It’s an early Sunday morning and I woke up dazed with no plan, anxiously trying to figure out how to waste time. Needing a way to stretch my legs, I looked at my map to see what reprieve the local area would provide and was thrilled to find an abundance of lakes. That’s one of my favorite things about Florida, the vast amount of wilderness available to explore. It seems like there is an endless array of conservation areas, so many that it would be impossible to visit them all.
“Carney Island sounds nice.” I thought as I pursued the map. The lake was big enough to offer an ample hike and the park seemed just far away enough that it wouldn’t be too busy on a beautiful morning like this. I had no idea what to expect, but often, those are the days that provide the best experiences. Equipped with ignorance and an urge to get off the beaten path, I set off.
About thirty minutes later I found myself on a grass path shaded by Live Oaks with Spanish Moss hanging from the branches. Grey clouds billowed in the sky, just heavy enough to give some humidity to the air. The threat of rain seemed small though as the sun shone prominently in its rising position.
I could hear footstep coming behind me and turned to see a young father accompanied by his son on a small bike. A smile, wave and nod led to conversation about my camera along with my purpose for being in the woods.
I am always intrigued by the fact that a real camera seems like an odd thing to have ever since the phone camera took over. It almost has an affect like seeing a wild animal, inducing excitement and an urge for connection. Everyone always seems to want to be your friend.
This naturally leads to gaining information I never would have gotten before and ten minutes later, I had a list of the best places to view animals as well as an idea of just what I might see. Apparently, I had ended up at one of the more well maintained conservation parks in the area and I couldn’t wait to see what I would find.
Not ten minutes later I found myself stalking turkeys as the gobbles of a flock echoed throughout the trees. With every slow step forward, the ruffles of the leaves would set off a rush of movement, like the first domino being pushed over in a train. An explosive burst of feathers would appear darting from bush to bush and even up into the branches.
I stood in amazement, almost struggling to even bring myself to lift my camera to take pictures. Before this moment, I had no clue turkeys got up into trees and I don’t know why, but I found the entire scene absolutely hilarious. I stood there grinning from ear to ear, simply enjoying the moment.
A rare treat.
Around the next turn I found another treat, a group of four deer, three of them seeming to be quite young. I don’t know if they were simply used to humans or if I just gave off the vibe of a whisperer, but as I drew nearer and nearer, they seemed to play a game of hide and seek with me.
One moment they would be out in the open. I would take a step and they would rush behind a tree, but not all the way behind it. They seemed to know that I could still see them and they would slowly poke their head back out to take a look at me.
This happened for about fifteen minutes and for about a quarter mile of the path. Eventually, I guess they got bored as one ran off into the woods and the rest followed.
We had had our moment though, one that transcended species. Transcended domestication.
I like to think that I had made four new friends.
The walk ended at a crisp blue lake with a park, simple yet so inviting.
A bench begged me to come sit on it to watch the people in front of it, as if a “Fly on wall sit here” sign was attached.
I felt strangely relaxed as I sat down, so happy, so heavy, so content, and I relished in the thought about how random this morning was. These unplanned surprises are truly little gifts and I think more than the grand adventures are what make my travels so satisfying.
The entire world is filled with these moments just waiting to happen, waiting to be experienced. All it takes is going out and trying top discover them.
Closest Supercharger Ocala FL 20 mi
4414 SW College Rd, Ocala, FL 34474
Carney Island Conservation Area
13275 SE 115th Ave, Ocklawaha, FL 32179