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Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Circle B Bar Reserve

The night before our last full day in Florida, my aunt suggested the Circle B Bar Reserve to my parents and I. It is run by Polk County and is only 20 minutes or less from my grandparent's house. And, the best part - or one of the best parts, is that it is free!

We decided that it was the perfect way to spend our last day, since it wasn't sunny and it was pretty chilly. Not ideal weather for the pool. So we headed to the Circle B Bar Reserve and all I can pretty much say is WOW. I am so impressed. It's a reserve where they have a ton of land that they've protected and it has become a place for birds and animals to call home. If it had been a sunny, warm day, we would have seen a bunch of alligators. Because it was chilly, they were all under water keeping warm. We did see a whole slew of birds though, as well as some otters and even a water moccasin snake. Yeah, that was scary! The reserve also has 8 miles of walking trails. We only walked through 2 miles of it and I'm smitten with the place.

The beginning of our walk was dirt trails through huge live oak trees. Of course, they were covered in spanish moss which totally added to the experience. I didn't have my wide angle lens with me, so I couldn't really capture the size and the presence of these huge trees. Next time, I'm bringing more gear along.







When I showed Matt these pictures, he said it looks like the setting for a horror movie. I absolutely wouldn't have wanted to be there at night - that is for sure. They're even slightly haunting in the daylight, but so grand and beautiful at the same time.

Then we walked along a lake. The lake had been severely polluted by the decades of cattle farming that was done next to it, so part of the reserve's task has been to clean up this lake. So many birds!




A cypress tree and it's totally bizarre roots:





The snake is in the middle of this next photo - out on the branch over the water. It's black with some subtle red markings on it. I was absolutely not going to get closer; I only had my 50mm with me so I couldn't get a close up shot. I'm not very brave when it comes to snakes.



After our walk along the lake, we walked a little bit through some marshy wetlands. I guess this is where the alligators sometimes come up on the walking paths when it's really warm out. I can actually say I'm a bit happy that they weren't out because really, what would you do if you were walking along and one climbed up and laid on the path in front of you? Yeah, you would turn around and go back the way you came. But what if one climbed up back that way too? You'd be trapped! I'm kind of happy I didn't have to find out first hand what would happen then!



I just can't get over how amazing this place was. If I lived nearby, I'd come here all the time to walk the trails. I think you can bike them as well. The parking lot was full, but we never saw very many people. We would pass some groups every so often, but for the most part, we felt like we were out there all by ourselves. It was awesome.

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