps had soared into the low 90’s.  For the first time since selling Terrapin, we missed her A/C!

tent campsite all set up!

During lunch we were entertained by the cara caras and crows interested in our veggie wraps.

caracara interested in our veggie wraps

After a short nap, we took a drive to cool off a bit before getting ready for our dinner guests.

Carl and Laura arrived promptly at 5:30 and we enjoyed good conversation and food before heading out for a sunset / evening drive through the park.

sunset at the park

You never know what you might spy on a night drive out at Kissimmee.  Over the years I’ve seen burrowing, barn, and barred owls, bobcats, wild hogs, alligators, deer, armadillos, raccoons, coyote, snakes (including a huge eastern diamondback), and frogs.  

coyote at dusk

This night did not disappoint:  not only were we treated to a glorious sunset, we saw a barred owl, an alligator, a nighthawk, a banded water snake,

banded water snake

And a half dozen burrowing owls flitting from side to side like tiny cherubs.

burrowing owls look like little cherubs as they flit from side to side

Much to my delight, by the time I got back to our campsite the skies were clear enough to see the Milky Way.  I grabbed my camera and set up for a few shots between the clouds.

Milky Way between the clouds

Our tent has a vestibule-type opening before the actual zippered doors.

We had set up our commissary in that area and opened all three sides to get as much cross-breeze as possible throughout the tent.   Bedtime was uncomfortably hot, and no one was getting much sleep.

“vestibule” before the main tent — the two sides can also be zipped open

Around 3 am we were awakened by Oscar and Maddie nearly bolting through the screen.  We had not left any food out, but we did leave a plastic bag with napkins from dinner.   Something, most likely a raccoon or opossum, had crept into the commissary, ransacked the garbage bag, and dragged TG’s shoes across the campsite. 

not sure what it was that ransacked our “commissary” but I’ve seen both raccoons and opossums prowling around at night!

We did not see or hear a thing, but Oscar and Maddie were on such high alert we had to put them in the kennel for the rest of the night.

poor Oscar and Maddie relegated to the kennel!

Despite the restless night, we were up before dawn on Tuesday morning.

It looked to be another beautiful day so after our coffee we went for drive.  There were coveys of bobwhites running alongside the road,

coveys of bobwhites
bobwhite quail close-up

We also saw caracaras,

crested caracara

Eastern meadowlarks, cattle egrets,

eastern meadowlark
cattle egrets on the pasture fences

And loggerhead shrikes sitting in their customary spots close to the park entrance.

loggerhead shrike

It was a lovely drive but promised to be another hot day.  Rather than suffer through it, we decided to pack up and head home a day early. 

We knew switching from Terrapin to tent camping would be a bit of a learning curve.  There are things we forgot (clothespins) and things we’ll do differently next time (not leave ANY garbage out at night). 

In spite of the heat we had a great time and look forward to our next trip — Kissimmee Prairie is one of our absolute favorite places to visit any time of the year. But maybe we’ll wait to camp again until it’s just a little cooler!

kissing amongst the sunn hemp flowers

Author: TG&jet

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

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