Sunday, June 22, 2014

Airboats, Alligators, and riding Florida Back Roads

We had a nice day on the Vulcan last weekend.  The plan was to explore the back roads around home and stop for a sandwich at one of the many fish camps in the area.

We rode south on Canoe Creek Road toward our first planned stop at the no name park on Lake Marion.  As we arced past a small stand of cypress trees we came across a small group of bison.  Florida does have a small herd of re-introduced bison, but these big guys were more likely an experiment by a cattle rancher.

Bison remind me of a powerful steam locomotive.  All strength and business.  They were not super happy with me trying to take their pictures, they all turned their backs to me and ambled away.

A few miles south of our "buffalo" stop we had to slow to a near stop to let a couple sandhill cranes cross the road.  Sandhill cranes are big, they can get 4 feet tall and their wingspan stretches to 7 feet.  They are also one of the tamest of wild creatures.  We have had them walk into the garage while we were in the driveway washing our bikes and they will peck seeds out of your hand if you allow them to.

Sandhill Cranes
We continued to shuffle our way south and found ourselves on the Pea Vine Road, a small gravel road the runs from near Kenansville to near Yee Haw Junction.  Pea Vine meanders through pasture lands and hammocks.  There is little traffic and plenty to look at and enjoy.  The smell of the hammocks was wonderful and we tried to keep breathing in and not let the air back out.  It seemed a perfect place to snap a few shots of the Vulcan.

I brag about the beauty of central Florida's "old Florida" and then make everyone look around my bike to see what it looks like...

From the southern end of Pea Vine, we worked our way north and east to make a stop for eats at the Lone Cabbage Fish Camp.  I had my usual dish of gator tail.  While at the fish camp we talked our way into an airboat ride on the St. Johns river.  The St. Johns meanders through flat swampy land.  A good knowledge of the area is needed or you can find yourself lost and among hungry alligators.

While awaiting our boat ride we found a brown water snake swimming by the dock as well as turtles and gators.

If you are unfamiliar with an airboat, let me tell you that they are extremely shallow draft flat bottom boats that are powered by either older air cooled aircraft engines or modern automobile engines.  Either way, the engines power pusher propellers that propel the boat across the water.  They can slide across damp ground and over plant growth in and along the rivers without leaving any harm.  They are noisy and an absolute blast to ride.  They can also take you very close to wild life such as birds and alligators.

Alligators of all sizes can hide easily in the water

This is a small guy that has just his head sticking out of his den.

He was not happy with me being close to him

Another small one. About 4.5 feet long

This is free range country
A big boy sunning
Florida has quite a bit of free range in this part of the state.  I am told that gators do not bother the cattle much.  There are so many alligators in the area that it would be easy to get into trouble with them if you were not careful.

After enjoying a day on the bike and spending time on the St.Johns, we chugged our way back home and rolled the bike into the garage just as the sun set lit the skies with beautiful shades of reds and oranges.


  1. Awesome Pictures... It's amazing to think that all of this wild life roams free just 24hr drive from where I live! Thanks for sharing.

    1. Hi Mario, you are right, the wildlife is spectacular here in old Florida. It is borderline exotic. Even without considering animals like the very friendly Manatee.