Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.

Henry David Thoreau

Finally Back to Our Original Plan

Friday April 6 – Sunday April 8, 2018                                                           Most Recent Posts:
Paynes Prairie State Park                                                                             Further Adventures??
Micanopy, Florida                                                                                         Mid March

IMG_0001Friday morning we check out of our “suite” and head over to CollisionTec RV to rejoin Winnona.

She’s looking lovely as always. Even though we can’t see her newly spiffed up window frame we can appreciate a seriously clean new window.  

We grab one photo of her with the man who did the metal work Dar Forney.  He tells us he also put new hallogen headlights in along with everything else he did.  This is a great business that we highly recommend for any collision work you might need in the Tampa area.   Thanks Dar.

We’re finally getting back onto what was our original winter schedule after having to cancel two months of park reservations.  It’s 136 miles from Clearwater to Paynes Prairie State Park, our destination,  and it’s an easy drive.  We leave CollisionTec, turn right on 49th Street, go a couple of blocks, turn right on Ulmerton Road and follow it until it turns into I-275 and goes across the bridge toward Tampa.  Then we stay on I 275 until it dead ends into I-75 and take that to exit 379.  At that point, we’re about 4 miles from the park.   I’m looking forward to such an easy drive.

Once we’re on  I-75, we drive by “the wall” that separated our site at Quail run from the interstate..   As we drive by, I grab this picture from the other side of the Wall.  We think we must have been right about where the red arrow is.

Wall 1

Things are going just fine to this point.  And then we come to the great slow down.  From here we are slowed down to 20 mph and sometimes to a stand still.  It takes us an extra hour and a half to make this trip. By the time we arrive at Paynes Prairie we’re exhausted but happy to pull into site 34 and away from cars, trucks and all the noise.  We’re surrounded by the hardwood hammock and the only sounds are the birds and insects.

One of the things I love most about finally being back where I belong is waking up to a beautiful view out the bedroom windows.


On our first full day here,  I was up and out early to hike the Lake Trail and a couple of others over to the Visitor Center and then to the viewing platform that looks out over the prairie.   The yellow star on the map is our site in the campground.  The yellow hand drawn line on the left side of the page is the way I went this morning.

One thing I would have loved about Paynes Prairie in my previous life is that it has a totally separate tent are and all the sites are walk ins.  There are 15 of those and 35 RV/Trailer sites.

This picture shows the tent site closest to the parking but there are several others further back a path into the woods.


The trails are laid out very nicely here in that you do not have to walk on the roads to reach any of the trail heads.  Sometimes you have to cross the road but you don’t have to walk along it.

On my way this morning, I pass through the day use area which has a nice picnic section, an interesting playground and the boat ramp into Lake Wauburg.  It’s a nice little lake which the park restricts to non powered or electric engine.  Love that but unfortunately the other sides of the lake have homes with power boats and facilities owned by the University of Florida in Gainesville which rent sail and other types of boats.   It looks sweet and quiet today but I suspect during the summers and on the week-ends it is far from it.

It looks  like an early morning paddle might give us the lake to ourselves.


From there the trail goes across the edge of the lake on a boardwalk with a pier for fishing I assume.    There are swampy sections on the trail leading to the boardwalk and one might expect to see a gator there except that we’ve been in Florida often enough to know that today is a bit cool for gators unless they can find a nice spot in the sun.  No sun here.



These are my favorite kind of skies, blue with puffy clouds.


From there the trail becomes a sandy road first through the beautiful Live Oaks and then through a hammock area before opening up into Pine Flats where I might expect to see a gopher tortoise but don’t.

My first wildlife sighting of the day is on a juvenile pine, at the very top of its leader.  Can you see him up there?

I’ve never seen a grasshopper without any markings or color at all and wonder what he was.
Any of you Orthopterologists know?  Paula’s my Florida expert.  Haven’t heard from her in a long time.  Are you out there Paula?


He blends right in with his sandy surroundings but I sure couldn’t find him when I searched on line.  Maybe he’s getting ready to shed this outer skin and there’s something totally different inside.  But if so, I wouldn ‘t expect him to do it where he’s advertising himself on top of a “pole”.



After this I cross the park road, pick up the Jackson’s Gap trail and take it a mile to the turn off for the Visitor’s Center.


The Visitor Center is a beautiful building which I’m surprised to find closed on this Saturday both when I go by it on my way to the viewing platform and on my way back.   I later learn it is only open when there are volunteers from the community to staff it.  Apparently this park is seriously understaffed in both paid personnel and resident volunteers.

The Viewing Platform is down a handicapped accessible path not far from the visitor’s center.  The lowest level of the platform has a ramp but of course the views are not as good as the levels above.  I remember clearly when I would take my mother places in a wheel chair during the last years of her life with ALS, that even with accessible facilities, her life was so much more limited than mine.  But still I’m glad we, as a country, are at least trying to make as many things as possible accessible.

On the way to the platform I snap a selfie with the amazingly large roots of this Live Oak tree.


Here’s the view from the first level.  It was the perfect place to be on one of our past visits when the wild horses were grazing in the mowed grass just beyond it.  But not today.


On to the second level.

I don’t see any bison or wild horses or the herd of what is known as Florida Cracker cows.

We’ve seen them all on various previous visits but the ground is very wet now and more rain is predicted so I suspect they are all smart enough to have moved to some higher ground in this 22,000 acre park.  With more rain predicted and a shorter stay than usual, we may be out of luck this visit.

WAY in the distance I catch sight of one of those who is very happy in all this water.
I’m amazed that my camera can even get these pictures.

Time to head back, I’m out early and breakfast is calling.   On my return down the same trails, I meet up with this  little Miss taking her parents out for a hike.  Maybe she’s worn them out but she’s having a great time.  ..


I ask if I can take her picture and she gives me a look.  When I drop down to her level and show it to her, she smiles.  I ask her who is that?  Is it you?  And she nods yes and laughs.  She about our Celia’s age and just as interested in seeing her own photograph.


All the sections of this trail are lovely and so quiet.  It’s so good to be back in a natural setting.


There are two picnic areas, one on either side of the bridge/boardwalk.  When I reach the one before the bridge going this direction, I can see the sailboaters are out now.

But when I get out on the bridge, it’s clear the dark clouds are moving in.  Rain is predicted for the next 3 days.


I doubt I would have seen this Little Blue Heron had he not flown in right in front of me.  Do you see him?

Wow is he handsome.  What colors!

On sunday, David and I do the same nearly 6 mile hike over to the Visitor Center which we know is going to be open today becasue there is a Living History Program from 11am-3pm where you can chat with American’s first native born naturalist/artist William Bartram.

IMG_0929Most folks think of John James Audubon when they think of naturalist/artist but Bartram was first.

Between 1773-1777 Bartram explored the East and West Colonies of Florida which were then under British rule, and ventured as far west as the banks of the MIssissippi River which was then part of Florida.  His field notes were published in 1791 as Travels Through North and South Carolina, Georgia, East & West Florida, The Cherokee Country, The Extensive Territories of the Muscogulges, Or Creek Confederacy, and the Country of the Chactaws.  Whew – what a title.  But then I guess part of the purpose was to get people’s attention and make them want to come see it for themselves and settle here.

Also, from the written information advertising the program, we learn that Bartram’s legacy influenced not only the scientific communities, but the literary as well.  Some have called him the father of the Romantic Movement in literature for his influence on William Wordsworth, and Ralph Waldo Emerson among others.  Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” and “Kubla Kahan” both contain images from his descriptions of the Alachua Savanna which is now Paynes Prairie State Park.

Mr. Bartram answered our questions and relayed stories of his time in this area and with the Seminole Tribe whose land this was.  Among the stories he told was of his nickname. When He first went to introduce himself to the Seminole chief, he explained to Chief Cowkeeper that he was interested in studying the local plants and animals.  The chief was amused and began calling him Puc Puggy (the flower hunter). The park’s campground is named Puc Puggy and is located on Puggy road. If you don’t know this story they both seem like very strange names.

Mr Bartram also showed us some of his drawings of plants and animals as well as this drawing of Paynes Prairie.


Out the large glass windows behind Mr. Bartram is an observation deck.  After speaking with him, we go out the door to see the view from there.   This too is handicapped accessible.


We look for dark dots which might indicate one of the types of larger animals that graze on the prairie but again, not today.


I had back down the trail to the viewing platform.  David, still at the visitor center deck, snaps this picture of me in the “jungle”. 


On the top level of the viewing platform is a bench swing where you can sit and relax while taking in the beautiful scene.  It helps if you are tall enough that your view isn’t interrupted by the railings.  That would be David, but not me..

Out on the trail is definitely one of my happy places.

When we returned home, I got out our copy of the current unabridged edition.  We’ve both read parts of it but got bogged down in all of the latin horticultural terms.  If you are a botonist this is your book.  Great stories and plant names you’ll recognize.  This time I think I’ll just try to skip the long lists of plants and stick to his adventures in a Florida that doesn’t exist any more except in their state parks.  Living History Programs are great inspiration.


  1. The trail looks tremendously appealing, especially the views from the observation tower.

  2. Sherry, only you can see a grasshopper as your first wildlife of the day. Love it. Enjoy your peace!

  3. In 2015 we stayed at Paynes, but were fortunate enough to the the horses and bison - at a distance,but those reptiles were very close! Did no know of the 'cracker cows', guess those will have to wait for another time. Great pictures of the trails and the observation deck.

  4. I can 'hear' the relaxed tone in you voice now that you're surrounded by nature again. You look great! Two months is a darn good "turn-around" for heart surgery! That grasshopper looks like he's made of balsa wood. And the VC roof reminds me of the Flying Nun :-))) Sad that they can't keep it open every Saturday. The living history program sounds wonderful.

  5. Love the grasshopper! I have always thought that grasshoppers were cool! This looks like a real change from your last place practically on the highway! The privacy and quiet and trees and beautiful views are making you happy, I'm sure. We had snow flurries all Monday morning and it is supposed to be in the high 70's or even 80's on Thursday. Have fun- I' glad Winonna is all better. xxxooo

  6. Payne's Prairie is a very nice park. I can tell you are thrilled to be back on schedule and out of hospitals, motels and RV parks!

  7. Being back in nature and at Payne's Prairie is good medicine for the spirit. You sound happy. :-) We love that park, and your photos really do it justice. We didn't see the wild horses when we biked out on the dike trail in February, but we saw them up close—including two young ones—when we walked the trails at nearby Sweetwater Preserve. They seem to like it over there.

  8. It's wonderful to see you and Dave back on schedule with your travels and hiking.

  9. So good to see the TWO of you back doing the things you love. It is amazing to us that in just a couple months David has recover to the point you can be back to almost "normal"!!! It makes one realize that everyday is a gift not to be wasted!!! Great nature photos and we can feel you decompressing:o))

  10. I'm glad the windshield replacement turned out so well. I will try to remember Collision Tec in the event of a future need.

    We have had heavy rain here for the past two days and we were concerned with Mama Sand Crane since she's nesting in a dry pond. We were happy to find that she hasn't been flooded out, at least not yet.

    One time at Paynes Prairie we saw the whole herd of buffalo walk right in front of the viewing tower. We've never been that lucky again but that particular day they were almost in touching distance.

    Old William is looking pretty good for his age. haha. We see Bartram trails all the time in the Blairsville area. One intersects with the AT if I remember correctly. You guys should head to Blairsville sometime. Vogel State park has some nice trails, one of which will get you to the AT. It's a lovely area and I think you'd enjoy it.

    Glad you are back enjoying nature. We are still "loving" it here in Quail Run. :(

  11. So glad all went well with your home and everyone is back relaxing in nature:) It is always so nice to put those boots to the ground after some trying times. It was nice for us to break up our house purchase with two different week trips to hike. What a cute little hiker you found on the trail:) Having a Q&A with Mr Bartram must have been very exciting. Beautiful little Blue Heron!

  12. So nice to be back on the trail! Lovely bird and grasshopper pictures. Definitely preferable to life by the highway! Cute kid! Although I say Celia's cuter and would ham it even more for the camera with her exaggerated 'cheese' smiles - lol :) I'm sure we'll get great pictures of her on the trails in May. Yay :)

  13. So glad you are back in the natural beauty. And how fortunate to run into Bartram.

  14. We have those "grasshoppers" here in Arizona, too. But their coloring, while very subdued, was a bit more than what your fella is showing. If I can find a picture of the one I saw here, I'll send it to you. I have no clue what they are, but surprised to find them in such diverse areas.

    We have scorpions in common with Florida, but I've seen only one here in over twenty years, and probably only two in my 36 years in Florida.

    Virtual hugs,


  15. I bet the silence is deafening away from all the traffic noise. Glad you're back on track!

  16. Glad to hear you’re back on track ... happy travels!

  17. Wonderful to read the news of the incoming grandson! Quite the repair on the windshield, a real pain for us Winnie owners. I've had repairs done to my frame when having broken windshields replaced (both sides). Lots of maintenance on RVs, I got to catch up on ours so we can get out and about this summer a bit. Family issues have recently kept us "land locked". Been up in NJ a while visiting my dad who has had some health challenges. Family first. ;c)

  18. So glad that the hotel stay is behind you, and your home is all spiffed up. Congratulations on another grandchild, what fun! I had forgotten about Payne's Prairie, and am wondering if just possibly I can get in there for that last week of February that I still have open. Probably too late, but I used to go there with Bel and it was wonderful.

  19. Ah well, looks as though Payne's Prairie is all sewed up. OF course. Sigh. So now we are back to waiting for the 6 month window to book the base camp at Jacksonville.

  20. So glad to see you back in your happy place. Enjoy!!!

  21. It is truly wonderful to be back in what the Florida state parks call "The Real Florida" - all great places for nature lovers like us! Love your grasshopper picture - I'm not sure I would have even seen it.

  22. I can feel your sigh of relief and can relate to be travelling again while David is healing. Where else to be best recovering and healing but on a spot where you are surrounded by "the Real Florida." Glad to see you back on the road.

  23. As you can see I'm 2 months behind catching up on the world again, glad that all went well with David's surgery and recovery and that you are back in your happy place. I've been working way too hard myself and wonder how long I will be able to keep up this pace but until Wayne's work situation is resolved (it will be a year in June and still no decision from his company about whether to retire him or bring him back off disability) and until we get a decision from the court on Cory's disability hearing (now been 5 months!!) I need to keep at it.


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