Howdy wilderness watchers! I thought I’d send a dispatch from the road. I’m coming to you live from the flat-lands of northern Florida where I hit the trail at Paynes Prairie State Park (wikipedia page). According to the Paynes Prairie web page, the park is biologically, geologically and historically unique and visitors can definitely see the diversity. This park became Florida´s first state preserve in 1971 and is now designated as a National Natural Landmark. Eight trails provide opportunities for hiking, horseback riding, and bicycling for those with adventurous spirits.
I walked a series of loop trails that form the Chacala Trail totaling about 6.5 miles. I added on a .6 mile there-and-back side trip to Chacala Pond and a half mile backtrack and this day hike rang in at 7.1 miles.
All in all, this was a great hike with long shady stretches, and great views of cool lakes and open prairie land. This trail has plenty of options to design as long or short a hike as you like. Being on the north Florida prairie, the trails are flat and pretty easy to navigate. The trails were well marked and easy to follow. On the down side, the sand can make hiking uncomfortable, I’d suggest bringing along a spare pair of socks to change into… I rubbed a couple of toes raw on sand in my sneakers, but I guess that is just Florida for you. The heat is another danger down here, and almost every where this summer, 95 degrees with high humidity is a recipe for a heat injury… so hydrate-hydrate-hydrate!
The bush along side the trail is surprisingly thick and almost totally rules out any off-trail navigation. I didn’t check for geocaches, but if there were any caches out there… you would definitely need to do some bushwhacking to find anything off the trail. Any way, I really enjoyed this hike! It was a good moderate length hike and the heat really got the sweat rolling. If you find yourself in the Gainesville, Florida area… head out to Paynes Prairie for a little hike!
From the park entrance, head about a mile north along the paved road. Turn right into the Chacala Trail parking area. There is an information kiosk near the trail head. Each trail intersection is marked with a letter and this system is mirrored on your map. You can hike the trail following the marked intersections in order. You can take the .3 mile side trip out to Chacala pond, but no swimming… there is a bunch of bog and brush between the overlook and the water. Enjoy!
From north of the park, take I-75 southbound to exit 374 toward Micanopy. Take a left onto County Road 234 and follow 234 for about 1.4 miles. Take a left onto US-441 and follow 441 for about .6 miles. Turn right onto Savannah Blvd, this will take you into the park.
(88 miles blogged to date)