Payne Prairie, FL, 4/26/14

Paynes Prairie State Park, FL, 4/26/14

 

We recently went to Paynes Prairie, a new (to us) state park located in the middle of Florida immediately south of Gainesville, and man, did we have a good time. The campground was the quietest we’ve ever stayed in. It was half full on a Thursday night and you could have heard a pin drop. Friday and Saturday night were only marginally louder which was certainly refreshing.

The park itself is quite large, with over 60 miles of hiking, biking and equestrian trails. While there we saw turtles, many gators, wild horses and two bald eagles that screamed at the buzzards, chasing them away. We did not see the bison herd that is located there; they were off in the distant parts of the prairie doing their bison thing. As an aside: bison in Florida. Who knew? Turns out they used to be native but were killed off many years ago. The present herd was re-located there a while back and seems to be doing OK. While troubleshooting an electrical problem with the trailer on the first night (which led to me hearing, for the second time in my traveling career, an “expert” say to me: “Huh, I’ve never seen that before,” but I digress) I was outside in the dark when I realized that I was surrounded by thousands and thousands of fireflies. I rushed to get Patti and we both felt like we were kids again, staring into the darkness while the darkness blinked back at us. We normally don’t see them down here. It was surreal and wonderful and a great distraction from the technical gremlins.

We also saw something that falls squarely into the “How Weird Can Florida Get Category.” (BTW, the correct answer to that question is: very.) While biking through the campground I noticed the scene in the below photo. I pause here while you take it in:

Paynes Praire Campground 4/24/14

Paynes Praire Campground
4/24/14

What we have here is a very large lizard of some kind surrounded by a fence that a toddler could take out, much less a several hundred pound whatever the hell that is. I initially thought that it was a gator, but when I look at it closely, it doesn’t look like one. It’s certainly not something I would want to travel with. Note the ramp so that this thing can get in and out of the RV. Jeez. (If anybody can identify it, please let me know.)

We had a great time here and will be back next year when the weather cools, being careful not to schedule a weekend when the University of Florida Gators, located just a few miles away, are playing football. Then that quiet campground is not so quiet.

Two Bald Eagles, Paynes Prairie State Park, 4/25/14

Two Bald Eagles, Paynes Prairie State Park, FL 4/25/14

Wild Horses, Paynes Prairie State Park, FL 4/26/14

Wild Horses, Paynes Prairie State Park, FL 4/26/14

Sunset, Paynes Prairie State Park, FL 4/25/14

Sunset, Paynes Prairie State Park, FL 4/25/14

More Weird Florida, Paynes Prairie Campground, 4/27/14

More Weird Florida, Paynes Prairie Campground, 4/27/14

 

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