Ellison and I have been wanting to visit Suwannee River State Park for awhile now, even more so after our visit to Big Shoals last month. We were loving the limestone bluffs and views of the river so much that honestly we wanted to get out and hike along the Suwannee again as soon as possible. So about two weeks ago we drove an hour or so north of Gainesville to Live Oak and made it a mission to check out each the park's five different hiking trails (but one was 12 miles and that seemed a bit too much for Sunday, so we ended up only hiking the other four. The fifth one gives us a reason to come back). The park was beautiful - along with weather cool enough to prevent both sweat and mosquitoes, we pretty much had the place to ourselves. That's a total win-win in our book.
We first hiked the Earthworks trail, which just takes you to an overlook offering views of where the Withlacoochee and Suwannee Rivers meet. It was also the site of an old Confederate sawmill and railroad stop. The sawmill is gone, but there are still active rail lines that run across the river. Ellison had never actually touched train tracks so she had to go check this off her list. I'm not sure it was as exciting as she had anticipated, but a moment for her nonetheless.
Ellison loved looking for animals along the shoreline and was super excited when she got to pick up a handful of crayfish. She thought they were cute with their tiny claws and made little houses for them in the pools of water in the rocks (don't worry, no crayfish were harmed under our watch!). Now some of you may agree with her and think these creepy crustaceans are cute. Or maybe you like to eat them as part of some special southern dish. Or maybe you just love every single living thing without judgement and I applaud you for such a spirit of love and inclusion. But make no mistake - these are nothing more than river roaches in my book and I'm not ashamed to say that they really do just gross me out. I didn't tell Ellison this, of course. Until now.
So when the lighting was just right, certain parts of the Suwannee banks resembled Middle-earth from The Lord of the Rings. It was awesome. So much so that Ellison perched herself on a rock to meditate and watch the tiny waterfall flow into the river.
The last trail we took led to an old cemetery where 23 people (sadly, a good portion of whom were infants and small children) were buried back when this site was the home of the small town of Columbus. The city hasn't existed for years and the last person was buried here in 1967, about 30 years after the acreage around the cemetery was purchased by the state for the purpose of creating a state park and wildlife refuge. It is believed to be one of the oldest cemeteries in Florida and Ellison and I both thought this was the best part of our visit. We read each of the headstones and talked about what life must of been like in north Florida in the 1850s, what might have caused people to die so young and how lucky we were to be enjoying the day in both comfort and safety.
This has been one of the busiest starts to a school year I can remember and while we have had a lot of fun things going on, it has definitely kept us from getting outside as much as we'd like. Our trip to the Suwannee River reminded us how good it felt to be out hiking together, just the three of us. We are going to really make a point in the next few months to take at least one day a week to get outside as a family. And, on that note, we have our annual hiking trip to Tennessee coming up in two weeks and we are literally counting the days until we get to the mountains. Last year Ellison did her first 10+ mile hike and this year we're hoping to go even further. She's up for it so now we just have to find the perfect trail. If you have any recommendations we'd love to hear them!
See you back here soon!
My family and I love to get outside and explore every chance we get. My daughter and I started this blog as a way to chronicle not only the places we have visited, but also as a way to preserve our time together. We hope you enjoy it and will make a little time for a hike with friends!