One thing to realize about hiking in Florida is that one must be flexible. We’ve had so much rain lately that a lot of the trails are a bit waterlogged. For today’s hike, we planned on going through a section of Seminole Ranch with Orlando Wetlands Park (OWP) as a fallback plan. Good thing too – the deeper we went into the woods at the ranch, the wetter the ground seemed to get. It didn’t take long to realize that our fallback plan would be the trip for the day. No worries though – we have explored OWP before and it is a great place to visit.
Today my uncle Ernie joined us. We met up at OWP at about 9am with a plan to have lunch at one of the picnic pavilions later on. After a quick jaunt into Seminole Ranch (just enough to get our shoes wet), we started along the south side of the park and headed east. Right at the beginning of the trail is a sign that provides some information about the alligators, along with the two most important rules – don’t feed them, and keep your distance. Alligators will generally avoid people, but they are wild animals so it is probably wise to follow the basic rules.
As we walked around the path, we saw a lot of wildlife, but we noticed that there weren’t as many birds as there were last time we were here. I suppose that most of them have flown north for the summer, but there were still a lot of swamp hens and snake heads as well as various types of herons. Most of the alligators that we saw were juveniles; there were a couple that were larger, but none of the big ones that we have seen in the past. One of the alligators that we saw was having a bit of lunch. We couldn’t see what he was eating, but based on the size, I suspect that it was a frog or something similar.
As we rounded the next bend, we were on our way back to the picnic area for a bit of lunch and relaxing in the shade. We didn’t stop there though. Since we were in the neighborhood, we decided to drive down to Fort Christmas and look around. This is another great spot to come visit. There is a replica of the original fort, seven restored homes from the period, and a couple of other restored structures. Inside the fort and the homes, there are furnishings, tools, weapons and a bunch of other items from the era to see. It’s probably not surprising but when it is hot out, it’s more comfortable to be outside the houses than in. It really makes me appreciate the air conditioning that most of us take for granted now days.
Outside we saw a “cane press” that farmers would use to crush sugar cane to extract the juices. They would then strain it through a cheese cloth and collect it in a barrel so they could bring it to a kettle to boil off the excess liquid and impurities to make syrup. The highlight though would have been the outhouse. It was fully stocked with a bowl full of corn cobs, and what looked like a container of lime. I later read that lime was sometimes used to help keep the odors down (especially when it is hot outside).
As usual, we had a great time exploring today. I’m looking forward to going back to Orlando Wetlands Park in the fall to see how it changes during the fall season. Of course, Fort Christmas is always a great stop if you want an opportunity to soak up a little Florida history too.
If you want to see more details about this trip, download the map, or see more photos, take a look at my blog post.
If you would like to learn about how OWP works to filter the water going to the St. Johns River, there is a great video at this link.