Crowley Natural and Cultural Center, Indian Fields Campground
As we prepared for this camping trip many things went through my mind, We had a lot of kids from many different age groups and family backgrounds. Everything that could be different with this group was . The one thing in common, all the parents wanted their children to experience a night of camping under the stars enjoying nature at its finest.
I was happy that my old dog Bo was able to join us on this trip. He loves camping but the summer months are too hard on him and long hiking trips are no longer something he can do. All of the kids just loved him and he totally loved all the attention. One young fella was afraid of dogs but quickly warmed up to Bo’s begging to be pet.
Camping at Crowley always starts with loading everyone’s gear in the tents and then we are off on adventure. Sometimes the first hike is up to the museum, other times up to the Children’s Discovery Trail and zip line. This time however we went out to the tower over-looking the Myakka River Basin. After a few group photos I handed my camera over to one of the teenagers in the group, an aspiring photographer, and told her she was in charge for the day. She took many wonderful photos! On the hike we pointed out the ever important poison ivy, orchids, invasive Caesar Weed, Wild Coffee and more. We stopped to look for animal sign along the creek and we were greeted by some fine looking Black Vultures at the tower. It was a beautiful afternoon and the view was wonderful. Red-Winged Blackbirds were darting in and out of the cattails, there were many sparrows being flushed out by them to. Another resident or the tower was present for photos as well, the Golden Orb Weaver.
After hiking around the Maple Branch Swamp we were off to visit the General Store styled museum with wonderful historic pieces collected by Jasper Crowley himself, and other buildings in the Pioneer Area and the Pioneer Playground. On the way back to the campground we had to take the Children’s Discovery Trail for the kids who just had to check out the zip-line. Almost worn out, the kids spent some time at the fossil pit digging out sharks teeth and fossilized bones while the adults went back to camp for a well earned rest. Soon dinner was cooking in the Dutch ovens and the kids were in for a lesson on native Florida wildlife.
We always bring along a box of furs/skulls and other items to let the kids get a close up look at critters they might never get a close look at. Raccoon, Opossum, Deer, Turkey and other native species are all talked about. They get to compare a coyote skull with a deer skull. We even have an alligator skull and foot in addition to feathers, shells, snake skins and more. We always get a lot of questions and even the parents learn a lot from this hands on activity!
It was not long and I was ringing the dinner bell. Full bellies did not stop the kids from a round of smores and nighttime hide and seek. By 10 PM all were tucked into bed and preparing for the next day’s adventures……but that is for another blog.
Please, take your kids outside to play – even if they resist! If they do not have a love and respect of nature, they will not work to protect it. We need our natural places and so do they, even if they do not realize it yet. Need a hand introducing them to the outdoors? Well, that is where we come in. We will provide (set up and take down) the tents, provide and cook the meals, and lead activities (yes, even the smores). All you have to do is come out and PLAY with your children! This may require you to let loose, laugh and smile a bit, you may even have an ahh-haa moment with your teen.
Remember mild weather camping books up close to 3-4 months in advance. We do try to schedule group trips at least once per month that may allow for shorter notice. We look forward to meeting you and your family soon.
For more photos taken during this outing please visit our online Shutterfly album