One Sunday before all the craziness of Speedweeks, we decided to get away for the day. We wanted an interesting destination, some geocaches (always geocaches!), and a place we could really enjoy to the fullest. Paynes Creek Historic State Park in Bowling Green fit the bill perfectly!
We were late showing up, as usual, and so Xandra, Chris, and Chris's brother Matthew tossed a football around in the parking lot of the visitor center. Olivia joined in the fun as soon as she could get herself out of the car!
We made our way down the Fort Chokonikla Trail, heading for a suspension bridge and monument in the south end of the park. The bridge spans Paynes Creek, and the monument is dedicated to two soldiers killed by Seminole Indians in 1849.
Once we crossed the bridge, we tried searching for a geocache on the other end. It had been attempted by many other geocachers with no luck, so we didn't hold out much hope. True to our expectations, we didn't locate it. Rob did, however, locate an entire possum skeleton nearby:
Some other highlights:
Before we could make it to the nearby monument, we were surprised by what sounded like a horse galloping across the bridge. Our 'horse' turned out to be a dog, albeit a large one. And thanks to his collar, we learned his name was 'Bocephus.'
Bocephus quickly proved himself to be verrrrrrrrryy friendly, and he didn't have any owners with him that we could see. We figured we'd keep an eye on him and call the number on his collar once we got back to the visitor center. But first, the monument:
More lovins' for Bo!!
Our journey through the park took us...and Bo...back across the bridge and past the remnants of the trading post that settlers established all those years ago.
(Can you see it over there? That's as close as you can get.)
Bo went for a dip in the river:
A few other hiking photos:
We eventually made it back to the visitor center, where Matthew and I got to know each other a little better. ;) We also called Bo's owner, who came to pick him up from their home nearby.
Paynes Creek Historic State Park sits at the confluence of Paynes Creek and the Peace River. We've been hearing about the Peace River for years because you can actually find prehistoric fossils in its calm waters. I wanted badly to see this for myself, since I've seen photos of megalodon (prehistoric shark) teeth larger than my hand! And so, back to the trail we went, heading for the river.
And there it was...the Peace River, living up to its name.
Okay, so here's the part where we do a no-no. See, hunting for fossils is legal in the Peace River, a permit required if you're planning to keep anything other than shark teeth. However, doing so within the state park boundaries is off limits. And yet...there we were. And there was the river. And...and...
One scoop in the sand and Xandra found a shark tooth. Pretty soon we all had our hands in the dirt, and we all came up with something. Were we wrong? Yes, absolutely. I can't speak for the others, because I don't know, but everything I found was thrown back.
Please don't do what we did. Throwing back the fossils, of course, don't justify looking for them in the first place. I will say, our search only lasted a few minutes. Pretty soon we were interrupted by...karma!...a park ranger. Ranger JR was nice, never mentioned anything about us scrambling away from the river's edge (or Olivia announcing that we were looking for fossils). He was making his rounds and stopped to chat. I mentioned needing a stamp for the passport, so he gave me his business card and said to give him a call when we were back at the visitor center.
Once we got back there, we made sandwiches from the picnic supplies we brought. JR showed up and disappeared into the visitor center with Rob and Olivia. After awhile I wondered where they were, only to find JR showing Olivia a red rat snake from their animal storage room. It was so nice, actually, having the one-on-one education from a guy who truly cared about the park.
Speaking of one-on-one time, we mentioned to JR that we were in the park geocaching and couldn't find the cache at the suspension bridge. He lit up, saying he knew exactly where it was. He was so sure, in fact, that he offered to meet us back there and help search for the elusive container. Sure enough, he met us and made the find! It had gotten shoved too far into its hiding spot for us to see it the first time. JR was also interested in that possum skeleton Rob found, and he took the skull for an educational program in the park!
We decided to wrap up our trip to the park with a little more physical exertion. A trip to the playground was exactly what everyone needed!