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

Henry David Thoreau

Paynes Prairie Preserve and Fridge Woes

Monday March 18 & Tuesday March 19, 2013
Site #7, Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park



The refrigerator Woes

We arrived yesterday at about 4:00 at Paynes Prairie after moseying along 120 miles and stopping at Brusters.   We get set up in site 7 or think we are when I notice the refrigerator isn’t on.  No lights at all on the panel.  I push all the buttons.  NADA nothing.

Sand Hill Cranes and San Felasco Hammock 087  David goes out and checks the fuses.  That’s not the problem but the board is click click clicking every 15 seconds or so.  Sounds like the automatic switch from electric to propane isn’t able to connect.  Of course since Murphy set this up it is Sunday night.  Can’t call Winnebago or Norcold.  So I hop in the car and drive into Gainesville and buy two styrofoam coolers and 6 bags of ice.  Total cost $30.  Back home, we empty the freezer, which by the way has a quart of JMC in it from our stop at Brusters yesterday, and the refrig and put all of it in the coolers.   



MONDAY March 18th

The Campground

Sometime during the night, everything comes back on, the panel and the refrig.  So back in go the freezer and other goods no harm done to anything.  We now own two huge styrofoam coolers and at least 4 bags of still frozen ice.  Oh well……. we may well need them again.

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Much more interesting is the Paynes Prairie Preserve campground which has 50 sites, 35 RV/tent and 15 tent only.  They are all set in a lovely hardwood hammock and have water and electric.  There is a dump site at the end of the campground loop.  The campground loop is paved but the sites are sand/dirt/leaves.  All have a fire ring, a lantern pole and a wood picnic table.  It is a mile walk to the Visitor’s Center and nearly that far to most of the trails.  This is fine with us but might bother some folks.

This morning David talks with technical folks at both Winnebago and Thetford who currently owns Norcold.  They say check this, check that most of which we can’t do until next time we leave and switch from shore power.  If you have any ideas about this new quirk in our works, be sure to let me know.




Paynes Prairie Visitor’s Center and Tower

So since we can’t deal with the fridge,  we get on the bikes to head over to the visitor center.  When we get there, we pass some folks who tell us to check out the eagle’s nest in a tree visible from the path to the restrooms.  So we do.

David spies it but I can’t see it in this picture.  Can you?   But once I zoom in.  I can definitely see it.  It’s HUGE.  I think he and I could both get inside.  Nobody home that we can see.

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On to the visitor’s center which is nestled at the edge of the hammock as it becomes the prairie.  We watch an excellent 20 minute film although we have to watch it on a TV screen since their full screen projector is broken.  That’s a real shame as it would be more beautiful on a big screen. We look over the exhibits but it’s a beautiful day we are anxious to get outside and walk down to the 50’ observation tower overlooking the prairie.   We pass more enormous trees to hug along the way.   These Live Oaks are just such splendid trees. 


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We march up the 3 story tower and our first views of the Prairie are stunning.

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We climb down the tower. David checks his map and suggests we hike the Wacahoota Trail through the Hammock back to the bikes.  It’s a beautiful short trail with lots of huge trees to hug and pose with.

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Back on the bikes we go over to check out the kayak launch into 300 acre Lake Wauberg. 

I was told by the ranger at check in that only canoes, kayaks and electric motors can launch.  Sounds good but then she also said that power boats of the University of Florida water skiing team use this lake for practice and home owners on the lake also have power boats.   This may not be a kayaking spot for us.  I actually love water skiing but not kayaking with it. 

The lake is lovely and we do see one of the skiers practicing complete flips in the air.  Now that is amazing but he is too far away to get a picture of it.  Although I do get one of him skiing backwards and one of him pulling up along side his tow boat.

Across from the campground dock is also a public dock with tons of kayaks and canoes assumedly for rent.  Just to the left of them is a ski jump apparently for the UF team.  I’d like to see that in use.


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TUESDAY March 19

The Chacala Trail


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Paynes Prairie Preserve encompasses over  22,000 acres.  We decide to do all the trails in our area before venturing out to other entrances to the park to see what we can of the 20 distinct biological communities that make up this National Natural Landmark.






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The Chacala Trail is named after a small freshwater pond just outside the preserve boundary but visible from the trail. The trail is level and winds through several of the park’s distinct biological communities including pine flatwoods, hardwood hammock, open ponds and old fields.   The area around the visitor center overlooks the huge prairie but along with the campground and most of the trails is located in the forest surrounding the prairie.



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The official distance of the Chacala Trail is 6.5 miles but you can walk as few as 2 miles or as many as 8 miles round trip. There are three loops or "blazes" named Chacala Yellow, White and Blue.






Hike to Chacala Pond 012 The quickest route to arrive at the scenic view of Chacala Pond is a 4 mile round trip stroll past lettered posts "A", "J", "H", "G", left on F at the .3 mile spur and then back.   This is what we do today.






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Our final section of the trail is through a pinewoods.  The pines are tall and straight and reach way up into the sky.  They smell wonderful and this is such a relaxing walk that we decide to just lie down right in the path and look up at the clouds through the beautiful pine tops.  The sun is falling in the west and David takes a picture of me shielding my eyes from it as I relax and enjoy the view.  It sure was hard to get up from this wonderful spot and view.


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As many of you know, David has dumped two cameras in the water and at the moment has none.  You may not know that he also has misplaced his binoculars.  So we are sharing both my camera and binoculars.  Usually I take the former and he the latter but today we trade places.  On our way back to the campground we find a large area of giant thistle and he gets caught up in taking photographs of others enjoying them as we are.   The thistle leaves are vicious but the flowers are soft as down.  I’m pretty sure these identifications are correct but please let me know if I’m wrong.


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It never ceases to amaze what beauty is all around us if we will slow down, walk quietly, softly and look closely.


  1. Glad to hear the fridge decided to return to power!! Hope it continues:o))

    1. So far so good, it appears to be the automatic switching device....maybe. :-)

  2. Hello Sherry and David. We live in Gainesville and have been following your blog for a long time. Welcome to the area!!

    If you run out of hikes at Paynes Prairie, then you should check out Barr Hammock Preserve which is a relatively new set of trails opened by the Alachua County Land Conservation program. It's a very short drive from where you are camping.

    I've done a few blogs on this park at:



    Also, good luck with your fridge!! Our camper is now in the shop for fridge problems. It's always something!!

    1. Thanks so much for following my blog and for these references. I appreciate your suggestions. The ranger also suggested Barr Hammock as there are a pair of nesting Florida Sandhill cranes there so we'll try to get over there. Hope you'll comment often. Great to hear from you.

  3. I certainly hope that you got that ice cream eaten!! Can't let it go to waste! The picture from laying on the ground was spectacular. I wish thistle wasn't such a pain to deal with... Love their flowers as do the bees and butterflies. You had good company.

    1. Thanks so much for the compliments Karen. No way I'd waste the ice cream. I'd just eat MORE of it! I guess if we would all turn our yards back to "wild" we wouldn't have to care about thistle and could just mow a path through it all. :-) But soon you'll be like me and can enjoy someone else's thistles!!

  4. boo hiss on the fridge and yay on the trees ... last time I hugged a tree ~ which wasn't too long ago... something was there I didn't see until I started itching! BUT I still love to hug m'trees.

    Those butterflies! I've never seen any with that pattern... beautiful

    how come you can lie in thistles and grass and trek in swamps and such and never get itchy or bitten ... not right

    1. Thanks Carolyn for the comment. I'm glad you liked the pictures. SO sorry you didn't notice the hairy vine when you were tree hugging. I went back and labeled the butterflies for folks who wanted to know. I didn't lie in the thistles. OUCH! Just enjoyed them. You probably notice I don't lie in grass either. I get chiggers from just walking through it. I just haven't mentioned that on the blog. The ground was covered in sweet pine needles when we were looking up.

    2. ah black swallowtail, thanks for the identification ... how beautiful ... lol I knew you weren't lying in thistles that's an Eeyore thing ;) BUT you do venture where no sissy wimp dare goes...

      I didn't see no stinkin vine on my tree huggings ... think it was ants ~ tree ants? I was trying to think of my last tree hug ... think it was a Sequoia ... I was so awed by these guys that I didn't notice itching until way later. I'd do it again ...

      Grew up lying on sweet pine needles... that smell! love my woods

  5. So many trees to hug, so little time... ;c)

    Try to leave those refrigerator gremlins behind when you leave. Glad it's working now.

    1. Thanks for your suggestions on the refrigerator problem Paul. It's amazing how many really BIG trees Florida has to hug.

  6. I love the tree hugs, and a rest on the ground along the path. You truly do "stop and smell the roses" Hope there are no more frige problems. Can bare to see that ice cream goi to waste.

    1. Hi BJ, glad you liked this post. The #1 thing I like about full timing is the ability to slow down and enjoy. Trust me there was NO wasted ice cream. :-)) So far so good on the refrig.

  7. I found the eagles' nest on the 3rd picture. Looking at the photos, I'd never think you were in Florida on some of them. You find the nicest places to explore.

    1. Love it Gypsy. I had to zoom pretty far to get pictures 2 and 3. Thanks so much for your comments. Florida state parks are really wonderfl spots.

  8. I knew your next location would be awesome. Sometimes you just have to get a new perspective on life, and the view. Great photos of the little and big things of life that now surround you.

    1. Your compliments on my photos really mean a lot Gaelyn given what a wonderful photographer you are.

  9. Hope the fridge doesn't continue to cause problems! Beautiful butterfly photos today. Not sure what kind they are but bet Judy knows! :-)

    1. Not sure why I didn't think to identify them Jeannie but thanks for pointing it out. I went back and did it if you'd like to know. Or at least I think I did it correctly. Hope Judy will let me know if I didn't. :-)

  10. I'm glad you are enjoying your stay at Paynes Prairie. It's different than Kissimmee prairie, isn't it?

    Right below the tower is where we saw the buffalo go through one day. They were walking right along that trail and were so close to us you could almost touch them.

    We never saw them that close any other of the times we were there. After seeing them walk on the same trail, we were hesitant on walking that trail. I would have hated to have met up with one of those big boys face to face.

    I'm going to see if I can find a picture and send it to you.

    Hope the refrigerator is still running!

    1. Hi Karen, love hearing about your experiences at Paynes. Thanks for sharing them. Paynes is very different from Kissimmee. It is mostly wet with some dry and Kissimmee mostly dry with some wet. Keep in touch, we do get to see the buffalo. Fridge so far so good.

  11. Your closing sentence sums up my point of view too. Thanks for reminding us all how important it is to find beauty in the ordinary.

    1. Glad you liked my closing sentence. You are so right. None of it is really ordinary if I take the time to look and feel. No excuse not to now that I have the time. And am I grateful for it. Check the next post for more of the same. Hope all is well with you two.

  12. Great photos of the butterflies. Glad your fridge is working again. I think it wanted the Ice Cream back.

  13. So glad the fridge got back up and running!! The prairie views make me think of the midwest. Florida really does have it all...well, maybe not large mountains, but, so many habitats! Too bad dad lost his cameras - he does have a knack for excellent photos :) I like the picture of you both in front of the tree on the trail. What awesome trees - I hope the ones we see when I come down will smell good too...you know how I like fragrance :)


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