Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Shalom Park and Silver River State Park

Krystal and I have talked about doing a "day trip" since we arrived here in The Villages back in June.  She and Nate have ventured out a couple of times to the surrounding areas. The most recent was just this past holiday weekend, so when I suggested a day trip for her and I on Tuesday, I was surprised that she was eager to head out again.

Our original plan was to head to Gainesville to the Botanical Gardens, and I had found a couple of other potential stops and the Butterfly Sanctuary and Teaching Zoo.  Since she and Nate had already been to the Botanical Gardens in Gainesville, we decided  at the last minute to check out the one in Ocala instead.

So the first stop was at Shalom Park in Ocala.

According to their website:
Sholom Park was designed as a place to find inner peace and to thrive in the Central Florida climate. The park requires little or no supplemental watering. Native plants are combined with cultivated ornamentals, perennials, and annuals creating a beautiful and resilient landscape. 

Sholom Park offers a place of natural beauty, comprised of meadows, woodland areas, added flowers and trees, as well as native wildlife for everyone to enjoy.

 Paved walkways meander throughout the park, winding through mature oaks, hickories, sweet gums and long leaf pine trees, as they allow guests to move from one trail or feature to the next. Trails lead guests to explore the park. There are numerous benches available upon which guests may rest as they contemplate the peaceful surroundings.

As we headed out to the Prairie Trail  we were amazed at the number of spiders and spider webs in the trees/bushes.  I don't think I've ever seen webs this large.  This is when I wish I had a better camera!!

 Between here and the Enchanted Forest Trail we spotted three beautiful horses just across the road, who posed perfectly for us to take a picture. 

The last stop  as we were nearing the end of the trails was the pond area.  It was absolutely beautiful!  

Being a botanical garden I was expecting to see a lot more lavish  flower gardens.  But one of the long term missions for this park, according to their site is that guests  experience a true feeling of serenity, contentment, joy and inner peace.   That is definitely the atmosphere at Shalom Park. 

Not yet ready to call it a day, we headed for Chik-Fil A. ( Believe it or not, until today I had NEVER eaten here!)  The grilled chicken is excellent!   We checked the GPS to see what else was in the area that might perk our interest.  While driving we spotted the entrance to the Silver River State Park and decided to check it out.  

Not sure this was the best idea - although we saw a beautiful fawn along the side of the road as we entered the park which was encouraging.  The  park also offers a pioneer cracker village and Silver River Museum.  Unfortunately they are only open on the weekends.  

The park also offers a full hook up campsite and cabins as well as primitive camping, a beautiful picnic area ,  canoeing and kayaking on the Silver River and miles and miles and miles of hiking trails. Always wanting to check out "nature" we took to the hiking trails, selecting the Sink Hole trail first.   Both of us are in sandles/flip flops - definitely not the proper hiking attire!  But we selected the Sink Hole trail first.  After about 20 minutes Krystal checked the park map and learned that the trail to the sinkhole was a 70 minute walk!!!  We retraced our steps and decided to take the River Trail, the shorter between that and the Swamp Trail: only 1.3 miles!   And we made it to the River!

After taking in the scenery, and listening to the sounds of nature deep into the woods, and spotting a small alligator, we headed back.  We heard thunder in the distance....actually we saw the storm clouds on our way to the lake, but ignored them!   We had only just began our 1.3 mile walk back to the car, when..... you guessed it............. it rained!!  Actually it POURED!   We managed to get the cameras well protected under our clothing and then laughed all the way back!  

And so, I saved the best picture for last!  Except for Nathan and Rich who saw us return drenched and one would believe how much we enjoyed our personal encounter with Mother Nature!

Watch for the next adventure of Day Trips with Krystal and Donna!

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