New Year’s Day Adventure

Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park near Gainesville in Florida

Looking for adventure on New Year’s Day in a state where we have done all the obvious low budget activities, we chose the Florida interior in hopes of spotting gators and wild horses left from Spanish explorers hundreds of years ago. And maybe even bison.

Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park near Gainesville in Florida sounded like a place with possibilities. Because of high water levels, parts of the trails were closed but we were still able to explore, see an abundance of birds, and discover interesting bits of history.

We climbed the tower at the Southern entrance to get an overview of the prairie. For hiking, we chose La Chua trail on the northern end of the Prairie. We drove through the suburbs of Gainesville to gain entrance to the trail.

Near the beginning of the trail, we passed through a fascinating old barn and admired the construction techniques. Then we crossed under a train trestle used in the old cattle roundup days, bringing to mind the cracker cowboys (named for cracking the whip) I had read about in Patrick D. Smith’s book A Land Remembered – a must read if you travel the interior of Florida.

Alachua Sink in Paynes Prairie, Florida
View of Alachua Sink from La Chua trail.

Once on the boardwalk built over the intriguing Alachua Sink, we were able to get an overview of the sinkhole where water enters the Florida aquifer and capture photos and audio of birds going about their daily activities – fighting over food, eating snails and sunning themselves.

After leaving the prairie, we took a nostalgic ride through Micanopy, a place etched in my memory as one of the many travel adventures with my mother.

With the day winding down, we wanted a nice secluded place to park, cookout and watch the sunset before heading back to our home base in St Augustine. Googling parks nearby is always hit or miss, but what did we have to lose?

Lochloosa Lake Park came up. It was perfect with a bonus lakeside picnic table.

The park was fairly secluded except for a few airboat owners loading their boats to head home. Just as we had finished eating, a couple pulled up in their airboat within 20 feet of our picnic table. Evan stuck up a conversation which led to an invitation to go for a ride. He refused but then the driver looked at me and pleaded, “You want to go for a ride don’t you?”

Of course I did! Without thinking of any consequences and against Evan’s better judgement, the boat ride was on.

The events that followed and what went through our minds as the ride ensued, and how it ended, we will title (movie coming soon) “Beware of Boat Rides with Strangers.”

Is this story true? Or was this all a figment of our imagination? We’ll let you decide.

I will tell you that this adventure will go up toward the top of our list of most memorable New Year’s Days.
January 3, 2019

Visit our New Year’s Day hike in 2018.


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