Paynes Prairie State Park---Wild Florida

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Montgomery Presbyterian Center

Flag of United States  , Florida
Thursday, March 17, 2011

"Something will have gone out of us as a people if we ever let the remaining wilderness be destroyed...We simply need that wild country available to us, even if we never do more than drive to its edge and look in."
                              -Wallace Stegner,
The Sound of Mountain Water

Top o' the mornin' and Happy St. Patty's Day!  Today is our day to enjoy wild Florida---Paynes Prairie State Park.  On the bus, John presented Joe with a very special hat. Joe said it made him look like "a drunken leprechaun" but he wore it the whole day!

When we arrived at the Paynes Prairie Visitor Center we saw a film about the park. Then our guide/ranger, Andy, led us to an observation tower, where we could view the actual prairie, complete with wild horses!  We were lucky to have Andy as our leader; she was very personable and knowledgeable. When we got back to the Visitor Center, she showed our group how to use an atlatl, an ancient spear-thrower of Native Floridian culture.  Many of the participants tried it out, including John.

After a nice picnic lunch with fried chicken and potato salad we traveled by bus to the other end of the basin, where we began a walk on the La Chua Trail.  We saw several species of birds, turtles and lots of gators.  This is a beautiful side of Florida we don't see often in the Orlando area. Makes me appreciate the quote with which I began this post.

On the return trip to the center, Dawn asked us to contribute to a poem about the week. 
John wrote:
 "Joe! Joe! 
You Irish son-of-a-gun!
You encountered a bear,
Bit his paw and made him run!"
(This in response to one of the tall tales told by Joe.)

I wrote:
"Toured the home of Marjorie,
Got history of Micanopy,
Heard stories from the great J.T.,
Viewed Wild Florida at Paynes Prairie,
But doggone it! St. Augustine
Doesn't rhyme with any!"

That evening we had a special farewell dinner---fried shrimp, salmon, baked potato, cole slaw and hush puppies. Yum!  And Great Wall of Chocolate Cake for dessert---excellent!  After dinner, it was game night. Some folks opted out but it was the last night of our program so we just couldn't miss it. There was St. Patrick's Day trivia in teams---our team won! (John got caught cheating with his Iphone!) Next we had a coin toss---aiming for a green top hat. We lost! I was especially bad, 0 for 3! I performed my Marjorie Rawlings cameo, Ed sang part of "Danny Boy" and other folks shared some personal things about themselves. There was some silliness but mostly fun and lots of laughs!

Cal, the center director, had made a DVD for each participant with a slide show of the week's events featuring photos submitted by John and a few others. In our many Road Scholar programs, this was a first.  And what souvenir could be better!

This was the last full day of our program. That was sad but we were looking forward to J.T.'s return on Friday.

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