Wekiwa Springs

Taking a break from my wilderness semester blogging to catch ya’ll up on a more recent excursion!

From 12 May to 13 May my dad and I camped at Wekiwa Springs State Park, which is in the Orlando area. The park boosts paddling on Wekiva River and Rock Springs Run, camp sites ranging from RV hook ups, tent sites with water and electricity available, to primitive sites that can only be accessed by canoe or kayak, an educational nature center, hiking and horse trails, and a spring-fed swimming hole.

My dad and I arrived around 5pm, set up our hammocks at our campsite, and went for a swim in the spring water. The water was crystal clear and 72 degrees, which is where it stays year round. Because this park is so popular a small beach has been built around the water and there are steps that can be used to enter the water in order to make it more user friendly.

Our campsite was very populated with tents as well as campers and RVs, there was even one refurbished school bus. Every campsite had been reserved for the weekend so we had may neighbors.

For dinner we had Good to Go meals, which are dehydrated meals you add boiling water to and then eat! Not quite as satisfying as cooking over a camp stove, but definitely better than an MRE. After some chitchatting around a would be fire if not for a state-wide fire ban we each climbed into our bug netted hammocks for bed.

For breakfast we had tea and coffee courtesy of an MSR pocket rocket and oatmeal, which I made bearable with a handful of craisins and some Nutella.

Wekiwa struck me as a very family friendly and easily accessible place to camp and hike. People of all outdoors skill levels and interests could find something to do here. I cannot speak for the primitive sites, but the sites with water access and electricity hookup were perfect for someone looking for an easy car camping trip.

Though being very populated and therefore noisy with much artificial light it was a nice place to sleep outside for a short, quickly planned one night camping trip. However, for someone looking for a more authentic wilderness camping experience I would recommend a less popular camping area or checking out a primitive site.

IMG_8198

Underwater selfie game strong

Weeki Wachee River

Kayaking on the Weeki Wachee, 25 March 2016

The Weeki Wachee is located in Weeki Wachee, FL and boasts crystal clear spring-fed water that is 72 degrees all year round.  The clear water allows you to see the bottom of the river, swimming fish and turtles, and maybe even manatees.

The wilderness on the banks of the river is characteristic Florida nature- thick and swampy with many different bird species making it their home.

It is 7.4 miles in total, but most people do a 5.5 mile paddle, from Paddling Adventures (a canoe/kayak rental shop and launch site) to Rogers Park. //

Specs:

  • No manatees spotted
  • Lots of fish, turtles, and birds spotted
  • Photos taken on Ricoh WG-M1
  • Lunch of sandwiches, fruit, and pitachips
  • One rope swing swung off of (not by me)
  • One person dunked into the water (me)
  • Minimal sun and bugs
  • Two yellow kayaks, one red, one blue, and one hoopty blue canoe
  • Three college students, two parents, and one adopted parent

RIMG0220RIMG0222RIMG0234RIMG0211RIMG0229

Payne’s Prairie State Preserve, FL

24 October 2015

IMG_8029

Payne’s Prairie State Preserve is a state preserve north of Ocala and ten miles south of Gainesville. In 1971 it became the first state preserve, and in 1974 was designated as a National Natural Landmark.
The Preserve provides trails that cater to bicyclists, equestrians, and hikers. There is also a campground and boat ramp available for use (Florida Department of Environmental Protection Division of Recreation and Parks).

If you want a piece of real Florida, outside of beaches and tourism, check it out!

IMG_7985

For my fall break weekend my parents and I walked 4-5 miles through the Preserve; under oak and pine trees, through sand, down in swamps, through swarms of mosquitoes (bring your bug spray and LAY IT ON), and even to the top of an observation tower.

Several ecosystems were represented- in some places the brush was very thick, the grass very high, and the trees very tall. However, much of the Preserve has a worn down trail to walk on, it goes through the trees as well as under the open sky. The type of landscape partakers can find their selves under varies by the trail they are on. I walked the Chacala. At one point on the trail we came across a fireplace and chimney from an old homestead, the walls of the house long gone, leaving only the foundation.

IMG_7974

The trail we walked

IMG_8007

The old homestead house

IMG_8001

Swampy

The observation tower overlooks the prairie basin, where today we were able to see a herd of about 15-20 bison, all female, and 6-7 wild horses (direct descendants of the Spanish horses first brought to Florida).

This was seriously the coolest thing. The bison looked like big brown boulders from the observation tower. Through a spotting scope provided by a park ranger we were able to see them at an up close view.  They were really wooly and shaggy, with big black horns. We also saw some of them running, or frolicking as my mom said, through the Prairie. I was not able to see the horses up close, but we did see the herd make its way across the Prairie.

IMG_8015

The prairie basin

The weather for our hike was absolutely beautiful. The sun was a little warm when there was no tree cover, but in the shade it was very pleasant, with a slight breeze. The sky was also a miraculous shade of blue, with fluffy white clouds decorating it. My only complaint was the bugs; the mosquitoes were out and biting with vengeance.

We had planned to hammock and make some coffee and tea (mint for me) with my dad’s portable stove, but the bugs were so bad that we had to keep moving. We ended up stumbling upon a geocache, which we signed and left a friendship bracelet in. I also made friends with a rhino beetle who was chilling in the geocache container. I had fun snapping photos and hanging out with my parents, despite the bugs and wrench in our plans.

IMG_7223

My new rhino beetle friend and the tree the geocache was in

IMG_7988

Overall, I would definitely go back! I mean, where else do you get to see wild bison in Florida?? It’s also hard not to enjoy mostly shady trails and easy to navigate paths. Plus, if you’re on the right trail you could see some alligators.

Just remember your bug spray, really seriously remember the bug spray.

-Rachel (northeast, FL)