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

Henry David Thoreau

Last Days at Paynes Prairie

Sunday March 24 & Monday March 25, 2013
Site 7, Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park
Micanopy, Florida


An irritating Sunday has its compensations

It’s time to do the laundry and Paynes Prairie is one of the state parks which does not have a laundromat so I put everything in the car and drive up the road to the outskirts of Gainesville.  My phone brings me to A One Best Laundry.  I should have been suspicious at the obvious name choice effort to be first in any list.  I get all my things walk in and have a bad feeling about the place.  This is a laundry/dry cleaner. The owner is folding laundry for someone.  He says come in come in as if to encourage me.  The machines are old, it’s messy and even dirty.  But I don’t want to drive all over Gainesville looking for another  laundry.  NEXT time use Yelp.  The washers and dryers have to be clean inside right?  $2.00 a load is on the high side.  But I put three loads in.  It’s about 1:00. 

AFTER I have put them in, the owner tells me that he’s closing at 2:00 so I can’t leave my laundry but I’ll have time to do it all.   I wasn’t planning to leave anyway.  BUT what I ultimately find is his dryers at $.25 for 6  minutes will not dry my clothing in the 30 minutes left to me before he shoves me out the door and I have to take partly wet laundry home.  I am not a happy camper and tell him so.  Had he told me of his time limits BEFORE I started the wash I would certainly have gone elsewhere.  

Actually I’m furious and after I get back to Winnona and put up the ladder drying rack and a clothes line, I spend an hour writing a scathing review and posting it everywhere I can think of.   I feel better.



Soon I feel even BETTER!


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Going down to the 50’ viewing platform at the visitor center will certainly perk me up even more I think.  And boy does it.  







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The wild Spanish horses are here again and they are much closer. At first there are only two and then more join.   I can see they are beautiful horses, in the prime of health, sleek and toned.  Wild horses doing extremely well in their natural habitat.  The little colt is darling.   I take photographs of them from the top of the tower and then from the first floor where they are much closer.  I have totally forgotten the horrible laundry experience.  Here and now everything is fantastic!




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Just look at that frisky baby.

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This little boy, standing up on the railings on the first level looking at them as they move down the Prairie, seems mesmerized.   What great memories for us both.

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Monday is our final day here and we have big plans.


Well we’ve run out of time again so today we want to do short visits to three other natural areas close to Paynes Prairie.

The visitor center rangers told us about a new reserve which just opened in February located directly across highway from the state park entrance.  He says there are a pair of resident Florida Sand Hill Cranes nesting and they have one chick and one egg. 


TSand Hill Cranes and San Felasco Hammock 001his morning we drive over Barr Hammock State Reserve.  This reserve, over 1000 acres of marsh and wet prairie, is owned and being preserved by Alachua County.  How wonderful that the county can have such a large park.  Again way to go Florida.  There is nothing even remotely like this in my hometown of Charlottesville Virginia.  In fact, they just put a road through their largest park.  But don’t get me started.





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The reserve has a 6.5 mile loop trail that given what else we want to see on this last day is probably too long for us.  The crane nest is supposed to be about one mile up the right side of the loop so that’s the way we walk.






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This is THE best trail sign I’ve seen yet warning you to stay on the path.

Look closely at what will happen to you if you don’t.  Handcuffs, Alligators will bite your butt, you’ll be drowning in “Deep Mud Like Pudding”.  What a hoot!






It’s an easy hike along a wide level trail.  The marsh is lovely.  We’re looking out for the sand hills. 

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Just before 1 mile, David thinks he spots them way out at the far edge of the green grasses. 

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Sure enough, he does but they are WAY far away.  Thus these pictures are very grainy.  Apparently it is no longer one chick and one egg.  They are both off the nest and feeding.  He sees two chicks.  If you look closely in the second picture, you can see one of the little golden fuzz balls next to the first crane.   BINGO!   We got em’!  


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This looks like a trail I’d like to walk in its entirety but I also really want to see Devil’s Millhopper state park before we leave the area.   So we walk back to the car to drive into Gainesville.


But we get shut out at Devil’s Millhopper.


Devil's Millhopper

I am really excited to go to Devil’s Millhopper State Park.  It is billed as
a Geological State Park.  How many states have “Geological” state parks.  Maybe a lot do, I don’t actually know, but the description makes this sound terrific.

“In the midst of north Florida's sandy terrain and pine forests, a bowl-shaped cavity 120 feet deep leads down to a miniature rain forest. Small streams trickle down the steep slopes of the limestone sinkhole, disappearing through crevices in the ground. Lush vegetation thrives in the shade of the walls even in dry summers. A significant geological formation, Devil's Millhopper is a National Natural Landmark that has been visited by the curious since the early 1880s. Researchers have learned a great deal about Florida's natural history by studying fossil shark teeth, marine shells and the fossilized remains of extinct land animals found in the sink.  A one-half mile nature trail meanders along the top of the sinkhole, and a boardwalk system descends to the bottom of the Devil's Millhopper.”

Wouldn’t you be ready to go if you read that?  We decide not to go on the week-end so we aren’t following a herd of people descending to the bottom.  

So following our Crane score, we are feeling pretty lucky and anticipating another great adventure.  We find the park in a suburban setting.  We pull up to the gate and it’s closed.  On a Monday after noon.  The sign says:  Open 9-5 Wed through Sunday.  No Monday, no Tuesday   What?

I never even thought to check the hours.  Every state park we have been in has been open from 8 am to sunset 7 days a week.  Well I guess there is something different about a “Geological” Park.

The teasing photo is compliments of the Florida park service who set the hours.

Well that leaves more time for San Felasco Hammock State Reserve which is just down the road.  Right?


Not so much.

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Once we get to San Felasco I wonder…….Maybe we didn’t miss as much at Devil’s Millhopper as I think. 

This preserve too has an enticing description:

  This preserve has one of the few remaining mature forests in Florida. The limestone outcrops and extreme changes in elevation provide ideal conditions for many species of hardwood trees, including several champion trees. Bobcats, white-tailed deer, gray foxes, turkeys, and many species of songbirds make their homes in the 18 natural communities found in the preserveTo ensure solitude and quiet for a true wilderness experience, the southern two-thirds of the park is designated for hiking only. The northern third of the park has horse trails, off-road cycling, and hiking.


Well OK then - Mature Forest=Big Trees.  Check. 
Extreme changes in elevation?  In Florida?  Got to see that. 
Solitude, quiet, true wilderness experience. 
You Bet.  Sounds GREAT!!


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We drive just down the road from Millhopper and find the trailhead specified.  The trails at San Felasco begin on both sides of Millhopper Road.  We choose the more wooded area to see this ‘one of few remaining mature forests in Florida’. 

After hiking for 2.5 miles we think this is over rated.  We think the urban folks who largely use this park should drive on down to Paynes Prairie where there are, in our opinion, much nicer hardwood hammocks. 



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It is a pretty trail but hardly “ensures solitude and quiet”.   I75 is far too close and the never out of earshot noise of the traffic ruins what should be a tranquil walk in the woods. 

When we finish the hike we agree - the trail wasn’t completely flat.  But there were no Extreme changes in elevation.  Although maybe for Floridians any change in elevation is extreme.  :-)

Put this one on the do not return to list.


Well we’re one for 3 today.  Sorry to end our stay here on that note but we’ve had a terrific time in total and it’s time to move on.  I would definitely return to Paynes Prairie especially earlier in the year to see what I understand are hundreds of wintering cranes.  What a site that would be.

Our time here is up and tomorrow we light out for the territory – namely O’Leno State Park in High Springs.  Any advice on things to see or do in the area?  Please let me know.



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  1. well I couldn't see the baby cranes too well but jeeeeez baby cranes?! how cute is that.. the pictures of your walk are beautiful... but I do understand about the urban type parks with the traffic ...

    BUT... I'm glad the powers that be did preserve what they did. I hate to see forests cut down to make way for blasted fast ways to get somewhere.

    Here in Arkansas ... so many gorgeous gorgeous trees... have been cut down to make way for more traffic. hate it ... I just hate it. I hate it everywhere. ... me and Dr. Suess ~

    “Now... thanks to your hacking my trees to the ground, there's not enough Truffula Fruit to go 'round.”

  2. Seeing the cranes and a fuzz-ball chick ... how neat is that.

  3. What a thrill, to see not only the horses but the baby cranes. It's wonderful to see Nature replenishing its wonders and beauty despite mankind's thoughtlessness.

    I hope to see the horses one of these days, I'm a horse lover from way back, my mom had many horses over the years. I took my first rides when just a couple of years old.

    I can't get over the Laundromat owner, who ever heard of one closing at 2 pm? You have to wonder how he stays in business. Good idea to post a review of the jerk, er I meant joint. :c(

  4. I sure am with you regarding that laundromat. I hate those places, even on a good day! Glad writing the review helped :)

  5. "Wild horses doing extremely well in their natural habitat." Not sure Florida should be considered natural habitat for Spanish horses. Manatees have natural habitat in Florida, but horses?

    Having said that, I would enjoy seeing them; I just don't think they belong there.

  6. Florida has an amazing sized horse industry and apparently these horses at Paynes Prairie descend from horses brought by the Spanish in the 1600's. I guess that's why I consider this their natural habitat. Actually only the small dog sized horse is native to the United States I think. All the horses brought here and to the west were Spanish I understood. These horses looked very healthy without anyone "taking care of them".

  7. Great pictures of the horses and sandhill cranes - nice job spotting them, Pops!! Very neat to see all these animals out in nature without human involvement in what they do (besides keeping them from wandering on roads etc.)

  8. While I might risk handcuffs and a little bit of mud, the alligators would keep me on the straight and narrow! I need to wash a comforter that I'm taking to Lassen but hate to start looking for a laundromat with an oversize washer and dryer. How I dislike going to those places1

  9. I's be furious about the laundromat, too. Try writting to Ripoff reports on the web. I've put a report or two there. The horses would have calmed my temper, too, Sherry. You know some of the days/section of Georgia State Parks have been cut back with the budget cuts. I guess we'll really start to feel the bite, now.

    Glad you got to see the cranes. I have a birding book for the east. Birding kind of gives more of a purpose to a hike in the south where the scenery isn't as noteworthy as the west. Reed Bingham is the buzzard capitol of the southeast in the winter, I had a tortoise move across my campsite, and we saw a bald eagle. while there.

    My friend has (now I have) a bird call ap on her phone. I had noticed that we didn't hear bird songs. She put the ap on, and sure enough they came. It's so real that when camping in South Carolina, I was playing a bird call that I heard somewhere near by and a bird actually landed on my hand. He startled me and I startled him back. Then, I decided to leave it on the table--amazing how many birds were drawn to the call.

  10. Love the little sandhill crane chickie picture!!!

  11. Horses and cranes, baby cranes, to boot! Very cool day :)

  12. What beautiful horses, and good on David spotting the sandhill cranes.

    I certainly hope you stayed on the levee -- don't want any alligators making a rump roast out of you.

    I would be angry with the laundry owner too. Why in the world would he close at 2:00??? And how rude of him not to forewarn you before you had all your laundry loaded!

  13. Sometimes I wish I had a washer and dryer on board, but most of the time I don't. Rather have the space for clothes...But we've noticed that commercial washers and dryers are much harder on our clothes. Phooey! wonderful photos of the horses and sandhill cranes. Those little chicks are so cute!

  14. Horses are such beautiful creatures....and those cranes with those babies - WOW! Super find!


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