Monday, August 4, 2008

Loblolly revisited

Wow, a creek has such personality. One day a gentle wading spot, the next a deep, swift, gurgling river of debris. It was still fun, though. But take a look. This is a friend wading to the other side, just across from "zany island". You can see how high the water is on him, and how it surrounds the island, where in the photo in the post below there is dry sand around the island, and the place he was walking was only a few inches deep.

So keep in mind how much rain there's been if you plan a trip. Either way was fun, but we got a lot wetter the second, after-storm visit!

Saturday, August 2, 2008

The Devil's Millhopper

Not exactly a secret, or wildly fantastic, but a good trail. It has several elements that make a hike kid-worthy. Stairs, bridges you can spit from, and water elements. It's a state park, and requires a $2 entrance fee per car. It's not too far from civilization (just a mile or so from the Hunter's Crossing Publix at 43rd and 53rd). Bathrooms and water fountains.

The main attraction is a 120 foot deep sinkhole. "Sinkhole" doesn't sound very attractive, does it? But the temperature drops as you go down the stairs (something like 250 of them?) and if you imagine real hard (don't close your eyes as you do this, or you'll end up tumbling down a lot of stairs) you can imagine you're hiking in a mountainous rain forest.

It's all ferny and lots of springs spew from the edges and tumble down hobbit-hole terrain. Very pretty. Your calf muscles will pay for the trip later, though. That's a lot of stairs!

There's also a walking trail that goes around the property. My two-year-old walked it easily, and we saw fence lizards, lots of five-lined skinks, and awesome funguses along the way.

Anyway, the Devil's Millhopper will be a very pleasant hour and a half, and can be found on state road 232, also known as Millhopper Road. It's actually the far western extension of 53rd Avenue. From the intersection of 53rd and 43rd (that intersection has the Hunter's Crossing shopping center with the Publix), go west, on 53rd/Millhopper. It will be just a couple of miles down, on your right.

(blogger is once again being persnickety about photos, so there may be more later...)

Friday, July 4, 2008


We like creeks. They are secret little magic places just barely out of sight of traffic, usually just yards away. (Sometimes the traffic is right overhead, which is wicked awesome. )

Loblolly is a little greenway along hogtown creek, and it allows you to walk right through one of the busiest areas of Gainesville and feel like you're out in the middle of no where. On 34th Street, between Westside Park and University Avenue (closer to University) you'll see a little green sign on the East side of the road pointing you to "Loblolly". There are about 4 parking spaces in there. The building was closed this evening, but there is a building with bathrooms, and, presumably, some stuffed critters or posters or dioramas.

Go behind the building to the trail. It's a lovely walking trail, but after a bit you'll come to a wooden fence and an off-trail leading down to the creek. A creek that's just right for playing Hobbit or Trolls or Island.

Below is Zany Island (Solomon's name for it), which, you gotta admit, is a boy's childhood memory in the making.

There was lots of Hobbit themed play, mixed with Spiderwick and Spiderman for a long afternoon of pretend. The light filtering in through the trees in the evening is magical. Am I being too poetic about a stream of urban runoff? But look at this bridge, under which a troll so clearly lives that while we didn't hesitate to cross other log bridges, this one was made spooky be the mythology they created for it, so it was avoided.

So far my recommended play sites in Hogtown seem to revolve around getting wet and/or sandy. It usually involves vacuuming the car and air-drying some baby seats. But I love these creeks.

If you keep following the trail, you end up on 8th Avenue, just across from Westside Park and near the "Jupiter" obelisk. These are real fun to look at up close. Lots of little details and references to scientists and mythology.

If you keep following the creek, you end up UNDER 8th Avenue, which, talk about Trolls! There are 3 viaducts you can go through (and adult can stand full height in it) and it's just kind of cool to be standing UNDER the ROAD! We caught lots of specimens with our nets and picked up a few shark teeth, even. A friend found a big hunk of chert (we've been looking for some so we could try making our own arrowheads).

So your car will end up wet and sandy, but it's an extremely cool activity. Four stars from the Hogtown Sparky team.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Monday, May 12, 2008

Freezer Paper Stenciling - because clothes for boys suck

If you've been reading the craftsy mom blogs, you've come across this. I don't normally "do" crafts. We draw, but there's no knitting here. No making of pretty things. But have you ever been shopping for boys' shirts? They're AWFUL.

So we had to take matters into our own hands:
Much better. Still boyish. Still true to their individual obsessions (Gary's dragon, Ike's 'tweet tweet').

Credit where credit is due: I like The Artful Parent's post about it, but she credit's super-blogger SouleMama. Who credits angry chicken. (Start with Artful Parent - great photos)

If I can do it, anyone can. Seriously. We printed a few stencils from Kitty Buttons, put a piece of freezer paper over them, cut them with a razor blade on a bit of cardboard underneath it all so as not to ruin the kitchen table further, and ironed the paper onto the shirt. The wax on the paper makes it stick great. Used fabric paint from Jo-Ann's (it's about $1 a bottle). The shirts have all been washed now quite a few times and they still look good. For full instructions, see those other blogs. I'll be making an entire wardrobe this summer for three boys. Because we don't really like shirts with skulls with fire coming out of one eye socket and a monster truck coming out of the other. Well, no, Solomon probably does. But too bad. He's got ninjas.