Sometime it is great to learn about hiking opportunities outside your area to help inspire vacations. The La Chua Trail in the Paynes Prairie in northern Florida is one such place. It is an amazing place that is a 22,000 acre preserve with multiple different ecosystems and a huge variety of wildlife.
As you are hiking you will feel like you are going back in time to another world. There is enormous diversity of wildlife that is virtually unheard of in California. The wild horses, wild boar, and bison herds are often visible. Additionally the enormous expanse of the prairie is breath taking. If you do after a storm the prairie is even more amazing. The prairie after a huge storm is virtually completely surrounded by water so you feel like you are walking on a peninsula. The water surrounding the prairies is often 10 feet tall or higher. During the dry time of the year the views are completely different. During those times the prairie looks very much like the Squaw Valley foothills near Reedley.
The hiking trail takes you through the prairies and under a railroad truss from the 1940's. This helps you think about the past as you continue on the trail. You then come across a building that was the house for a cattle ranch that Crackers occupied during the 1940's. You can explore around the old building taking a journey back in time. If you have never seen alligators this is a huge treat as there are often multitudes of alligators in the lakes around here. It is not uncommon to see a 13 foot or larger alligator here. You can get some amazing views of the alligators from the broadwalk which is about halfway through the trail. The trail then continues out to an observation tower which is about 10 feet off the ground and lets you see things for miles around. Please make sure to bring bug spray as sometimes bugs do make this tower a home. Some of the things you can see as you walk the base of the towers and look in the water you can see water snakes, soft shelled turtles and much much more. The ground near the water include a multitude of flowers. Please note that there is an admission fee to enter the park of about $2 a person. you can drive in or bicycle in. There is a trail head in Gainsville that takes you there.