Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Paynes Prairie State Preserve

Paynes Prairie State Preserve

On Saturday, we were feeling better and frankly, we’d had enough of hanging out around the RV, so after breakfast we packed some snacks and pointed the Jeep north on Highway 441.

Our destination for the day was the Paynes Prairie State Preserve.  They have several hiking trails in different areas of the Prairie Basin, and multiple opportunities for wildlife viewing – including bison and wild Spanish horses, in addition to the normal alligators and various birds.

After a quick tour through the campground (a little too tight for our taste), we headed to the Visitor Center to pick up a map and get some information of the available trails. 

The walk from the parking lot to the Visitor Center

Walkway to the Visitor Center

Visitor Center

Visitor Center

We studied the map,

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and decided that after a quick walk along the Wacahoota Trail to the Observation Tower, we would head back out to Hwy 441 for the Bolen Bluff Trail and the Ecopassage Boardwalk, and then up to the north entrance for the La Chua Trail.  They were the shorter trails, but we were still getting back up to speed, and it was pretty hot on Saturday, so we were OK with shorter hikes.

From the Observation Tower, we had a nice view of the prairie basin,

Paynes Prairie Basin

and a nice glider bench for enjoying the view!

Taking in the view

Lots of wide-open space out there!  It’s no wonder the bison and wild horses like it . . . but they were keeping themselves scarce . . . no sign of them anywhere!  I did spot a bald eagle flying around overhead, but he wouldn’t get close enough for a good photo.

View of the Prairie Basin

Prairie Basin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Wacahoota Trail took us from the tower through the hammock,

Wacahoota Trail

past several interesting trees,

Palm Tree

Interesting Tree

and back to the parking lot.

Bolen Bluff Trail

 

Our next stop was the Bolen Bluff Trail.  This was a longer trail, 3 miles when you include the spur trail out to the Observation platform in the prairie basin, but at least the loop portion was in the shade of the hammock.

 

 

 

 

 

We thought the warning about “unrestrained wildlife” was a little funny – I guess some people think everything’s a zoo!

Unrestrained Wildlife -- seems like an oxymoron

WE hadn’t gone too far before we met up with three women coming up from a side trail – they said they had seen the wild horses, so we decided to check it out.  We followed the side trail to the edge of the prairie, but didn’t see any horses, so we continued to follow the horse trail through the woods.

Following the horse trails through the woods

Before long, we were rewarded with a sighting of the wild horses.

We spotted them!

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Wild horses

After watching the horses for a while, we decided they weren’t bothered by us at all, so we continued along their trail through the woods, figuring that we’d eventually meet back up with the main trail at the spur that went into the prairie.

We were right!

Walkway to the Observation Tower

It didn’t look too promising that we were going to see any wildlife out there (and we had already seen the horses!), but we walked out to the observation platform anyway.

Looking for bison and horses

Tom used his binoculars to look out over the prairie, but didn’t see anything.  There was plenty of evidence around, though – piles of horse droppings, and areas where the bison wallow in the sand – but the animals were obviously hanging out somewhere cooler in the middle of the day.

Back on the trail

 

We stayed on the trail to get back to the parking lot.

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A short distance further north on 441, we reached the Ecopassage Boardwalk.  This is basically a short boardwalk into the prairie that is accessible from the highway.

Ecopassage Observation Boardwalk

We stopped for the quick walk, and were rewarded with a little bit of wildlife . . . an alligator under the boardwalk,

Resident Gator

and on the walk back

Ecopassage Boardwalk

Bald Eagle

 

we spotted a bald eagle on the pole alongside the road.  I had a hard time focusing in on him, but it’s not too bad a picture.

Here’s another view

Bald Eagle

We were getting tired by then, but it was still fairly early and the last stop we had planned sounded interesting, so we continued on to the north entrance to the park, and the La Chua Trail.

This is a very popular trail, and the parking lot was full.  We got lucky with somebody pulling out just as we drove in.

After a short walk through the live oaks,

Sprawling Live Oaks

under a bridge,

Through the tunnel - La Chua Trail

and through a stable that is no longer used, but provides a barrier keeping the horses from leaving the park.

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We reached the elevated boardwalk which circled around the Alachua Sink.

Boardwalk around the Alachua Sink

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There was quite a bit of wildlife in and around the sink – birds,

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alligators,

Gator enjoying the cool water

and more birds.

Ibis

We continued along the boardwalk,

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stopping to watch an anhinga swimming around, catching fish.

Anhinga catching fish

A Great Blue Heron was stalking some fish also,

Great Blue Heron

and another Anhinga was drying its’ wings,

Anhinga

totally unconcerned about the gator just a few feet away – a big guy!

Some BIG gators in this pond!

The elevated boardwalk ended at the sink, where a couple of wild horses were grazing near the edge of the water,

Wild Spanish Horses

also oblivious to the gators lounging around the edge of the water.

Alligators all around the edge of the pond

Some of those gators were really huge!

Another big fella

The horse looks like he’s talking to the egrets.

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It was a truly peaceful scene,

Alachua Sink

Alachua Sink

From the boardwalk, there is a trail that goes out into the prairie for a mile to Alachua Lake, but it was in full sun, and we were tired.  Even the prospect of seeing the bison herd couldn’t entice us to walk another 2 miles!

This was a beautiful area of the park, though, and probably our favorite stop of the day.  We were glad we came up to the north entrance.

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And we were only a couple miles from our dinner destination!

Sachel’s Pizza

Satchel's Pizza

I had seen a post on facebook last year about the 10 most unique eateries in Florida, and this was one of them . . . and I’ve wanted to get there ever since.

We would have eaten in the bus, but it was already occupied!

Fine Dining

So we got a booth inside and ordered a pizza and salad.

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Sachel's Pizza

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sachel’s is definitely an interesting place . . . and the food is really good!

Mmmm . . . pizza!

After our delicious dinner, we walked around outside and took pictures of some of the more interesting displays.

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Interesting fountain

Back wall of the restaurant

Decorative column

Trophy Corner

There was an interesting mobile hanging in a tree,

Hub Cap Wind Chime

and a very interesting plant under the tree.

Interesting plant

If you’re ever in the Gainesville area, you should definitely give Sachel’s Pizza a try – you won’t be sorry!

2 comments:

  1. It's always hard recovering from a bug so taking it easy for a few days is a good idea.
    Tom looks like he hurt himself. LOL. With a pizza like that he should have been Hungry.
    Be Safe and Enjoy!

    It's about time.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks for the tour of the trails at Paynes Prairie. We have never been there and it looks interesting. That Pizza Joint looks interesting also;o))

    ReplyDelete

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