Tuesday, December 6, 2011

hiking at our in-town prairie

last weekend we packed up the camper, loaded up milo, 
and drove 25 minutes to the other side of town...to Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park.

it would've been nice to get a camping spot at a park a little farther away,
but when i tried to make reservations a month ago...this was the FIRST and ONLY available spot!  
so i booked it!

the prairie basin was formed when a number of sinkholes close together eventually merged.
for 12,000  years people have settled in this area.
from prehistoric times to Potano Indians, Spanish explorers, Seminole Indians...
followed by cotton farmers, citrus farmers and cattlemen. this land has been an irresistible lure
to explorers, adventurers...hunters/gatherers...farmers...Native Americans & Europeans.

BACK in march we visited another area of the park...The La Chua trail...
where we saw LOTS of gators and the wild spanish horses.
((check out the post for more: alligators-wild-horses-turtles-and the moon))

THIS weekend, we were on the 'camping' side...with trails, lake wauberg and a nature museum.

so, lace up your hiking boots...

our ONLY deer sighting was on the way in...it crossed the road right in front of us...
my camera was in the case...in my lap.
the deer was faster than me!  no deer picture this time.

(we had been warned...due to the low water level in the lake, the wildlife will be scarce.)

view out the back of the camper
“The clearest way into the universe is through a forest wilderness.” 
~John Muir

Milo checking out the woods...

and trying to decide whether she wants to climb the tree...or just relax for a while.

she decided to just kick back on the picnic table

after milo goes inside...we'll head down the trail.

Whitetail Deer print
the massive oak trees are covered with spanish moss

 cattails on Lake Wauberg

you don't have to tell me twice...

a Great Egret

Opossum front paw print

keep going...we're heading to the nature center...

Sweetgum trees against the clear blue sky
since so many of the trees we have here in north florida are the pine,
it's really nice to see the autumn changes in the Sweetgum.

Sweetgum leaves

this is the  Sweetgum dry fruit which contains seeds eaten by birds

an old...faded...Buckeye butterfly

want to go grab a drink? i'll wait...

ok, we made it to the visitor center/nature center, where they have pictures and artifacts
explaining the history of the prairie...the land...it's people.
cool stuff...to learn...see...touch...
Horse skull

Bison skull

((i have to give mention here to TexWisGirl @ The Run*A*Round Ranch
for letting me know that i had my skull labels reversed!! duh! they're fixed! THANKS  T!))

this old prop was recovered from Alachua Sink in 1954.
it was believed to have pushed a small Steamboat
on Alachua Lake in the later 1800's

a map from 1883.
if you spot The Sink/Alachua Lake, just south of where it says GAINESVILLE...
that's about where we're at right now.

follow the RR out of G'ville, going north-east, and you'll see

Fairbanks...that's where we live.  stay on the train, next stop is Waldo...which nowadays is
best known as a Speed Trap. there's even a warning in the AAA trip book!

walking out onto the observation deck...looking out over the prairie basin...

back on the trails...

coyote print
the Jackson Gap trail, was named after a pioneering cattle rancher at the turn of the century,
Archie Jackson...who moved cattle through here.
the old Jackson cottage
a nice fixer-upper...huh?


we spotted a pile of bones & feathers...
Red-tailed Hawk bones & feathers along with Armadillo bones.

Red-tailed Hawk pelvis or sacrum

a trail left by...possibly a snake...maybe even a 'gator.

geese...   Ummmm...see below...i stand corrected...these are Sandhill Cranes
(OK! i did it again! Kathie @ Kathie's Birds has corrected me...and she knows her birds!!
the are NOT geese...they are SANDHILL CRANES! thanks kathie!)  :)

wild Boar print

and where there's Wild Boar...you're bound to find...

wild Boar...scat

**just a REMINDER**

gator and Cormorant
juvenile Cormorant

Golden Silk Orb Weaver  aka  Banana spider

Turkey print

WHEW!  we're almost back to the campground...
there's the sign!

Puff Balls

and here's Milo...
sitting on the step up to the bed...patiently waiting to be let out.
(remember, we have a slide-in. which means the camper sits in the bed of the truck.
our bed is over the cab of the truck.)

"FINALLY! i thought you two got lost out there"

Milo...S T R E T C H I N G...

time to have a drink...relax...play scrabble or cards...while Milo sits and watches.

she's amazing really. she listens. she stays. she comes when you call her name.
(well, MOST of the time anyway.)

another perfect weekend...gone too quickly!
lucky for me, today was a slow one because i wanted to get these weekend pic's
on here before too much time passed.

have a nice week. have a safe journey.

"It is our choices that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities."  
~spoken by the character Albus Dumbledore. 
J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, 1999.


  1. okay, hiking anywhere that has alligators like that (and in your earlier post from the other side) just freaks me out!!! eek!!!

    and that bison skull looks remarkably like a horse skull to me... :)

  2. I love the idea of camping near home. It seems we have to always travel so far to get away sometimes.

  3. a perfect weekend? sure sounds like it to me...! I can't imagine living where there are 'gators.
    As always, astonishing pics. and Milo is so very patient - and clever :) :)

  4. Thanks for that neat trip. I wasn't aware of the area. We might have to check it out sometime.

    Love on Milo for me.

  5. HI Laura...first I have to say that snakes longer that a foot,boar's and gator's are not on my list to see before I kick the bucket!! lol
    Other than that your weekend looked like a perfect time....great photo's and yes even of the gator's ; }
    My fav's the Egret, Sweet Gum tree, the poor drafty old house, and of course adorable Milo! : }


  6. Oh, how I love following you around on your adventures. I used the link and went on your last trip, too. Gators don't bother me unless they look like they're going to come out of the water. Don't want to startle one, either--LOL!

    Milo the savvy camping cat is always amazing! Looks like a wonderful weekend. I am always so glad you take all your photos and share with us. :):)

  7. Awesome shots. I like all the animal prints. I don't think I could identify them all. Need to get a book I suppose.

    You're brave to let the cat out. Ours would be gone in an instant. Not sure he would come back either. I guess that's the drawback to owning a tom cat.

  8. What a wonderful adventure to have been invited to experience Laura, thank you...
    and I really enjoy the surprise of scrolling down and experiencing the different sized photos... and also glad you succeeded in securing a spot to such a popular historical place to visit.

    Hooray for State Parks... so much would be lost without them, and the Prairie Basin sure has a lot of active History to share and discover.

    The Spot you were able to secure may not have been exactly where you would have preferred, but the view from the back of your camper is gorgeous, and Milo blends beautifully. Love the photo moment of Milo considering the Tree Climb... she really is a beautiful Cat to look at, so glad she enjoys Camping adventures and being photographed.

    The soil looks like lime or is it simply sandy? Each of the Wildlife footprints so individual and clear.

    Stunning is the feel of the massive Oak Trees with their Spanish Moss... Oak Trees remind me of English Forests so the combination is interesting.

    Alligators seem to be quite prolific in your region... good they have parks with good sized lakes to enjoy and keep them occupied... and the eventual photo of the Alligator looking at you is pure artistry with the horizontal ripples... beautiful... the 'gator even looks cute, which I would have considered impossible to achieve.

    The Great Egret is brave, especially the young Cormorant... surely it didn't continue remaining so close to that awesome predatory 'gator!!!

    Love the old Map, and the Spearheads. Seeing the strike marks having created them is very special. Beautiful skills involved.

    The scene over the Prairie Basin is wondrous. Would be quite an experience seeing the changes to the colour tones during the different Seasons. Wonderful experience to be sharing in these moments with you.

    The old Jackson Cottage would be a fascinating project to fix. The very tall still standing chimney is profound... and if the walls were really that thin in its day, that huge chimney would have been a need during Winter. Fascinating how well it is surviving.

    Well I'm beginning to need one of those huge boulders to leave this note under...

    but I have truly enjoyed the hike.
    Thanks heaps....
    Good wishes with love from Magda and the Crew in Australia. xoxo

  9. Thanks for taking us along on route. I find it particularly amazing that Milo can travel with you and be let out whenever you are around. As usual, your pictures and your guidance is lovely!

  10. great pics I enjoyed that ....Milo is brilliant to come camping with you ....bet you could hardly contain yourself with all those skulls ....xx

  11. you could write a book
    "the cat who goes camping"

    what an adventure

  12. Only 25 minutes from home, yet seemingly in another world. How wonderful not to have to travel far to get all the benefits of a relaxing holiday in nature. That's my idea of the perfect weekend getaway. Milo is such a beautiful cat (I love those eyes!!!) and remarkable that she listens and comes when called etc. What a pleasure to take her camping with you and what fun for her! While we were in the Visitor's Centre, I couldn't help noticing your fingers twitching wildly. I could tell from across the room they were dying to get hold of all those skulls and bones. Your restraint was admirable! I do hope you collected the bones you found lying around in the park itself? You have shared so many marvellous sights again, Laura. The Sweetgum and seedhead look so much like the Liquidamber trees we have in our garden. I loved getting up close to Jackson's cottage. It seems a shame, though, that no attempt is made to preserve her? One good wind will see her fall down. Thank you for this perfectly delightful escape from a normal, humdrum day of doing chores.

  13. a quick THANKS ('cause i have to get to work) to TexWis, Stew, Alexia, bunnits, Grace, Rita, VMSphoto, Magda, Nadya, artymess, Kel and Desiree...for leaving notes and all your inspiring words!!

    and no...we didn't take the bones from the pile on the ground...as much as i would've liked to...and it was sure hard to hold myself back...but it's a state pk...that's a NO-NO. :(

    OH, and the Sweetgum is also known as Liquid Amber!!

    and they don't restore the cottage...i suppose because they just want it to 'natural'...as it decays...so it does. pretty soon i imagine all that will be left is the chimney!

    magda,,,,so glad u found a boulder to hold down that looong note! :)

    thanks everyone!

  14. looks like you had a lovely weekend. for me, sometimes those vacations close to home are the most relaxing. I'm not so sure about being in an area with wild boars though. I have heard they can be really dangerous? Love the egret photo and all the little detail photos.

  15. Thanks Laura - I feel like I've just had a fabulous holiday! Sweetgum and ergret heaven!

  16. That was completely spectacular. I can't believe how much you saw on your hike. I really enjoyed seeing that old cabin, and I'm glad you stayed away from the water beasts!

  17. What some lovely aligator pictures, they are beauties. And all them together, brilliant series.

  18. Hi Laura, looks like a fun camping weekend. I enjoyed the post and all the critters and Milo. I hope the birds stay safe with that gator hanging around. The Spanish moss is really pretty. It is wonderful that you only had to go 25 minutes away to see this park. Wonderful post and photos. I hope you have a great weekend. I am hoping it goes slowly.

  19. Wow, wow, and another Wow! Just too many awesome photos to pick a fav. I love Milo! I really enjoyed the Sweet Gum photos. Haven't seen one in 7 years and add to that the lichen photo!
    I'd take something that fantastic only 25 minutes away!
    I envy you your slide-in camper. Off to buy a lottery ticket-lol!
    Have a great weekend Laura!

  20. Laura, such lovely photos of a truly wonderful place. I have never heard of it before. I will have to google it. I love the Spanish moss photo. By the Way, your "geese" look amazingly like Sandhill Cranes (to use a phrase TexWisGirl used.) Note the long out- stretched necks and legs and the gray bodies with white chins. Canada Geese would be much chunkier, brownish-black bodies, white under-tails, black necks, white chin patch, and their legs would not be visible beyond their tails when flying. What a truly amazing site to see them! I have some photos of them posted on my blog right now!

  21. Thanks Kateri, Lindsey, blueviolet, Bob, meggs/Calling Ravens, eileen/eileeninmd and kathie/kathiesbirds!!

    kateri...yeah, they can be dangerous...and according to sam...they're starting to get a little more aggressive these days. but really, ANY state park you go to, in north FL anyway...they'll have wild animals...coyotes, panther, hogs, bears...etc. one time while hiking in a GA park, we came upon a wild hog & her little ones...when they saw us, they ran! after all...animals are everywhere...we hope for the best. :)

    and eileen!! I STAND CORRECTED!! to us, the sounded like geese...and looked like geese...but YOU know your birds!! haha!! i went on there and gave you credit!!! :) thanks for correcting me!!

    and thanks EVERYONE for taking the time to leave a note!! i appreciate that a lot!!
    be merry! xoxo

  22. Looks like such a beautiful spot to camp. I'd said you saw a pretty good amount of wildlife considering the water level! ...at least a lot of evidence anyway!

  23. it does look like you had a wonderful time and found so many treasures and interesting things. so fun to see through your heart and lens, thank you~

  24. Thanks Erika Jean and Tammie!! yep, we did see some wildlife...or at least evidence of...and everything was a treasure! :) thanks for taking the time to leave a note! be merry!

  25. Wondering about the sounds you heard... could you tell about Milo's vocal reactions to the new places and how they change when he makes discoveries...

    My Manx cat is such a subvocal creature wondering how your cat vocalizes while camping...

  26. Beautiful pics, as always.

    We went conoeing near there once and the boat tippe over and we had to tread water while trying to get it rightside up again. All the while a gator was staring at us from the edge of the water, entirely too close for comfort.

    Good times!

  27. crayzys!! and Trucking Tumbleweed!! thanks for swinging by...

    tumbleweed...YIKES!! that's definitely too close for comfort! when we go canoeing...i worry about that...NO WAY do i want to end up in these alligator infested waters...kicking my feet...thrashing around, trying to get to land, or turn the boat right side up...which is NOT an easy task!!

    crayzys, milo doesn't talk much. she sits. and listens. and crouches down. and watches. sometimes sneaking toward smaller 'prey'...on her belly...
    but she's really not very vocal! only when she wants to go out, come in, be picked up or eat!!

    thanks for leaving notes you 2!! :)

    merry merry

  28. Hi-I made it backwards in time! had to see the pics of Milo for sure! And, they're great...a beautiful cat. The moss is really cool. We don't get to see that around here, but have seen spanish moss in Lousiana. You got those cranes in good formation, and the old Jackson cottage looks fun. What a neat place to go, and I especially like the Sweetgum trees. The leaves are really pretty. Well, another successful and pleasing adventure. Did you scoop the scat? Alrighty-so long for now...I'm back to the KardKorner, literally!


thanks for stopping by! it's always nice to hear from fellow wanderers!