After my time in Okefenokee I drove south and through every conceivable type of weather available in this part of the world short of a tropical storm. It was clear and sunny, it was pouring rain, it was drizzling gently and then sunny again.
My driving took me to the long dirt road leading into Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park. A prairie may seem like an odd place to look for alligators but like everything in Florida, it comes with a heaped serving of water. Sloughs and smaller pools are found in Kissimmee. The prairie is also a rare piece of preserved landscape in Florida, which in many places is very much over developed. An influx of people after World War II into the sunshine state has changed what was recently relatively pristine into an abomination of condos and golf courses in short order. Kissimmee Prairie Preserve is thus a relict of a past age, where the stars can still be seen in a dark sky at night, where prairie isn’t entirely taken over by cattle ranches, farms and sprawl. It’s also the last known place where the (now extinct) Carolina Parakeet was spotted.
After finding a campsite and checking in, I walked down a dirt road, past the other campsite and straight out into the prairie. Very quickly I was glad to be wearing convertible pants made of quick drying materials and hiking sandals. Much of the walk involved wading through ankle to knee deep water in the ruts of the two track trail I was following. Clumps of trees accentuated the wide open grasslands and several times I stopped next to larger pools of water to watch (and listen to chirping babies) alligators. Once I saw an alligator looking to be at least 12 feet long. I lowered by backpack in front of me, pulled out my camera. By the time I straightened back up, the large ‘gator had disappeared from the bank (s)he was sunning on into the water without so much as a ripple.
I did, however get at least some decent photos of birds on the trip. As well as signs of other creatures like cat footprints (I think probably bobcat) and a turtle shell that looked suspiciously munched on one end.