Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Payne's Prairie

12-10-13 T-Did a hike at Payne's Prairie today, out onto Cone's Dike. It was an 8 & 1/4 mile round trip on a broad berm that rose about 2 to 3 feet above the marsh/pastureland on either side. As you are entering a wilderness area, you actually have to pass through an animal barrier, which is a u-shaped chute with 2 square turns, just wide enough for one person at a time to get through. The area we were hiking in is where the buffalo and horse herds are, and the usual swamp critters, such as alligators also live. 

Love the one about passing large alligators (much less the other two)-I said to Kath about three miles into it, "what happens if your on the way out and do run into a large alligator across the path?" The horses and buffalo almost always clear out when they see you coming, usually at a distance, but gators often do not budge. Not a standoff I'd want to be in while watching the sun go down!

It was flat, and when the sun was out, pretty toasty! We did see one buffalo right after we started:

We were surprised as it was jet black, unlike any we've seen out west, which are brown or reddish brown. As it is a dike used to control water flow, the trail was in long, half to three quarter mile, dead straight stretches. There were tons of sign, lots of buffalo and gator wallows, and horse tracks. 

About 2 miles out, we stopped to eat lunch, and heard something high stepping it out in the swamp, which most of the time was thick brush, without much visibility. We figured it must have been a horse, as a buffalo wouldn't have made individual "ker-splunks" by picking each foot up high, like a horse can. 

We did see some Sandhill Cranes:

Much of the time you could see off across the plain-swamp-prairie, and the further out we got, the more treed it became, and the trees taller as we went along. The last mile, the berm was much higher than the land on either side, which was now swamp. We saw a few gators out in this area.

Given the time of year, the wildlife was scarce, so when we got to the end, we hoofed it back, as it was kind of a dull hike, though a good exercise walk, if nothing else! Thinking we were really dragging, we were surprised when we ended up back at the car at 1:30 (we didn't bring a watch), and, having left at 10:15, so we we're pretty happy with that. Not bad time for a couple of old farts.