Monday, May 20, 2013

Paynes Prairie & Devil's Millhopper

Recently, I was up in Gainesville visiting my best friend, Auz.  This is a guest post from her about some of our hikes up there:
Paynes Prairie became the first state preserve in Florida in 1971, and since has been designated as a National Landmark.  

More than 20 distinct biological communities thrive in this national preserve - you can even see wild bison and horses from designated observation decks!  There is a Visitor Center (which we did not go to) that provides audio-visual programs that explain the area's natural and cultural history. 
One of the most popular trails, Gainesville-Hawthorne State Trail
is a 16 mile long, paved trail that snakes through Gainesville.   

 We had a great time trouncing through Paynes.  We even saw some wildlife! 

The hobby herpatologist wasn't paying attention and Megan almost stepped on an exquisite adult coral snake.

I didn't have my snake stick, so I couldn't get a very good picture.  I can only blame myself!
There was a good amount of canopy cover on the trail that we walked.  It kept it from being too terribly hot.
We were out for a couple of hours and it was very overcast the entire time.  The sky was threatening us with rain, but that didn't deter Megan and I from continuing our adventure.  We stumbled upon a gorgeous observation bench.  This was my favorite part of the day.  We took a seat and slowly ate our Publix subs and took in the sights.  

Devil's Millhopper

The second part of the day was a short jaunt over to a set of lushly landscaped stairs.  It's the second cousin of Tallulah Gorge State Park 1099 steps down.  This pristine limestone 120 feet deep sinkhole has been visited by the curious since the early 1800s.  There is a Visitor Center with clean bathrooms and pets are allowed!  We saw a lot of people running the stairs.  It is definitely a beautiful place for a morning workout.  At the end of each flight, there is a information plaque regarding the sinkhole.  It's a nice way to catch your breath and learn something new at the same time.   

Devil's Millhopper Descent
Megan is looking ethereal while reading one of the information plaques

Path around the "Millhopper"

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