Gadding about in Florida – Part Two

Kissimmee Prairie-016

Kissimmee Prairie

This is one of those weeks when I forget when I did what. We’re continuing our travels in Florida, mostly kayaking, but getting out and doing some other exploration.

I’d been out paddling most of the morning Thursday morning, but by the afternoon it was time for something different.  All of us loaded up in the car and headed to Kissimmee Prairie on the interior of the state.

With the possible exception of some roads I’ve driven out west, the roads out to the prairie are the straightest I think I’ve ever encountered. These go by miles and miles of flat farmland. There’s a brief zigzag onto Highway 414, then it continues. At one point you see a weird collection of antennae sprouting from the ground to the south. This is the former home of Harold Camping‘s Family Radio shortwave broadcast station. The station ceased operation last June. I tried to take a panorama with my iPhone, but I don’t think the towers showed up correctly. Even in Google Earth this doesn’t look too weird – just from the road.

Harold Camping's Camp

Eventually we made it to the entrance to the park. We stopped at the picnic table right at the entrance for a snack. First I set up the GoPro on a 2 second interval to try to capture some of the amazing clouds. I then pulled out Amy’s parafoil kite and tried to fly it in the brisk breeze while the camera was chugging along.

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Here’s the resulting time-lapse. The kite pops in occasionally.

There was a storm threatening from the north. Even so, we decided to drive on into the preserve. Laura took the wheel and I took the back seat. Occasionally I’d call out for her to stop as I spotted a bird or other interesting thing. I saw a Towhee, a Meadowlark, and a Shrike, as well as some interesting pink flowers.

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Eastern Towhee
Eastern Meadowlark sturnella magna
Loggerhead Shrike (Lanius ludovicianus)
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We drove through the campground areas. Laura saw a couple of deer and I spotted a turkey, but neither of us was able to confirm what the other had seen. On the way out, though, I spotted the deer and Laura saw the turkey. We were able to stop for photos.

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We paused at a parking area that opens onto a trail. The breeze was blowing, and we rolled down the windows for Laura’s mom to enjoy. We walked the dog, but didn’t wander far because of the approaching storm. As we got back into the car large drops of rain started to pelt us. We got back in just in time, we me at the wheel this time.

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The large drops let up, but the threat lingered. When we got back out to 414 we turned north instead of south, taking us across the country to Yeehaw Juncton. I had spotted on Google Earth that the old Desert Inn was on the National Register of Historic Places. We had driven through here once before, but I didn’t remember there being much. Turns out there still wasn’t much. The old inn and store now had a “For Lease” sign out front.

Desert Inn at Yehaw Junction

We made our way on back, and the rain did catch up with us. All the while I had the GoPro running and did a quick time lapse of the trip back. It should give you some idea of how straight those roads are.

When we got back, the storms had cleared, and Laura and I decide to do a short paddling trip. I was in my boat and Laura was in Amy’s. We stuck to the close shore, looking for birds. I had the GoPro rigged to shoot underwater once again, but didn’t really capture anything. I did catch a hermit crab at the end of Amy’s boat ramp.

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That evening Amy came back from her conference. The next day we decided to divide and conquer. I headed out to do some photography around town, and they headed out shopping. I wanted to try some long-exposure shots of waves using the neutral density filter, and it seemed that waves crashing on the Fort Pierce South Jetty would be the perfect subject. I headed in that direction.

Fort Pierce had done an excellent job redeveloping this park. Despite the ever-present threat of rain, there was lots of activity. I gathered an armload of cameras and tripods and walked on out. I was armed with the GoPro, my Lumix, the D50 with the 35mm f/1.8 lens and neutral density filter, and the D7000 with my 150-500mm long lens. I was ready for any photographic opportunity that might present itself.

South Jetty

When I got out on the jetty a guy who spotted my cameras told me that a couple of manatees were in the area. I got the GoPro set up for a time lapse, set up the tripod for long exposure, and started hunting manatees. The water has been exceptionally blue and clear, and it wasn’t long before I spotted two of them nearby.


I spent most of my time out on the jetting nursing the long exposures and time lapse. During that time lots of people came by to strike up conversations. I talked with one woman who was moving to the area and wanted to know of a good place to eat. I pretended to know of some places, but admitted to be a visitor myself.

The long exposure shots didn’t turn out as well as I might like. In the end, I had to make a composite of a couple of shots in Photoshop. Even with all that the waves didn’t get that silky ethereal feel I was after.

South Jetty

Even the time lapse was a disappointment. I didn’t want to spend hours out here, so I set it for a 2 second interval. That meant that the very dramatic clouds didn’t roll across the sky as they might with a longer interval. On top of that, I had the camera tilted, and for some reason Lightroom wasn’t letting me straighten it the way I normally might.

I packed up my things and headed back to the car. Along the way I pulled into the inlet park next to the causeway and caught a heron out on the flats.

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Next stop – Harbor Point.

Harbor Point is a hidden, spooky little park on the mainland side in between the north and south causeways. It’s perfectly positioned right where the inlet comes into the Indian River. There is light industry all around, and the out-of-the-way nature of the park makes it seem perfect for nefarious activities. None-the-less, I pulled out cameras and took a few photos. There were some barges and tug boats, and a couple of kayakers fishing along the edges. At one point a whole bunch of fish started to jump in front of me. I managed to catch one fish and a bunch of splashes.

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I headed over the north causeway and stopped at the boat ramp at Little Jim Bridge. The bait shop/snack shop/marina across the way has been a local landmark for years. There was lots of traffic as boaters stopped to get their party supplies for a Redneck Riviera Weekend.

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Fort Pierce Rambling-26

The Wrights were driving back along North Hutchinson, and would pass right by my location. I hung out until they arrived, and joined them for another jaunt back down to the South Jetty. Amy wanted to show Laura the improvements to the park. I took photos of boats returning, and managed to get a shot of a sea turtle.

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Loggerhead Turtle
Loggerhead Turtle

So, even though my initial reason for heading out – long exposure and time-lapse – didn’t pan out like I wanted, I was still able to take some interesting photos. We still had one more day in Florida to see what we could find.

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