September 12, 2010

The Road Less Traveled

I have to admit north central Florida (the Gainesville area) was never my first choice of places to visit or even my 41st. I'm more of a perimeter girl or, should I say, beach girl. If you've read my blog before you've seen the pattern. In my defense we do have 1100(+) miles of spectacular coastline and I am the offspring of a lifeguard and a nurse that met on the beach, BUT perhaps I haven't given the charming interior parts of Florida enough coverage.
When it comes to the Gainesville area I had long since catalogued it as the gateway to party U. The huge school and its love of all things football (Go Gators!) overshadowed anything else it had to offer like theme parks do in Orlando. If you have Gator friends you probably understand why and if you've never been to the University of Florida well, let's just say, the blue and orange are a bit overwhelming.  For decades it's been known as the party college. A friend put it this way, "That's why it took me six years to get a four year degree" and once my own sorority and beer bong days were over the area lost its appeal. Fast forward to now and I confess the school grew up (the school is now ranked among top public universities in the country), but an education, football and drinking aren't the only things this area has to offer.  So my post is not really about the school. I just needed to confess I'd been giving it a bad wrap. The surrounding areas offer a different appeal to my more grown up self; communities with names like Alachua, Micanopy, McIntosh and Cross Creek.
Most of you are familiar with the work of a writer named Rowling, only the one I'm thinking of is Rawlings and lived in Cross Creek, FL.  She didn't make magic with a wand but Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings did make magic with words.  In fact her words won a Pulitzer.  Friends with Ernest Hemingway, Thomas Wolfe, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Robert Frost and Margaret Mitchell you might not think that Rawlings would be the type to love life in the backwoods of Florida, but she did.
She wrote, "We at the Creek need and have found only very simple things. We need above all, I think, a certain remoteness from urban confusion, and while this can be found in other places, Cross Creek offers it with such beauty and grace that once entangled with it, no other place seems possible to us, just as when truly in love none other offers the comfort of the beloved."  
Much of her work was taken from her experiences here and thanks to the local's sense of preservation, time and progress have not been allowed to erode this areas history. Visiting the area is like stepping back into Florida's past.  Of course there are big city conveniences nearby due to the huge University, the charm however, lies in its back country. Rawlings' stories are a "must read" and her home is designated as a National Historic Landmark.

Close by is Micanopy which offers about a 1/2 mile stretch of shops and a restaurant or two housed in old buildings sporting everything from vintage postcards and carriages to Fiestaware and Depression glass.  For me its crown jewel is the Herlong Mansion B and B.  This place is authentic and beautiful and will be the focus of an upcoming post.
A stones throw from Micanopy is the town of McIntosh. A spattering of old wooden churches, homes with wrap around porches, some fishing cottages and an abundance of huge oaks draped with Spanish Moss make up the old neighborhood nestled lakeside. Orange Lake boasts 12,706 acres of water purported to be filled with Largemouth Bass, Bluegill, Black Crappie and Redear and it truly dwarfs the little towns that dot its edges. Whether you're inclined to stay at a fishing cottage or the Herlong in Micanopy or at one of Gainseville's numerous hotels it's an area well worth exploring. Fall festivals are a great way to discover old Florida and I highly recommend taking an unguided tour. Just get lost! You might just find yourself stopped in the middle of a country road taking photos of an oak canopy.
"Cross Creek belongs to the wind and the rain, to the sun and the seasons, to the cosmic secrecy of seed, and beyond all, to time." MKR
Bob Brounley - Fingerstlye Guitarist
I must acknowledge my reconnection to the area is through dear friends, Lindy and Bob. If you're lucky you might find Bob playing his amazing music on a weekend in Micanopy (Bob's on
They live on a horse farm just outside of McIntosh and have given me more insight to the area than I could have discovered on my own. They are among the most wonderful people a person could hope to know. They even introduced me to the Mayor of McIntosh.  Horse Farms and dinners with the Mayor?  Sounds like I've been hobnobbing! Well, a girls got to do what a girls got to do.

Search for marjorie rawlings books
Historic Micanopy, Florida, 1821


Unknown said...

I like everything about the area except the gator references (go seminoles).Sounds like a beutiful place to visit.

Anonymous said...

This is a profound blog you've got here,I love everything about Florida :D


Anonymous said...

I love anything to do with the Gainsville/Ocala area. Good to know where to stay to get away from the football fans. Sounds tranquil.

Mike said...

Wow beautiful, not the way I have that part of Florida pictured but this really changed my mind. Looks like it may be a good place to travel to and see some sights while swinging through the area.

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