After a wonderful day at Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary (read about it here) we camped at Myakka River State Park. We arrived at our site in late afternoon and quickly set up our tent and ventured off to find the canopy tower. A short walk brought us to the canopy trailhead. Since it was so late in the afternoon we had the place almost to ourselves. Just one other local family joined us at the top of the tower.
As the sun was setting, we made our way back to the campground. But first we stopped at a scenic view and watched the vultures flock up for the evening in the woods nearby. Three turkeys gobbled in the woods across the way and several deer wandered through a grassy opening. We thought about how interesting it was to see so many similar wildlife as up north mixing with other tropical species. A barred owl called in the distance as a lizard ran across the road toward us.
That evening as we settled into our tent and listened to the gentle hum of the generators from the campers all around us, Lindsay remarked how they hadn’t seen any armadillos yet. She was sure they were in the woods all around and it wasn’t long until she started to hear something shuffling near the tent. “Did you hear that?” she asked Andrew. But he was already asleep. The shuffling was getting louder and closer. “Andrew! There’s something out there,” Lindsay whispered. The noise was right next to the tent, very close to where Lindsay and Andrew were laying their heads. Lindsay woke Andrew with a touch, “I think there’s an armadillo out there!” Andrew turned on his flashlight and shined it out the tent window and just a few inches from the tent was a very shocked looking armadillo! It scampered around, clanging it’s plated armour, and ran into the woods next to the tent. Ha, ha, ha, funny little creature.
We finally saw an armadillo which seemed to satisfy Andrew who quickly went back to sleep. But the shuffling noises were all around the tent now. There was another armadillo rooting around in the woods and Lindsay knew she would have a hard time falling asleep now. She read a few chapters in her book, but when a new sound of soft feet sounded closer and closer near the tent, she turned on her flashlight. A raccoon! He walked over to the picnic table looking for scraps. “Andrew! A raccoon!” Lindsay woke Andrew up again. Luckily we didn’t leave anything out on the table except some soaking water in a pan. The raccoon moved on toward a camper and we settled back down.
It took Lindsay a little longer to fall asleep, as she wondered if the people who were sleeping in their campers and watching tv even realized how much wildlife was just outside their door. Heck, even Andrew was unconcerned, snoring lightly, while she battled armadillos and raccoons all night!
In the morning we weren’t quite ready to leave Myakka River State Park so we ventured around, stopping at pull offs with beautiful views, walking on the bird boardwalk trail, and finding a wonderful secluded picnic area on the banks of a small river.
At the north end of the park we found the quaint Crowley Natural and Cultural History Museum that celebrated Florida nature and the regions’ agricultural history.
After lunch, we finally made our way north to our final campground of the trip: Hillsborough River State Park. Again we set up camp and then headed out to meet up with Andrew’s dad for a lovely dinner. In the morning we packed up all our gear in anticipation of getting back on the train that evening. We did however take a short walk to view Hillsborough River and decided that we needed to come back here next time and do a backpacking trip to one of the backcountry camping sites.
We drove due east hitting the Disney traffic before reaching the coast. We had just a few minutes to spare so we drove through Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge next to Cape Canaveral.
In a few short hours we were back in Jacksonville to get back on the train. We made it to NYC in the late afternoon just after the St Patrick’s Day parade was finished and the train station was filled with drunk people wearing green. We had a few hours to spare so we walked around and found a park to sit and watch a game of basketball and then eventually made our way back to the station. We found the lounge area and watched a one-legged pigeon hop around until our next train. Our adventure to Florida was coming to an end. What a great time we both had!