Heat, Stars, and Unforgettable Moments at Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park


Words and photography by George McKenzie Jr
Live Wildly Adventurist

Imagine this: I’m cruising down a Florida highway in my FJ Cruiser and have the AC cranked up to the max. The back of the car is packed as if I’m prepping for the end of the world—tents, camera gear, food, you name it. I thought I had it all figured out, but let’s get real; I’ve never braved the summer heat of Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park before. I am in for a wild ride.

As I pull into the campsite, it’s like stepping into a natural sauna. The air is thick, and the heat is almost tangible. But I’m buzzing with excitement because I’m about to meet up with my buddy, Anthony Sleiman. This guy is a maestro of capturing the Milky Way and creating mind-blowing time-lapses. We had plans, big ones, and they were about to unfold.

IMG 0066

Scouting Locations: The Hunt for the Perfect Shot

First order of business? Scouting. We jump back into the FJ Cruiser, and it’s like we’re modern-day explorers—think Lewis and Clark but with mirrorless cameras and GPS. I’m at the wheel, and Anthony’s eyes scan the landscape like a hawk. We’re on a mission to find the ultimate spots for our time-lapses.

After driving around for what feels like an eternity but is actually just a few hours, we find the holy grail of sunset spots. A place where the horizon stretches out infinitely, unobstructed by trees or any other natural nuisances. It’s just us and the raw beauty of nature. We set up our cameras, hit the record button, and then it happens. The sky transforms into various colors that no artist could ever truly replicate. We’re standing there, amazed, grinning like kids on Christmas morning.

Photo by Anthony Sleiman

The Mosquitoes Enter the Scene: The Silent Warriors

When we think it can’t get any better, night falls, and we get some unexpected visitors—mosquitoes. But these aren’t your average, buzzing pests. No, these are ninja mosquitoes, silent but oh-so-deadly. They swoop in without a sound, and you’re their next meal before you know it. Good thing we came prepared. We douse ourselves in heavy-duty repellent as if armoring up for battle. It’s us against them, and we’re not going down without a fight.


The Midnight Mission: A Galactic Quest

Exhausted but exhilarated from the sunset shoot, we retreat to our tents. But the night is young, and we’ve got another mission. The alarm is set for midnight because we’re going for the big one—the Milky Way time-lapse.

When the alarm blares, it feels like I’ve barely blinked. But there’s no time to lose. We grab our gear and head to our second pre-scouted location. It’s so dark you’d think you’ve been transported to another galaxy. Cameras are set up, and now comes the test of patience. Time-lapses aren’t quick; each one takes around 3.5 to 4 hours. We’re committed to swatting away the occasional stealthy mosquito as we wait.

The Reward: Capturing Eternity

Finally, the moment of truth arrives. Our cameras beep in unison, signaling the end of the time-lapse. We rush to check the footage, and it’s nothing short of spectacular. The Milky Way sprawls across the sky like a cosmic tapestry, and we’ve captured every mesmerizing detail.

We pack up, exchange a triumphant high-five, and return to camp. The sky is beginning to lighten, and we’re running on pure adrenaline. But who cares? We’ve done it. We’ve captured the untamed, awe-inspiring beauty of Kissimmee Prairie, mosquitoes and all.

BA1ACC55 EAF4 47B1 B3B6 9AAB2F75FD8A

The Takeaway: Lessons and Triumphs

As I drive away from the preserve, a mix of emotions washes over me. I’m drained, sweaty, and sporting a few mosquito bites that’ll serve as itchy souvenirs for the next few days. But would I do it all over again? Absolutely, in a heartbeat.

If you’re ever thinking of camping in Florida during the sweltering summer months, let me give you some advice: pack smart. Forget the usual gear; you’ll need light, breathable equipment to withstand the heat and keep those pesky mosquitoes at bay. But trust me, every bit of preparation is worth it. The views, the adventure, and the memories are priceless.

So that’s my story—a tale of friendship, adventure, and the relentless pursuit of the perfect shot. It was me, Anthony, and our trusty cameras against the untamed beauty of Kissimmee Prairie. And you know what? We totally won.

Cover photo by Anthony Sleiman