Our visits to the parks have kind of fallen by the wayside. Nothing on purpose, mind you...just...life. Between Rob and Chris's work schedules, various local festivals, and our Campayakarama 2010 trip, we just haven't had a chance to make it to any state parks. The great news here is, we haven't replaced state park time with time on the couch. So far our goal of getting out of the house has been successful!
And so, we found ourselves with Sunday free. Me, Rob, Olivia, Chris, and our friend Randy, who had joined us on the kayaking trip. I looked through the state park book and decided on Colt Creek State Park in Lakeland. It is almost two hours away by car, and so we tried to get an early start. We made a detour in the Green Swamp Wilderness Preserve to complete the requirements for an earthcache. It was muggy, and the horseflies were out in force, but we got the information we needed. We also saw something strange:
These are Eastern Tiger Swallowtails...about the size of my hand...and they are feasting on feces. Beautiful butterflies, gross meal.
After our time in the Green Swamp...and after seeing a 4 foot alligator relaxing by the side of the road...we made our way to Colt Creek State Park. It is a former limestone quarry, purchased from the owning family in 2006. In 2007 it received the state park designation, which is significant for one major reason: Right now, three years later, Colt Creek has just now received funding. I never realized how long a process like that takes, but it really helped explain the massive amounts of silt fencing and bulldozers we saw on the property.
We stopped by the ranger station for our stamp and a chat with the ranger on duty. Ranger Caroline Eckert was extremely knowledgeable and provided us with a detailed trail map...maps so new that the trail markers were written in by hand. She even recommended a nice path to take. Before we could head down the trail, though, we stopped by the restrooms. I'm glad we did, because they were the nicest bathrooms I've seen at any state park:
They were clean and air-conditioned. When it's over 90 degrees and humid outside, it is awesome to take a break here.
So, down the trail we went. There are several ecological zones at Colt Creek, and we wandered through various ones...scrub pine, swamp, etc. There was a lot of evidence of wildlife on our hike:
We even managed to see a few of the real things...a gator swimming in Mac Lake, an armadillo creeping into the underbrush, and a rat snake. The snake was odd...it was in the middle of the trail, still, and it seemed to not even notice our presence. It had a zig-zag curve to its body, and our honest thought was that it had eaten another snake:
Our pace was pretty steady, but recent rains created several flooded areas of the trail. We did the best we could and covered about three-and-a-half miles in a few hours. There were butterflies all over the place, zebra swallowtails, spicebush swallowtails (giggity), and little metalmarks, and trying to catch pictures of them added their own challenge. Still, it was a fun challenge:
Trying to get a colorblind man to help identify them was even more fun. Just sayin'.
A few other afternoon highlights:
After our hike we settled down to a nice picnic lunch. PB&J, tuna salad, jerky, chips, nuts...all my picnic favorites. It was so relaxing to just sit there and take in this...well, this park in bloom.
For, you see, that's what it is to me. Colt Creek State Park is a brand new park, just opening itself up for the world to see. There is so much potential, and we saw evidence of great things to come. And I can't wait! Whenever we finish this quest we're on...and we will finish it...we're heading back there to see the great park Colt Creek is bound to become.