Gainesville is a relatively bike-friendly city. James and I travel by bike whenever we need to get somewhere that is sort of far away/not on a bus route. Being nature enthusiasts, our rides generally take a few minutes longer than what we originally anticipated because we almost always make a handful of pit stops to gaze at the wildlife, from tiny anoles, to swooping hawks, to baby alligators hanging out in small ponds.
A couple of months back, we made a 45 minute ride to the North part of Payne’s Prairie, a wildlife reserve brimming with alligators, bison, fishing birds, and more alligators. Unfortunately the destination trail, the La Chua trail, was partially closed off, as the riverbank had spilled over parts of the walking trail and alligators were just casually hanging out in the area where there would’ve been heavy foot traffic. We were disappointed, but sort of secretly pleased that our feet were saved from alligator bites?
Regardless, there were still some big, fat, leathery looking alligators taking their afternoon nap along the banks of the areas that were still open, and I got to snap a few closeup photos before my courage escaped me!
We didn’t see bison or wild horses during this trip, so we shall return in late Spring no doubt, to try our luck again.
Gainesville proper has a handful of touristy attractions within walking/biking distance for those who don’t own a car, but who still try to make a point of visiting touristy sites and seeing touristy things; cue us, because apparently it is uncommon for people to bike 35 minutes to visit a shopping mall (hey, that’s totally a legitimate tourist site! There was a JCPenney there and I’d never been to one before).
One of these touristy attractions is the Kanapaha Botanical Gardens, which is about a 30 minute bike ride from the center of UF campus. The grounds were beautiful, and while well-kept, they weren’t overly fastidious with having everything trimmed and in its place, so it was like a little preserved woodland sanctuary with a whole lot of life.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Take insect repellent with you. The mosquitoes were big and relentless, and they seemed to revel in some weird, twisted joy when it came to buzzing around our ears.
You can walk the entire garden grounds in about 2 hours.
This includes time taken to stalk the local wildlife (lizards, fish, turtles, spiders, birds), and also time taken to touch ALL the mimosa pudica plants in sight at the Children’s Garden (the sign at the garden said that it was “for children, or those who are childlike at heart”, obviously we fitted both descriptions so we had every right to be there! Never mind the fact that the gardens are always open to the general public…).
In the time that we were at the gardens, we saw only maybe 5 other people wandering around. Maybe because it was the first football game of the season? Or maybe the rain deterred potential visitors, but the gardens were pleasantly quiet on that day.
Much like the botanical gardens in Wellington, Kanapaha holds events all year round, so we will be sure to come back for them, especially for the plant sales. WOOHOO plant sales!
In time, we will have our very own botanical garden on our balcony and in our living area!
Yesterday, for the first time in the history of Apartment number 34 (since we moved in), a squirrel graced us with its presence (WHEEE!!!), and ate the Squirrel Cake offerings on our balcony (WHEEEEEE!!)!
It ate a lot of Squirrel Cake, and left a mess of sunflower seed husks and half-eaten corn kernels, and even a poop present on our balcony railing! How considerate!
We discovered that her favourite ingredient from the Squirrel Cake were peanuts; she would work the peanuts loose first, then the sunflower seeds, and then finally the corn kernels.
We think she’s a girl because she had super sticky-out nipples along her tummy – so because of that, and also because she’s a bit rotund, we’ve named her Fatty Nips (what? too crass?).
We hope she comes back soon 🙂 We’ll have a bag of peanuts ready for her next visit!