Ah, hurricane Dorian, the non event….but Susie and I will evacuate again if it is mandatory! We thought of different places but decided on Gainesville. It is a little further than necessary to avoid the storm but offered much more to see, do and photograph. If you are unfamiliar with that area, here is two of our favorite spots.
Gainesville is a city of about 150,000 and home of the University of Florida. The city is on the edge of an unusual geologic formation, Paynes Prairie, a sinkhole in a water shed 20 miles long and 8 miles wide. At the southern end on Hy 441, is the State Park with all the usual facilities. A viewing stand is there and sometimes you can see bison and wild horses on the prairie.
The La Chua Trail is on the norther side, almost on the city edge. The Gainesville-Hawthrone bike trail runs by the entrance. In the past, there was a 1.5 mile trail to an observation tower. The wild life was abundant and diverse. Unfortunately, the prairie flooded several years ago and you cant go beyond the board walk. This is a return to a previous state when they had steam boats on the “lake.” A Ranger said it would be years before the water recedes. The board walk goes out about 100 yards.
From the board walk we saw quite a few photo opportunities. The area is mostly covered by a dense growth of a water plant, one that harbors snails, the primary diet of Limpkins. The name comes from the peculiar gait when walking. A fairly large bird resembling a rail but the skeletal structure is similar to a crane. The beak has a gap at the end which acts as tweezers, adapted for removing snails from the shells, particularly apple snails.
The Limpkins were not skittish and often perched on a rail of the board walk even if we approached withing a few feet. They didn’t seem to mind other birds, either, one perched on the same limb with an Anhinga. Most, though, were in the water plants hunting the snails.
We saw seven Harrier Hawks, a bird I had not seen there before. They were very active fishing and disputing who got to perch where on the dead trees. Unfortunately, they were a quite a way from us and my 250mm lens wasn’t adequate to get clear images.
The La Chua trail was only one of the interesting places we visited. The Kanapaha Gardens is in the city and worth the trip. It is divided into two parts with 1 ½ miles of interconnecting paved walkways. There are gazebos to get out of the sun along the walk. The two prime features are the state’s largest bamboo grove and the huge Victorian water lilies.
If we have to evacuate again…..Gainesville will be our choice.