Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park

Back in August, relatively early in my current path to fitness, I wrote this post, in which I articulated some secondary goals related to my fitness.  These are not goals about the fitness itself – they are goals that address a theme I’d call “How I Want to Live My Life”.  For the record, though I couldn’t have done so when I wrote that post, I can sum the answer to that up in one word now – Adventure.

One of those goals is worth quoting in its entirety:

Start keeping track of bag nights.  I love to hike and camp, and I don’t do it enough because it can be hard.  I don’t have the energy, and the physical work is just exhausting.  It has been on the order of years since I’ve done even minor camping.  That has to change, if for no other reason than that I’m committed to introducing my kids to the outdoors.

And so last weekend I took my oldest son on his first camping trip. Read more

Photo-op Saturday

Got up this morning to go for a scheduled 4 mile run, but I was having some gastro issues and lets just say that I was nervous to be 2 miles from the house this morning after having run to get there and move on.

Instead, because I was up and had a rare free morning when the sun was coming up, I grabbed my camera and headed out to the big pond / little lake out here by the house that I see so much wildlife in as I drive by on the way to and from work.  This is the same lake where I took the picture of the big alligator a few weeks back, and I thought maybe I’d find something interesting.

And I did.  Lots of things.

One thing I have to say about Florida – when the sun isn’t directly overhead the landscape is absolutely beautiful.

 

Kind of perfect, really...
Kind of perfect, really…

So I walked up and spent a couple of minutes looking around, just to see if there was anything obvious to see.  There wasn’t, so I started walking down the edge of the water.  Within two minutes, I made a new friend.

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This was not the big guy, but I was able to get up very close to him and get some pictures I really like.  This was a rush.

Then I went and found the birds.  A great blue heron:

2015-09-05 08.04.04A great egret:
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A red-winged blackbird (actually a bunch of these, but they didn’t sit still for pictures):

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And a little blue heron (which is a distinct species, not just a small specimen):

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The light was challenging, but I want to practice my photography and try and get better – there is so much here to take pictures of, and it is frustrating to know what you want the shot to look like and not be able to execute.  So I’ll keep practicing – and seeing all of this wildlife is really a rush.

Tomorrow, though, I’ll be running.  I’ve got a 4-miler to make up.

2015-09-05 08.02.07

You must go to Gatorland

Took the family to Gatorland in Orlando today, and here’s the thing about Gatorland – you need to go.

No, seriously, whatever it is that you have planned in the Orlando area the next time you come around, you need to just go ahead and shuffle that around and make a trip to Gatorland.  If you’re here for Disney, just take the half day or even full day and skip Disney and head over there.

We went in with low expectations.  Frankly, it seemed like it had an opportunity to be very cheesy.  And, in spots, it was.  But that was more than made up for by the just unbelievable wildlife – there are so many alligators that counting becomes pointless. And snakes and birds and crocodiles and you name it – this place is incredible.

We didn’t see the “famous” Jumperoo show, but we did go and take in the alligator wrestling.  Picture a sand pit in the middle of a little arena, bleachers on all sides.  The pit is surrounded by a moat, in which swim a dozen or so alligators and over which is a single bridge that has gates on both ends of it.  Some crazy-ass dude walks in there, asks a little kid to pick out which gator he’s going to “wrestle” – and the little kid OF COURSE picks the biggest one in the water.  Because, OF COURSE.  This thing is mean, and our man struggles to get it out of the water.  So he STEPS OFF INTO THE MOAT, WADES OVER AND GRABS IT BY THE TAIL AND DRAGS IT UP INTO THE SAND PIT.  This alligator snarling and bellowing and trying to bite him the whole time.  And then proceeds to do all kinds of tricks with it.

Are you kidding me?

Seriously, come do this.  And bring your camera.  There is some amazing stuff to see here.  I took all of the pictures included below except the one with the family – that one cost $18.99, but did come with a 1GB flash drive.

Enter at the famous Gator Mouth
Enter at the famous Gator Mouth
And be greeted immediately by a sight guaranteed to make you pause.
And be greeted immediately by a sight guaranteed to make you pause.
Obligatory
Obligatory “ride the fake alligator” shot
We didn't know about the little alligator when we said do it - there was a snake option, to which we said
We didn’t know about the little alligator when we said do it – there was a snake option, to which we said “no but hell no”
They have tropical birds. Happy with my lens on this.
They have tropical birds. Happy with my lens on this.
D'awwwww
D’awwwww
This guy was no shit certifiable. And this was his second go at the gator - he got away the first time. Just crazy.
This guy was no shit certifiable. And this was his second go at the gator – he got away the first time. Just crazy.
No seriously - just crazy.
No seriously – just crazy.
Great Blue Heron
Great Blue Heron
He was not the biggest gator we saw, but he was huge and right underneath us.
He was not the biggest gator we saw, but he was huge and right underneath us.
Tried to make this confrontational-looking, but it wasn't. The bird was in zero danger.
Tried to make this confrontational-looking, but it wasn’t. The bird was in zero danger.
Great Egret. Looks like another freaking country.
Great Egret. Looks like another freaking country.
So.Many.Alligators
So.Many.Alligators
And welcome to Florida, where the humidity is wretched and it rains every day.
And welcome to Florida, where the humidity is wretched and it rains every day.