Kissimmee / Orlando, FL

This is our first “fail” on our cross-country adventure. Central Florida’s weather is amazing, but the area looks as though it was “ridden hard and put away wet.”

We made the best of the bad AirBnB accommodations and area. It was hard to tell from the map, but any location in central Florida is a 20 minute drive. You’re either going around a body of water or a gated community. We thought we were doing so well by Google stalking the area beforehand. Note to self… Actually plot some point A to point B routes in the area to see how long they actually are.

We did have a little bit of green space behind the house and the birds serenaded us every morning. We even had an owl visit a couple of nights.

We found and explored several nature preserves in the area. Disney donated money to The Nature Conservancy for about 2,600 acres in the Kissimmee area. Lots of wetlands and grasslands in that location. We visited several other nature sites on our daily walks (after a 20 minute drive) here and there. They all gave us a little different look at the different environments in the area.

I’ve never seen so many long-legged birds in one area. Herons, Egrets, Storks, Ibis, Cranes were all represented along with their subspecies cousins. They were everywhere.

We had the opportunity to watch a Sandhill Crane family over the course of your stay. We first spotted them on our drive to/from the grocery store. The baby was just a hatchling and the parents were standing guard and keeping the little one in their shadows. Over 3+ weeks, we saw the baby grow and start walking/running along with the parents. Very cute. We weren’t there long enough to see the baby take flight.

The Vulture population is also abundant in Florida. There were several roadkills along our commute and the vultures would come in and clean up in short order. I bit gruesome, but interesting nonetheless. Eric took to calling them the “Road Crew.”

We visited St. Cloud and took an airboat ride into the marsh surrounding East Lake Tohopekaliga. This area is considered the headwaters of the Everglades. Our boat driver was a long-time, self described redneck. He knew the area like the back of his hand and drove straight to several alligators, including the infamous Suzie. Suzie has been known to charge boats and attempt to climb in. No such excitement, but she hissed and growled to let us know we should back away. Gladly.

The water in this area was about 6 inches deep. Eric ventured out to stand in the waters. I wimped out. There were two other people in our group. They were mostly interested in seeing as many alligators as possible. While alligators are very interesting creatures, one or two were plenty for me.

The most interesting fact about alligators is, their brains are about the size of 3 olives. They act and react solely on instinct. They definitely give us a look at our once prehistoric times.

Again, many many Heron and Egret sightings during our airboat ride. A few Osprey were hunting, but no dives/catches while we were sitting and watching. I can’t remember the exact name, be we did get to see a Kite. The driver noted that this Kite is one of the most endangered birds of prey in the area. He said it was a treat to see one.

Back to our Kissimmee walks and hikes; our other animal interactions included an armadillo (I named him Armando) and a tortoise (no name).

The armadillo was pretty cool. After a few minutes of us standing very still, it started rooting around for food and allowed us to get close enough to touch. Very leathery with lots of face whiskers. The tortoise was fun to interact with also. It moved much faster than I expected. He also show us one of his defenses; flicking sand with his hind legs. Kind of funny.

We’ve officially had our lifelong fill of Florida.

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