Hiking with friends

Keonna and I were excited to start our hike.

Keonna and I were excited to start our hike.

Hiking with friends is a great past time. It allows you to create a stronger bond with one another and it also gives you a sense of security.

On one of my hikes, I decided to take my friend Keonna Cook, a junior business student at the University of Florida, to a nature park.

I took Cook to Cofrin Nature Park, which is located on NW Eighth Avenue, in Gainesville, Fla.

The park offered a great deal of conversation starters including: the house farm located right by the trail, the creek and also the suicide awareness garden. We found the garden interesting because it was an initiative by University of Florida students.

Before Cofrin Nature Park actually became a park, it belonged to Mrs. Gladys Cofrin, an active environmentalist who had a horse farm and family homestead on the site, according to http://www.floridahikes.com/cofrin-nature-park .

While at the park, I decided to interview Cook and get her input on the park.

This was Cook’s first time hiking. When asked about her favorite part, she replied that she really enjoyed the creek.

“Hiking is a new experience for me, so I really enjoyed the creek,” Cook said. “Being from south Florida, I’ve never really had the chance to go on a hike, so seeing the creek was surreal.”

Luckily for us, the fall weather really let us enjoy the surroundings. The temperature was about 70 degrees, which allowed for a comfortable walking experience.

Although the park is only a half-mile long, there was vegetation everywhere. There was never an empty spot of land.

The nature trail provided benches and signs for visitors, this way new hikers won’t feel so intimated by the nature.

Cook and I also had the chance to see a small bird among the branches of a tree.

“I really like how the park felt so still, but once we saw the bird, it brought the forest to life.”

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Q & A with Sierra McVeigh

Sierra McVeigh, 20, studies at the University of Florida

Sierra McVeigh, 20, studies at the University of Florida

Sierra McVeigh is a sophomore mechanical engineering major at the University of Florida. She is pretty much an expert at hiking. At the age of 15 she began to get interested in hiking with her family and has loved it ever since. Here is the interview we had together:

Q: When did you first start hiking?

A: I was about 15 or 16, probably.

Q: What do you like most about hiking?

A: I like the different things you get to see. We pretty much have been all over the world. When we visited my sister in South Korea, we did it there.  We also have done it in Yosemite, locally around Florida and the Carolinas too. Everywhere you go, you see different things, like different nature, different ecosystems, different wildlife, trees and the views too, if you’re going on the mountains. I just like all the different things you can see.

 Q: What’s your favorite thing that you’ve that you’ve ever seen on a trip?

A: Probably Mariposa Grove, which is this big natural space and Yosemite Natural Park with the sequoias and there’s just these huge tree that are everywhere. You feel super tiny. It’s really cool; it’s like a fairy world.

Q: What’s your favorite place that you have visited to go hiking?

A: Yosemite Natural Park because there is a lot of different hiking trails there and there’s waterfalls.

 Q: Have you hiked here, in Alachua County?

A: Yeah, I’ve been to Payne’s Prairie and random little nature trails on campus.

 Q: What’s your favorite place to hike here (in Alachua County)?

A:  Payne’s Prairie.

Q: Do you prefer to hike alone or with other people?

A:  I always prefer to go with other people. Whenever I hike with my family, we always see some intense creatures. We always see snakes and one time we even heard a wild hog.

Q: What’s your favorite snack to take on a hike?

A: Cheese and crackers and trail mix.

Q: Do you have any tips for people who want to go hiking?

A: Definitely bring a hat, especially in Florida, because it does get hot, even in the winter. Also, always know how long the hike is going to be. Make sure you bring water and any sort of protective gear.

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Loblolly Woods Nature Park

Out of all the parks I have been to, Loblolly Woods Nature Park is by far my favorite.

When I searched for hiking locations in Alachua county, this park popped up. I was so excited to yet again go on another adventure.

It took me forever to find this hidden gem, since it is located in between two houses, but it was definitely worth the effort.

The trail is located on NW Eight Ave. and connects to NW 34th St. in Gainesville, Fla. The trail is 159 acres.

I had so much fun on this trail. When you first park your car in the entrance, you feel a little bit hesitant if you reached the right place. (There was only three parking spaces.)

When I walked inside the nature park, I was welcomed with an array of trees and flowers, as well as people with their families.

I saw kids and parents explore the creeks, groups of people taking pictures of the many oak and other tall trees, people jogging with their dogs and others just enjoying a brisk walk.

Loblolly Woods Nature Park is a combination of trails and boardwalks. I really like this because you never knew what to expect.

As I continued to walk in the park, I noticed a beautiful creek. The water was crystal clear. Even though the creek didn’t seem to have an creatures swimming in it, it was still an awesome sight.

Loblolly Woods is apparently best known as the place where the Hogtown and Possum Creeks meet. I honesty didn’t know which creek was which, but just seeing the creeks was one of the best things I have ever seen.

The whole trail is covered with a dense canopy, so visitors don’t have to worry about getting too hot.

If you get a chance to go to Loblolly Woods, make sure you explore a little. Inside the woods there is a small mountain biking park for those who seek an adrenaline rush.

Happy hiking!

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John Mahon Park

One of Alachua County’s many treasures is John Mahon Park. The park, which features a loop around the forest,  is located just off of Newberry Road in Gainesville, Fla. in between two buildings.

A little history on Dr. John Mahon: Mahon, who used to live right by the park, devoted much of his life to preserving natural parks in Alachua County. Some of the parks include Paynes Prairie, San Felasco Hammock and the Hogtown Creek Greenway. He was well respected in the conservation community.

Although the park is only 10 acres long, visitors can enjoy the upland mixed forest, hydric hammock and former upland pine forest as they hike the trail.

While hiking, I found it to be incredible that an abundance of nature was in such as small area.

One of the things I found to be interesting at John Mahon Park was that the area was once an Upland Pine Forest, but is now becoming an Upland Mixed Forest due to the lack of fire.

In the park, there are some pieces of old Upland Pine Forest, but they are now to small and isolated to be burned.

John Mahon Park is essentially a combination of both Upland Pine Forest and Upland Mixed forest because there still are some species that still remain from the Upland Pine Forest.

I noticed that a lot of squirrels lived in this habitat. Almost every where I looked, there was a squirrel running up a tree or chasing each in the forest.

This nature park is widely known as one of most popular sites to see different species of birds. With my luck, I did not get the chance to see any birds. (It might have been because the weather was a little chilly and it was around the evening.)

Overall, this was another great location for an easy hike. If you are ever in the area make sure you check it out.

Happy hiking!

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Hiking: In the SWAMP


Lake Alice is located at the University of Florida.

Lake Alice is located at the University of Florida.

Being a Florida Gator, of course I had to blog about hiking at Lake Alice!

Lake Alice is a small lake on the University of Florida campus. The lake gives UF that special touch!

The things you will see at Lake Alice will definitely surprise you. I was definitely not expecting to see as many animals as I did on one trip.

Lake Alice is home to a variety of species. Some of these include bats (which take flight at sunset), turtles and of course alligators.

I started my hike at University Gardens, which is located on museum road. As visitors walk along the elevated path they will be able to see leafy trees and small creeks.

I noticed that the trail didn’t exactly take me to the lake, so once I was done I walked near the lake and found a small path that led me close to the water.

While I was here, I saw two alligators and three turtles swimming in the water. It was amazing to see these lake creatures so close!

Visitors can also walk to the Baughman Center. It is a beautiful space with lots of big windows in order to get a better look at Lake Alice from every angle. The Baughman Center is open for people to mediate or just enjoy the view of the lake. The center can also be used for weddings, according to the center’s website.

A fun fact about Lake Alice is that it’s watershed drains approximately 60% of the UF main campus, according to the University of Florida’s water campaign website.

If you are ever in the Gainesville area, I would definitely recommend coming here. It’s a great place to enjoy a light hike and find some interesting things on the way.

Happy hiking and GO GATORS!


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‘Catch a Wave’ exhibit brings the beach to Gainesville

Layman's Terms Media

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of contributing bloggers beginning their careers as journalists/public relations professionals at the University of Florida. Please see my earlier post about getting journalists excited about science writing early on.

By Nicole Parra

There are three words that describe the new  “Catch a Wave” exhibit hosted by the Florida Museum of Natural History at the University of Florida: totally gnarly, bro.

The exhibit, which is the closest thing Gainesville residents have to the beach, includes vivid pictures, real-life specimens and hands-on activities. Visitors can almost feel the sand between their toes without the need for sunscreen.

‘Catch a Wave’ is a collaboration between Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, UF and the museum.

“Surfing Florida: A Photographic History” is a traveling exhibit originating from FAU’s College of Arts and Letters. UF and museum scientists contributed to the exhibit by adding a second part…

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First hike!

San Felasco Hammock Preserve State Park is located northwest of Gainesville. The state park offers four trails, which all differ by mileage.

San Felasco Hammock Preserve State Park is located Northwest of Gainesville. It is located south of Millhopper road. San Felasco is one of the largest protected contiguous stands of mesic hammock in Florida, according to its website.

The Park has four different trails, all of which differ in distance. The one I went on wasn’t as vigorous as the other trails. It’s called Moonshine Creek Trail.

Moonshine Creek Trail is great for beginners. The trail is about a mile long. On the hike, visitors will see an array of vegetation.

This was a very fun experience. Being from south Florida, it was amazing to see so many tall trees. All I ever saw in my hometown were palm trees!

An interesting fact about Moonshine creek, according to the San Felasco Hammock Preserve State Park website, is that the creek got its name during prohibition where it was the site of a moonshine still providing illegal alcohol to citizens of Alachua County.

On my hike I saw a bunch of different plants. Unfortunately, I did not see too many animals. The website says you can see a variety of species, but all I saw were a couple of moths and squirrels. I still liked the hike though. You truly become connected with environment when you’re hiking.

Half way through the Moonshine Creek Trail begins the Creek Sink Trail. This trail is 2.3 miles long. The park’s website says the trail goes around swamps and bottomland forest where the waters of the creek, at the southernmost part of the trail, are absorbed into the underlying aquifer. If you don’t want to walk that long, make sure you stay on the Moonshine trail.

Like I said before, my experience with the hike was great. It wasn’t too difficult to do and all the vegetation provided enough shade so I didn’t get too hot. I would definitely recommend this hike to my fellow beginner hikers.

Happy hiking!





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What to bring on a hike

First things first, before any hike you should always have a few things handy.

Here is a list of things you should bring on your hike:

  1. Water. You want to make sure you always keep yourself hydrated. Most hikes range between a mile to five miles. According to BetaActive.com, you can sweat anywhere from 1/2 to 1 quart of fluid for every hour you walk in the heat. So grab that water bottle and stay replenished.
  2. Sneakers. You don’t want to walk to around a hiking trail with flip flops, do you?
  3. Bug Spray. Insects love to roam around their natural habitat and anyone who chooses to step foot on their ground should prepare to get stung, so just be safe and get some bug spray.
  4. Snacks. Like I said before, hikes can range between a mile to five miles so you are most likely going to get hungry. I suggest light snacks, such as a granola bar, raisins, or peanut butter. These snacks will give you that extra boost you need when you are about to finish the hike.
  5. First Aid. Just in case of any injuries, know first aid and have a kit. You never know when someone is going to get hurt. Better safe than sorry!
  6. Backpack. You probably want to put all these things in one place, so what better place to put them other than your back pack?
  7. A friend. Unless you’re an expert hiker, make sure you use the buddy system.
  8. Fully charged cell phone. If you have a smartphone, it can be used for a bunch of things. You can call someone in an emergency, use the compass, listen to music while hiking, and even use the GPS.
  9. Camera. You never know what you’re going to see when you go on a hike. Whether it’s flowers, a weird tree, or a squirrel, you’re going to want to capture that moment.
  10. Willpower. No matter how tough the hike may be, DON’T GIVE UP. You will feel better in the long run once you get to the finish line.Some essentials to pack in your backpack when you go hiking.
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