Monday, February 18, 2013

A Journey Into the Wilderness......

It was a beautiful day in January, with perfect weather, when my friend, Ginger and I took an adventurous excursion into the Florida wilderness............

We went deep into the 4700 acre Forever Florida wildlife conservation area to enjoy the nine distinct ecosystems with its array of natural flora and fauna.

We boarded this combination land/water, high off the ground, open-air, safari coach. The Safari begins with a ride through Crescent J, a picturesque Florida ranch. The ranch features Spanish Colonial cattle and Florida's unique Cracker Horses. We were told that these are direct descendants of those brought over by Ponce de Leon and other Spanish settlers in the 1500's

We had a good guide/driver who provided much insight and commentary on the ranching and Florida wilderness. We saw lots of horses and cattle, most at a distance, but these came right up to the coach and seemed to want to visit awhile. A famous race horse was mentioned as being retired here. The driver called these friendly horses by name and talked to them and after a bit they politely moved and let us continue on.

When we reached the wildlife conservation area the contrast between the ranch land and wilderness was quite evident. We were watching for alligators, turtles, wild turkey, deer, wild hogs, snakes and possibly a Florida panther. We saw some tropical birds, including white ibis. Three or four alligators were spotted just partly out of the water so they weren't very easy to see. A few big turtles were sunning. We saw no turkeys and were disappointed not to locate an endangered panther. 

This white-tailed deer was disturbed from its afternoon rest. Can you see it in the middle of the picture just to the left of the tree? A little farther on there was another one.  As we neared the floodplain, which is mostly dry now because of drought, our guide told us that a well-known walking trail comes through the area and some walkers camp in there - she mentioned that due to the snakes, wild boars, etc. that she would not want to do that.  That is why I was surprised when we had gone on about a mile she stopped the coach and asked if we wanted to get off and walk into the wilderness a little way!  We all disembarked and started up a path. She led us onto a board walk which took us back to a good-sized body of water. 

This area is very pretty and had great reflections in the water.  The water here is pure enough to drink but is brown from the tannin in it.

We eventually headed back to the ranch house, actually it is a restaurant and nice gift shop.

Near the restaurant is a replica of a cow hunter's shack. With hundreds of acres of land to work, it was common to have a little house out in the wilderness where they sometimes spent the night.

The butterflies were plentiful.

A nice purple martin house.

This little lake always has some alligators in it. We did not spot any this day.

Probably the prettiest thing we saw on the adventure was this peacock.

We had hoped to see a little more wildlife but overall it was a very nice excursion.  I think someone from out of state and especially from another country would appreciate the safari more than us residents who are familiar with the look and most of what goes with it.
Before each tour begins there is a film presentation shown which tells about the family that owns this land and how it came to be a conservation - a sad story in part, but interesting. Maybe you can take the ride yourself some day.


  1. Betty, what a beautiful description of our little trip. You should do commentary for the preserve! I have lived in Orlando for 33 years and had never heard of this place until last year. I have to admit, the zip lining there is much more exciting, but all in all, it was a very nice way to spend an afternoon with a very good friend. I enjoyed every minute of it!

    1. The same for me as far as not knowing about this until you mentioned it. I have known about the zip line since its beginning. I sometimes wish I had gone with my friends to experience the zip when it first opened. It was a very pleasant day with you - good memories!

  2. Great narrative!! You should, as your friend said, do a documentary for them :-) I wonder why the horses are called "Cracker". I don't find it so hard to believe that there are people who walk and camp out there in the "wilds". When we lived in Miami our youth group got lost looking for our campground and ended up pitching tents along a canal near some sort of factory. The security guard came over to see what we were doing and told us to take care because he had killed a couple rattlesnakes already that evening. In the morning there were about 10 or so gators on the opposite bank. Yikes!!

    1. Wow, Joanne your group was probably in danger but were "spared"! When this lady stopped and let us get off the coach right after telling all about the snakes in the area, I had a little uneasy feeling but it was a nice little walk back to the secluded cove. I have heard the meaning of Cracker but at the moment cannot think what it is. I guess some research is in order.

    2. Florida cowmen were nicknamed "Crackers" because of the sound made by their cow whip cracking the air. This name was also given to the small agile Spanish Horse essential for working Spanish cattle. Over the years, Cracker Horses have been known by a variety of names: Chicksaw Pony, Seminole Pony, Marsh Tackie, Prairie Pony, Florida Horse, Florida Cow Pony, Grass Gut and others.

    3. Interesting! If I had one I'd probably call it a Marsh Tackie. That name just sounds fun!!

  3. Thank you for sharing your story today, interesting since it is a cold windy day in Pa. Your descriptions were wonderful


Thank you for visiting ~ I love to get your feedback.