25 February 2011

Camping at Hopkin's Prairie

For the long President's Day weekend a few friends and I road tripped up to Central Florida in search of springs and camping. What we found was the most delightful little campground at Hopkin's Prairie that would serve as our basecamp for the next three days.

Andy and I counted birds in our "yard" which mostly consisted of open prairie but we were lucky to be camping in the shade of huge Live Oaks that produced more than one flock of passerines. (The complete bird list for the GBBC is found below in another post.)

On our first evening we decided to take a sunset walk on the Florida Trail that ran through our campground. Our first delight was finding this large bat house. We couldn't tell if any bats actually lived in the house but at nightfall we had at least half a dozen bats flying close to our campsite.

The trails through this area were really nice. They curved around the prairie and through some scrubby areas. I liked how this trail could encompass prairie, pines, and oak habitats all at once with just a turn of the corner. It proved useful for finding birds of all varieties.

As the sun set we found a log and waited out the daily ritual. Charlie stand sentinel below as we watch the reflection on a small pool in the prairie.

The rest of the weekend consisted of hanging out by the campsite, playing cards, going on short hikes, swimming at Fore's Lake, exploring the roads of Ocala National Forest, and generally just having a nice relaxing weekend.

Emily attempts to beat me at gin-rummy.

The weekend was way too short even with the extended day and we were all a little sad to leave our prairie vistas. I could easily have stayed another few days soaking in the sounds of Sandhill Cranes and watching the fishermen paddle about the open water.

This weekend I am heading north with Emily for our first camping trip to Anastasia State Park. We are only staying one night but I am sure the beach park will treat us well. And then it's off to St. Augustine for the day. I'm looking forward to a slow rise in the morning to the sound of the surf.

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