Jodi: Not long ago, David, Jeff and I got up early on a foggy Sunday morning and set off for Orlando Wetlands Park.
David: This land near the community of Christmas in east Orange County was purchased by the City of Orlando in 1986. The various wetland ecosystems on site – forested and non-forested – remove excess nutrients from reclaimed wastewater treated at the Iron Bridge Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant near Oviedo. I had wanted to visit the park for a long time and was glad to finally get the chance.
J: I was so excited to see the ‘Cranes and their baby! We kept a close but respectful distance as we watched them disappear deep into the tall grass.
D: Sandhill cranes are impressive even to a “non birder-type” like me.
D: A number of bird species can be observed at the park. Judging by comments we overheard from the few other visitors we came close to this day, bird watching seems to be a very popular activity here.
J: Ibis rookery??
D: Ummm…think pink with a more unusual bill.
J: Late night or bad hair day? You be the judge.
D: If you’re like me and scales and scutes trump feathers you won’t be disappointed. This place boasts a “robust” population of alligators.
J: As the sun rose higher into the sky, we realized we too were being watched!
D: It was a little intimidating to be watched by so many pairs of crocodilian eyes…just sayin’
J: So I’m on this path and I see a pretty flower with a dragonfly…photo op!
J: Camera in hand, I’m backing up, and backing up, and Jeff says, “STOP, stay right there, don’t move”. Why? I’m not done.
J: Uhhh, you guessed it… I almost stepped on an alligator. Imagine you’re an alligator laying on the bank. You’re watching this crazy lady as she keeps backing up and about to step on your tail. Do you wonder how fast she can run? Or how fast you can swim to get away from her?!? Oops!
On a serious note, this park is a great place to bring the relatives from up North who just want to see an alligator. We lost count of how many we saw in our short hike.
D: Robust population
D: Can’t forget about the plants
D: A nice feature at the park is the Oyler Overlook. It is an earthen mound with a gradual incline that takes one to an elevation about 30′ above the surrounding landscape. It’s a great spot to take some pictures, survey the landscape or just take a moment or two break from the hike.
J: We spent 2-3 hours leisurely walking the approximately 6 mile trail. Next time we plan to bring our bicycles to check out a different trail. If you would like to see the property for yourself, we recommend that you check their website before making the trip out as they are closed at some times during the year.
D: Right…the Park is closed from November 15th through January 31st of each year. There are opportunities for bike riding and there is also a tram operated by volunteers – “Friends of the Orlando Wetlands” (www.orlandowetlands.org for more info on the tram and events). I thought the tram and offer of a ride were mighty tempting when we were about 2 miles from the end of our little adventure. We “toughed it out”, but all bets are off for next time.
Now it’s your turn to get out and Hike Central Florida and beyond but remember to always, ALWAYS watch your step!
Until next time…
Jodi: Gemini Springs is home to two of Central Florida’s many natural springs where the water is 72 degrees year round. A bit on the chilly side for this native New Yorker…I mean long-time Florida resident. When I was a kid 72 degrees was the magic number for pool water. By that I mean that’s when Mom had finally heard enough begging and let us get in for the first swim of the season up north. Today, I’ll admit, my system prefers 80 degrees.
David: Jodi and I both come from western New York State. Learning to swim in the Finger Lakes meant that moms became very astute at observing their children for certain signs like turning blue and uncontrollable shivering! That was time to get out and warm up no matter how much we begged to stay in…kids.
Anyway, I first came to know of this park and springs through patronage of the Lake Monroe Park a short distance away. I like to launch my boat from Lake Monroe Park (which was also the starting place for our earlier St. Johns River boating adventure). I found out that there is a trail leading from Lake Monroe Park to Gemini Springs Park. One thing lead to another and there we were!