The state parks of Florida encouraged visitors to the parks today by hosting First Day Walks. The parks organized dozens of events throughout the state.
“I encourage Florida families and visitors to begin 2013 in our state parks and enjoy the natural world around you,” said Donald Forgione, Florida Park Service Director. “Join others across Florida and the nation for a First Day Hike as part of a national health and outdoor awareness movement.”
So instead of spending the first day of the year sitting in front of the television watching college football Bowl Games, we headed north to Alachua County and walked the LaChua Trail at Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park. We didn’t participate in the organized event at the park, but instead we spent a couple of hours walking the trail, observing the wildlife, (I still haven’t seen a bison. I think this is a hoax!) and taking pictures.
The birdwatchers were out in full force. I overheard one group going over their checklists to make sure each person had recorded all of the birds sighted. I recognized the names of many of those listed: heron, ibis, gallinule, sandhill crane, and anhinga; and in fact, I saw those as well. However, they also discussed finch and both the white ibis and glossy ibis. Apparently the glossy ibis is uncommon making it a more exciting find.
While I may not have recognized all the varieties of birds we encountered, I did recognize the alligators; and they were everywhere. On more than one occasion I changed my course to avoid getting too close to a gator sunning on the side of the trail.
I couldn’t help but remember the time we camped at Paynes Prairie with one of Emily’s friends who had never camped, ridden a bike, or spent much time in the wilder parts of Florida. Her dad called to talk to me before our trip to alleviate his fears about the dangers of alligators in the campground. I assured him they would not be a problem, but then we walked the trails and got up close and personal with many monster gators. I’m not sure how her dad would have felt about our pursuit of gators, but every Floridian needs to see these creatures out in the wild.
Spending the day enjoying the real Florida…a great way to start 2013! Maybe this should be a new tradition.
Happy New Year!