This will be a short report about a short visit to Paynes Praire Preserve State Park just a few miles south of Gainesville, Fl. Gainesville is just about exactly half-way between the kids in Enterprise and Sue’s parents in Port Charlotte so it’s a good stopping point to break the nine hour drive into two more comfortable pieces.
We arrived about 4:00 on Thursday afternoon, set up the trailer and went for a walk around the campground and down a short paved trail to a picnic spot on a little inland lake. Then showers and dinner outdoors. This is the first day all winter when it has been warm enough to enjoy the evening outside and sleep with all the trailer windows open.
The open windows reminded us just how convenient this place is to I75, as in the quiet of the night we could hear the distant drone of freeway traffic just a couple of miles away.
This part of Florida has many springs that flow up out of the ground then sometimes disappear a few miles later. Also many sink holes where water runs into the vast limestone aquifer that spans much of northern Florida. Paynes Prarie’s main feature is a 25 square mile swamp/prarie/lake bed that actually has a bath tub drain in the middle. The Alachua sink drains this huge table-flat basin and provides habitat for hundreds of species of birds and other animals. Apparently it has a sizable alligator population as well.
There is a 3 mile (round trip) hike along a boardwalk and raised earthen dyke that takes you out into the prarie and ends at the sink. We had hoped to take do this hike Friday morning but by the time we got going it was thundering off and on with intermittent showers.
Instead we opted for a quick stop at a viewing platform along the highway. This picture taken from the shoulder of the road looking east:
And one from the end of the platform looking back toward the west:
And finally a panorama that tries but fails to capture the flatness and vastness of this place:
We still had a couple of hours before we had to set sail south so we drove into the historic area of downtown Gainesville and then walked a bit looking for an interesting place to have lunch. Todd and Amanda cooked us a Puerto Rican dinner Wednesday night so we chose a Puerto Rican restaurant for lunch. Emiliano’s Cafe turned out great, it had a lot of Carribean and veg items. We took a table outside under an expansive awning but were chased in by a rain storm. Even after a leisurely 90 minute lunch it was still raining hard but we had to go. I ran a block and then walked three more blocks to retrieve the car. It was nice to be able to dry off and change clothes in the trailer before returning to pick up Sue.
We are at Sue’s folks now for four days and then will be looking for someplace new to camp. I installed a new 12 volt refrigerator last week so now we can camp for two or three days off-the-grid. We may try a nearby state forest with primitive camping.