Trenton, FL, the county seat of Gilchrist County, is just west of Gainesville and is home to an excellent quilting museum and has taken the art of quilting a step further by painting quilt designs on the exterior walls of some of the historic downtown buildings.
Florida’s Forest Capital State Museum and Cracker Homestead, located in Perry, is part of Florida’s State Park system. Located on US19 (Byron Butler Parkway) just south of town, this 1864 home and furnishings will give visitors a taste of Florida’s past. Open 9AM to Noon, Monday through Thursday, this place is worth a visit. You’ll also see exhibits relating to Perry and Taylor County’s place in the timber industry.
“Florida Crackers” were not called that name because they ate Saltines, but because they cracked bullwhips to keep their cattle moving in the right direction. Cracker cowboys were a breed apart, and the most famous was Morgan Bonaparte “Bone” Mizell (One of my relatives!–TT)
If you’re like me, you sometimes forget about the finer things in life. And in many cases, it means suffering through yet another fast food burger or breakfast when there’s a perfectly good opportunity right down the street that offers sit-down service, big smiles and some great food. The Cypress Inn in Cross City is one of those “joints”.
There’s nothing fancy about The Cypress Inn. Breakfasts are hearty and the pancakes meet my high standards, as does the coffee. Expect to find buffets for lunch and dinner, with several seafood and meat choices. Essentially, it’s a DIY “meat and three” place, with friendly servers and a relaxed atmosphere. And it’s where the locals meet–always a good sign!
The Cypress Inn, located on US19/98 at the northern end of Cross City, is open from 5:30AM ’til 9 Monday thru Saturday. They’re closed Sunday. (352) 498-7211 It’s located just across the highway from the newly-renovated and re-opened Putnam Lodge.
If you’re looking for really fresh shrimp, take a leisurely drive to Horseshoe Beach, in Dixie County. It’s about a 24 miles trip from Cross City (via CR351), but it’s worth it. Tim runs a couple of shrimp boats from his small roadside shop, guaranteeing some of the best product around. They’re often fresh caught, but he usually has a freezer full of sorted, heads-off, shrimp for sale at very reasonable prices. In December 2014, a two-pound bag of medium-large shrimp was going for $15.
Or, if you’re just heading to Horseshoe for some fishing, stop at Tim’s for some live shrimp. His “boat to live-well” prices for shrimp can’t be beat!
Phone: (352) 498-2817
Paddling, whether solo or tandem, in a canoe or kayak, has become a popular sport nationwide. And there’s not place where it’s more evident than in our Natural North Florida region. We have rivers like the Withlacoochee, Waccasassa, Suwannee, Steinhatchee, Econfina, St. Marks, Wakulla and the Ochlockonee. We have lakes, like Newnans, Rousseau, Orange and Lochloosa. And we have springs, like Fanning, Manatee, Blue, Ginnie, Wacissa and Wakulla. Those are just the “big ones”. We have hundreds of “lesser” bodies of water on which to paddle. And I haven’t even mentioned all the paddlecraft launches along our Gulf of Mexico shoreline!
The advantage of paddling is that it not only keeps you healthy (exercise and fresh air!), but it’s portable. Modern paddlecraft are lightweight and many can be easily slid onto a car’s roof rack by one person. And they’re comfortable. Gone are the days of backaches from paddling just a few miles. In fact there are boats like those from Hobie Cat that allow you to pedal!
Paddling is also something you can do by yourself, or as a member of a planned group. Paddleboat outfitters (who also rent canoes and kayaks) can be found throughout our 10 county region. Here are a few: Santa Fe Canoe Outpost, Adventure Outpost, High Springs, Wilderness Way (Wakulla), TnT Hideaway (St. Marks), St. Marks Outfitters, River Haven Marina (Steinhatchee)
In the early morning hours, the birds are lively. A little blue heron picks through a vast bed of Sagittaria, their pointed leaves green arrowheads against the blue water. An osprey calls out from the top of a tall bald cypress. A snowy egret lands in the shallows with an unexpected splash and flutter of wings. Moorhens cackle to each other as they drift with the sluggish flow of the river that is born here, the Wacissa.
Wacissa Springs has a special magic, the rare quality of being a Florida spring just like you’d come across fifty years ago. Driving south on SR 59 into Wacissa, if you miss the sharp turn that points the highway south towards the Aucilla Wildlife Management Area and US 98, you end up at the springs. Unlike so many of Florida’s big springs, it never was developed into a fancy attraction. It has a dirt parking area, a boat ramp, and an old concrete diving platform and rope swing. Until recently, it didn’t even have a bathroom, but Jefferson County now kindly provides a “Recreational Convenience Center” tucked out of sight in the woods.
It’s a place to bring your lawn chair and binoculars to watch birds in the morning, or your kids to jump into the 70-degree water. Launching a canoe here, it’s a nice 10 mile paddle down to Goose Pasture, giving you the chance to poke around at least 16 springs that give rise to the Wacissa River – you only see a couple from the shore. If you don’t have a canoe, you can rent one just up the street at the Wacissa Springs Livery.
Boaters make this a very busy place on weekends. But on a quiet weekday, the water is still, and you can see the tell-tale tracks of egrets and ibis in the silt on the bottom. Schools of minnows flash through the coontail. As you enjoy nature’s panorama, be thankful that there are still places like this in Florida, unsullied by ticket booths and fancy buildings and big signs. It’s just nature, a crystalline spring surrounded by a floodplain forest. And that’s a good thing.
Does a lady know her way around the woods? You bet! Meet Sandra Friend, the newest member of our blogging team. She’s no stranger to Natural North Florida, having wandered our trails for more than a decade while writing 14 books that describe the best places to hike, camp, paddle, see wildlife, and find Florida’s unique botanical and geologic wonders.
Along with her partner John Keatley, Sandra runs the popular website FloridaHikes.com, dispensing practical advice about the outdoors while guiding people to new places to visit. She’s the chair of the Freelance Council of the Society of American Travel Writers and a member of the Florida Outdoor Writers Association and the Authors Guide of America. Her latest books, co-authored with John, is Five Star Trails Gainesville and Ocala.
There was much conjecture by Big Bend anglers that the slight “case” of K. brevis (Red Tide) we had late this summer had affected the supply of spotted seatrout. And that fear lasted until about a week ago, when the latest cold spell arrived, and lingered. The effect has been that the trout have moved into the Steinhatchee River and that they are hungry.
While in the the popular spots in the river, including the “Suicide Hole” (where trout go to commit suicide in the winter) downstream of the Sea Hag Marina, trout can also be found along the channel edges across from Roy’s Restaurant and near marker #26 at the mouth of the river. Recently these fish have been on the smallish size, and lots of culling to get a 5-fish bag limit of 15-inch legal fish is needed, bigger fish can be found upriver as well as near rock bars along the Gulf shorelines south and north of the river’s mouth.
Popular baits are live shrimp, pinned to jig heads, or artificial lures like D.O.A. shrimp, Paul Brown Lures and Bass Assassin soft baits. Remember, you’re fishing deep for cold-stunned fish, so avoid fast “summertime retrieves”!
Yes, many of our larger communities have Publix Supermarkets with excellent bakeries (Gainesville has at least 10!) but I’ve never heard anyone claim that they’re better than Johnson’s Bakery in downtown Perry, Florida. Downtown Perry, the county seat of Taylor County, is undergoing a growth spurt and remodeling, and the heart of the action and gathering spot is Johnson’s.
While Johnson’s is known for glazed donuts that put all the national chains to shame, their cream-filled chocolate “long johns” are divine. There are also cream and jelly-filled yummies as well as cupcakes and cookies. Not only is the glaze generously applied, but the pastry is tender–even a couple of days after purchase. Just a quick “nuke” in the microwave will bring them back to all their glory!
Perry, Florida’s Forest Capital, is located at the intersection of US19 and US98. So….if you’re heading north or south on US19 or west on US98, don’t miss this place for some of the best donuts and pastry in Natural North Florida.
Johnson’s also has a lunch menu–but that’s another subject for another time!
I spent Tuesday in Levy County, and in addition to stops at Williston Peanuts and the Sea Forest Gift shop on US19 south of Lebanon Station, I stopped and visited with the folks at Hook, Line and Sinker Tackle and Captains Cove Outfitters in Inglis. These two shops are a couple of my favorites, staffed with friendly folks who don’t mind sharing a tip or two. At Hook, Line and Sinker, Heidi told me that the redfish bite had been good, and that the fish were especially tuned into mud minnows, which they sell by the dozen (at $7). At Captains Cove, Joe and Nicole said that Live Target lures were selling well, and like Heidi, said the reds had been plentiful, but small. Joe had a similar experience to mine a week earlier with lots of little fish and just a few keepers. And at both places, there was the usual talk about the lack of trout between the Withlacoochee and Steinhatchee. No answers, of course, but the usual conjecture about red tide damage.
I’m not saying that we necessarily have a shortage of keeper trout. They may be there, but I’m not sure just where. On Sunday, there were lots of boats anchored in the “usual” trout hangouts in the Steinhatchee River, but I didn’t see any catching going on. We caught some reds, but again they were small and ganged up on rocky points. I’d hoped they would attack slow-moving plugs, but we ended up using live shrimp and Gulp! baits under corks to get them excited.
My advice for this coming weekend is to fish as close to shore on the moderate daytime falling tide as you can get. Trout and reds will be holding together in the same areas. Low water won’t be extreme at mid-day, so look for deep holes in the grass flats. There’s a moderate high tide very early, but I don’t expect either trout or reds to gather around rocky points early as the morning low temperatures will be in the ‘30s. You might have better luck fishing the afternoon rising tide, after the sun warms the bottom. High tide will be after dark, so you may have to run home late!