Monday Laura and I celebrated our 22nd anniversary. We usually like to get out and travel a bit on our anniversary. It was cold and windy, even in Florida, so a paddling trip or boat ride was out of the question. Instead, we decided to head inland to the Kissimmee Prairie, a 54,000 acre nature preserve north of Okeechobee.
Our directions from Amy were to drive down to Orange Avenue in Fort Pierce, then head west until it ended at Highway 441. It was 25 miles of the straightest road I think I’ve ever seen on this side of the Mississippi. It was another 20 miles on 441 through some of the most desolate countryside in the state. There were large ranches and orange groves dotted with small single-wide trailers. I couldn’t imagine living out here, especially in summer.
When we got to the Prairie we found a large flat area that alternated between palmetto scrub, grasslands, and wetlands interspersed with palm tree and live oak hammocks. A couple of dirt roads traversed the area, but for the most part the only way to see the place was on foot.
We stopped at the first parking area to have a picnic lunch (in the warmth of the car and out of the wind.) The are had a nice view across the grasslands and along a group of palm trees.
Amy had told us to be on the lookout for the crested caracara, a fairly rare bird of prey for this area. I noticed something falling from the palm tree where we were having lunch, and looked up to see a carcara having his lunch, too. Several others flew along the hammock and out over the grassland
We bundled up and walked along the dirt road leading northward from the parking area. This route would take us past some wetlands, and with luck we would see more birds.
We did see more birds. A pair of caracaras hopped along the road just in front of us. Apparently in Central and South America these are the equivalent of vultures, and they tended to behave that way here. We also saw several wading birds such as herons and egrets. Most, however, seemed to be hunkered down out of the cold wind.
After only a half-mile in the wind we decided to walk back to the car, then drove over to the park office where we picked up maps of the area. We found another parking area and headed off along the Prairie Trail, which followed several hammocks and seemed to be protected from the wind.
Along this trail we didn’t see many birds. In fact, it was a bit frustrating. With everything so flat we needed a bit of elevation to look out over the prairie. An observation tower would have been nice. If it hadn’t been so windy, I would have even sent up my little helicopter for a shot or two.
We spotted fresh deer tracks along the trail. In one of the hammocks I looked up to see two deer keeping an eye on us as they grazed.
We headed on back to the car and made the long drive back to Fort Pierce, this time taking a northern route through Yeehaw Junction.
We rounded out our anniversary with a nice seafood dinner at the Harbor Town Grill, then went for a drive to see Christmas lights. Fort Pierce puts on a spectacular display at their marina park. From there we drove along River Drive where several of the houses go all out for their decorations. Here’s a short video from the marina display…
With my birthday, Christmas, our anniversary, and New Year happening so close to each other, we tend to do low-key anniversary celebrations, then wait and do something later in the year as our “anniversary.” Even so, this was a very nice celebration, and we got to see some parts of Florida we had never seen before.