Zephyrhills, Colt Creek SP, Paynes Prairie Preserve SP (Winter 2017, Part 3)


countryoakrvpark

Our site while in Zephyrhills, Florida. Nice oak tree we were under, except during the Tor Con 5!

To catch up, Part 2 of our winter travels left off with us in Country Oaks RV Park in Zephryhills, Florida. We stayed here January 17 to 24, 2017. The 55+ RV park was very basic (actually a manufactured homes park with a field area turned into about 8 RV sites) in a small town. While it had full hook ups (so important since we will be without sewer over the next three stops), we had to drive to get in a walk. The Park had a “special” where you could stay a week for $99 if it was your first time there. It was well worth it. We only ate and slept there since we were mainly in this area for the Tampa Super RV Show and to see a nephew, his wife and meet their baby.

On Sunday, January 22, 2017, we were blessed to attend a wonderful church service at Bayside Community Church with them. We went to Brio Tuscan Grill for lunch afterwards, then visited in their home. Their 8 month old son was so adorable! He and I really bonded as he let me hold him most of the church service. A storm was brewing so we had to head home earlier than we would have liked. We made it home just in time for a terrific rainstorm. This is the downside to living in a home on wheels! We actually try to avoid places with such bad weather patterns, but if friends and relatives live there, we go and just have to hope and PRAY! And pray we did as we were going to travel through a Tor:Con 5 area (typical of Tampa area):

We had over an hour drive and hoped to not get caught up in the midst of the storm.

We had over an hour drive and hoped to not get caught up in the midst of the storm.

TOR:CON Value Descriptions

8+ Very high probability of a tornado
6 – High probability of a tornado
4 – Moderate chance of a tornado nearby, but hail and/or high wind gusts possible
2 – Low chance of a tornado, but hail and/or high wind gusts possible
0 – Near-zero chance of a tornado or a severe thunderstorm

The TOR:CON index ranges from 0 to 10. Multiply the value by 10 to get your percentage chance of a tornado within 50 miles of a location. For example, a TOR:CON index of 6 means there’s a 60% chance of a tornado within 50 miles of any location in the indicated area.

Bill’s main concern was the huge oak tree we were parked under, as you can see by the picture above. We made it back there in plenty time to not have a rough drive in our car (although it was windy). I was monitoring the storm on our weather-app and knew we would only be in the serious weather condition for 15 to 30 minutes….thankfully, it must have skipped us as we felt nothing. The next morning, I talked to our neighbor, who previously had a lot of the limbs fall on their roof. She said they no problems either. They were also praying for us all!!!

Can you see us? And note, we are near the small, country road which should be 25 mph, but sounded like cars/trucks flew by at 60 mph!

Can you see our home, just peeking out on the left side of the corner of the sign? And note, we are near the small, country road which should be 25 mph, but sounded like cars/trucks flew by at 60 mph!

The main downside was squeezing in our walks.  The day we arrived, we mapped out about 1/2 mile walk around the campground.  We searched out some nearby State Parks. There were two, so we thought we’d get in some decent hikes. We got in seven miles walking around the RV show the day I went. Due to the weather, we were only able to get in one GREAT hike while staying here. Let’s look at the State Park we visited:

Nearby was Colt Creek State Park (with an equestrian focus), which is full of wildlife! We have never seen so many varieties as we did on our two hours (5 1/2 mile) hike through here. We arrived too late to take the 10-mile hike, so settled on what was billed as a 7-mile hike. While we were disappointed it was shorter than we wanted, but all the wildlife made up for it. Sadly, the downside was that about 1/3 of the  trail was trampled sand, for the horses. Both of us ended up with sore knees! Ah, but the wildlife!!!!

It was only about a 10 minute drive to this wonderful park!

It was only about a 10 minute drive to this wonderful park!

We've seen these signs EVERYWHERE in Florida. But rarely ever see one.

We’ve seen these signs EVERYWHERE in Florida. But rarely ever see one. Note how Bill is dressed. We’ll bundle up in our next stay.

We started out on the hike by spooking a momma gator and her two babies. She let us know of her displeasure, but Bill still aimed in for a picture. 😳He only managed to get one baby in the picture. We went on to see two white-tailed deer, great blue heron, brown hawk and two wild pigs.

Momma alligator's next. She made it inside with the other baby, but this one wanted to pose for a picture!

Momma alligator’s next. She made it inside with the other baby, but this one wanted to pose for a picture!

Two ran across the trail, but one stopped to pose for a picture. I guess they like the publicity!

Two ran across the trail, but one stopped to pose for a picture. I guess they like the publicity!

We weren't sure if we'd need the hiking poles. But since it was supposed to be 7 miles, we took them. If nothing else, they would help us should an animal charge us - we think!

We weren’t sure if we’d need the hiking poles. But since it was supposed to be 7 miles, we took them. If nothing else, they would help us should an animal charge us – we think!

The trail was well-marked, which is always so nice, especially when they say, “Stay on the trails.” From the Colt Creek State Park website:

The park offers over 12 miles of beautiful, multi-use trails which make for great horse-back riding, hiking and biking opportunities. These trails meander through the pine flats around cypress domes, bottomland forest and passed open pastures. Three tributaries flow through the park including Little Gator Creek, Gator Creek and the park’s namesake Colt Creek.While out on the trails you may come across some native wildlife including Bald Eagle, Eastern Bluebird, White-tailed Deer, Bobcat, River Otter and Sherman’s Fox Squirrel. During a year-long survey for birds and butterflies in 2007, 150 bird species and 79 butterfly species were observed. So be sure to bring a camera along with you because you never know what you might see!”  

We sure missed the Bobcat, River Otter and Sherman’s Fox Squirrel….oh well…..what a great hike, but the sore knees prevented us from returning for the 10 mile hike – which the website didn’t list or show. The Volunteer Ranger gave us a map but this apparently was a new trail as it wasn’t on the website.

Here is the second of our three stays in State Parks (the first was Ross Prairie near Ocala):
From Zephrhills, we drove 90 miles away, just outside of Gator Country, Gainesville, to Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park.  Sadly, we could only stay three days/two nights. This popular park is one we hope to return to as we really missed the beauty.  We still got in two great hikes and had company for dinner! This was our 10th Florida State Park to camp in, not to mention we lived near Highlands Hammock State Park for 10 years. While we never camped there but friends did. In our three years RVing, we’ve stayed in 5 other state/county/national parks.

Our experience with the Rangers and volunteer staff has always been exceptional – expect this time. It’s sad how an “unfriendly welcome” sets the tone of a camping experience.  We ended up without any maps – and at trail head, it said, “Take a map!” Hindsight is 20/20 – I could have and should have turned it around. The person who checked us in must have had something terrible going on in their life – and me of all people should have acknowledged this instead of moaning and complaining about how poor our welcome was. We’re seasoned campers now and just thought we could get by without the trail maps….but since we didn’t have them, we missed an opportunity to see the mustangs, bison and all the other amazing wildlife. So guess we just have to return.

We did enjoy a 5 1/2 mile hike on the Lake Trail and then a 6-mile hike on the Paynes Prairie Preserve trail. We thought we were walking to several water features but the trails were not marked very well and since we didn’t bring a map, we didn’t know where we were going! We just hiked on! The day we decided we best go to Visitor’s Center, it had just closed (at 4:30).  We actually tried walking to it on the road, but after a mile, turned onto an actual trail, so we missed out on getting maps there and we missed the AV presentation of this unique preserve! From the website:

Paynes Prairie is biologically, geologically and historically unique. This park became Florida´s first state preserve in 1971 and is now designated as a National Natural Landmark. Noted artist and naturalist William Bartram called it the great Alachua Savannah when he wrote about his visit to the prairie in 1774. More than 20 distinct biological communities provide a rich array of habitats for wildlife and livestock, including alligators, bison, horses and more than 270 species of birds. Exhibits and an audio-visual program at the visitor center explain the area´s natural and cultural history. A 50-foot-high observation tower near the visitor center provides a panoramic view of the preserve.Eight trails provide opportunities for hiking, horseback riding, and bicycling, including the 16 mile long, paved Gainesville-Hawthorne State Trail.

Next time, we’ll drive to the Visitor’s Center and watch the AV presentation and get maps! Here’s a few pictures as we drove in, of our campsite and hikes:

We pulled up to the stop sigh and I hopped out as no one came to the door.

We pulled up to the stop sigh and I hopped out as no one came to the door. By the time I walked to their door, we were greeted with, “What’s going on?”  Not very welcoming but I guess I should have just stayed in our motor home until asked to come inside and register.

Our campsite, #1. Not the easiest to back into as the road was narrow....

Our campsite, #1. Not the easiest to back into as the road was narrow….

As soon as we set up, we took a 4 miles hike on the "Lake Trail." Yep, typical warning sign. But this time, we didn't see any!

As soon as we set up, we took a 4 miles hike on the “Lake Trail.” Yep, typical warning sign. But this time, we didn’t see any!

A friend encouraged me to wear my wide brim hat as much as possible since my check is still healing....

We’re on the “Lake Trail.” A friend encouraged me to wear my wide brim hat as much as possible since my cheek is still healing….

This wasn't far from the campground. It was lovely!

This wasn’t far from the campground. This was the only trail where we found the water. It was lovely!

The campground was just a few 100 yards away, but the visitor center a few miles!

Day 2. We are out for as long of a hike as possible, made it over 6 miles. The campground was just a few 100 yards away from the sign, but the visitor center a few miles. But we wanted to see scenery….

We never found the trail head.

We never found the trail head. There were lots of signs and alphabet markings. But they meant nothing without trail maps.

The trails were nice and flat. Some sun and shade!

The trails were nice and flat. Some sun and shade!

Hmm, which way to go? Of course, we went the wrong way.

Hmm, which way to go? Of course, we went the wrong way, to a dead-end by the road.

Our final beef! It wasn't easy squeezing our motor home in this gate nor when we are about to exit.

Our final beef! It wasn’t easy squeezing our motor home through this gate upon entry nor when we are about to exit. We were just a bit unnerved as we pulled up to the Ranger Station. Live and learn….

Oh well, we can’t always have a perfect time! So there were a few issues here, but overall, it was a fantastic campground. Sadly, we missed the essence of the park, the wildlife. Lesson learned, go to the visitor center first! We actually were in a bit of a hurry upon our arrival, to get in a walk, then fix dinner for our dear friends. Dinner was wonderful. Bill is still learning a new way to cook, but they seemed to enjoy dinner and didn’t mind us experimenting on them.

Let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them; let all the trees of the forest sing for joy. Psalm 96:12

Next up, a near perfect stay in Three Rivers State Park near Snead, Florida.

 

10 thoughts on “Zephyrhills, Colt Creek SP, Paynes Prairie Preserve SP (Winter 2017, Part 3)

  1. Even though you missed out on some things, looks like an overall enjoyable time. Now you have reason to go back. Redoes can be so much fun!

    Like

    • You’re absolutely right Ingrid!!!
      I do tend to see all good and don’t want this lifestyle to seem “perfect” so this was a good opportunity to show we’re human and we have some troubles besides blowouts! Lol

      Like

  2. Great job getting out there hitting those trails. The poles are always nice for some extra upper body work and more calorie burning. Love that you saw the baby alligator:) They are so cute!

    Liked by 1 person

    • The poles are great! Bill actually saw the momma gator, she was huge and the other baby. I only saw this one while Bill snapped the picture. They are cute but momma was sure growling! I also like to think my poles would protect me just in case…

      Like

  3. […] Sneads, Florida. Everything went about as perfect as could be. We had a perfect travel day from Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park, but one of our longer trips so far, at just over 200 miles and taking us 3 1/2 […]

    Like

  4. I lived in Lakeland Florida for five years. Great place to be in January.

    Liked by 1 person

We'd LOVE to hear your thoughts!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s