Map of Our Adventures

View Our Florida Adventures in a larger map

Sunday, June 26, 2011

La Chua Trail

My new favorite pastime? GATOR HUNTING! I don't really want to call it "hunting" though because when I hear the word hunting I think of killing. I can't even watch Swamp People because I feel bad for the gators.

There is something so thrilling about seeing a giant gator in it's natural habitat. I guess there is a good healthy feeling of fear there too, when you know that right around the corner there could be a gator sitting in the middle of the trail, just chillin'. That is an actual possibility on La Chua trail that runs through Paynes Prairie Wildlife preserve, just outside Gainesville. The preserve is home to alligators, deer, bison, wild horses and a variety of birds. It is my new favorite gator sighting spot. When we visited there last weekend for our Sunday Afternoon Adventure, we saw more gators than we could count and not just the tiny baby ones either, big monster ones. There was one giant who crawled out of the water and all the young gators scurried away in fear. Unfortunately, we went towards the end of the day, shortly before the park closed, so we were not able to walk the whole trail. I guess that just means we will get to go back and experience even more gator excitement.

Here is a panoramic shot of a bend in the river where we saw a lot of gators. Click here to see more pictures of our trip on La Chua trail and some of the gators we saw there.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Ichetucknee Springs

One of my favorite childhood memories was tubing down the Ichetucknee River, so I was so excited when I found out that it is only 45 minutes from our house in Florida.  An easy day trip for our family!  We went to Wal-Mart, got ourselves some tubes and headed to the river. When we got to the river, we realized we didn't really have any idea where we were going. The park ranger directed us to a tram that would take us up river a ways and told us there were exit points about 30 minutes downstream and 1.5 hours downstream. We hopped in the water and everything was going great. Ben fell asleep and the boys were singing Row, Row, Row Your Boat and having fun splashing in the water. As we approached the 30 minute take out point, we assessed our situation and decided we were having enough fun to keep going.

BIG MISTAKE. About five minutes later Jack started asking, "When are we going to be done?!" A few minutes after that, Will started crying because he was hot. A few minutes after that, Ben woke up and started crying too, although he couldn't really tell me why. Finally, we made it to the end of the line and hopped back on the tram to go back to the car for our picnic lunch. It would have been a perfect day if we had just gotten out at the 30 minute mark. Due to our stupidity, I have downgraded it to just a great day. Next time, we will know our limits!

I feel like I should comment on the Strawberry Shortcake floaties. Somehow we got all the way to the state park before we noticed we did not have any flotation devises for our boys. We stopped by several tube rental places and none of them rented life vests. We were directed to the Dollar Store in the near by town where the only arm floaties they sold were these beautiful pink girl ones. At least they were only $1.29.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Alachua Splash Park

There are two playgroups we participate in already, one is with our church friends and the other is for all resident families.  For the resident playgroup this week, we headed 20 minutes north to the Alachua Splash Park. It's the perfect place to play on a hot summer day. Admission is FREE. It's fenced in so the kids can't escape. It's not a pool so I didn't have to actively participate in the kids play. And, my favorite part, it had beautiful grass. One thing, and probably the only thing, bad I have to say about Florida is they have crappy sawgrass everywhere. This park had what I like to call "golf course grass". It was really short, cool, and soft on your feet. I took my shoes of and walked around a bit. It made my day.


Saturday, June 18, 2011

Lake Alice

We'd been living in Florida for three weeks and we still hadn't seen any gators. I figured it was time to go hunt them down. I heard from a friend that I run with that you can almost guarantee a sighting at Lake Alice on University of Florida Campus. We packed up the kids and our bug spray and headed to the swamp for our second Sunday afternoon adventure.
At first I was skeptical because we were looking everywhere and we still weren't seeing any gators.

I knew we must be getting closer when I saw this sign.

While taking a picture of the sign I notice the ground begin to move. Right under my feet were hundreds of these tiny little frogs jumping all around. Ed caught one and let the boys hold it.

 Still no gators. Just lots of soft shell turtles.

Then, we spotted him! Our first real live Florida gator!

Isn't he sooo cute! Right down the path were two of his gator buddies making it a total of 3 gators on our first gator hunting trip. We are real live swamp people!

After about 30 seconds the boys were like, "Alright Mom, enough with the gators. Lets go eat fruit snacks!".

I was so excited to see those little gators. My next goal is to see a BIG gator. Stay tuned for more gator hunting fun.

Crescent Beach

Last week we joined a group of our new friends at Crescent Beach. In order for cars to be able to drive on the beach, a grader had to make a road in the sand. This resulted in a big pile of sand forming down on the shoreline. When the road was all finished up, the kids in our group ran to play on the giant mound.


Here is a picture of our set up.
Crescent Beach was a great beach. The sand was really white and soft and the water was warm. Jack loved the ocean.  Will ate the sand and put handfuls of it into his diaper.  The kids had a blast and were sad when we had to leave. We are looking forward to exploring more beaches in the area.


Hogtown Creek Greenway

Right in the middle of Gainesville is a conservation area called Hogtown Creek Greenway. We decided to make it our first destination for our traditional Sunday afternoon walks. (This is a fairly new tradition and this was actually it's first week.) It had a nice walking trail, most of which was boardwalk, and the big trees gave it lots of shade.


We saw 3 deer just off this boardwalk. They were not big like in Wisconsin but Will still enjoyed looking at them. After seeing them he kept asking to see more animals. I wonder if he thought we were at the zoo.

We ventured off the trail to dip our tootsies in this little creek. When I say "we" I really mean Jack, Will, and Ed. Ben and I stayed safely on shore because I am a big wuss and don't want to risk getting leeches or have something nibble my toe.

It amazes me how sometimes they can be fighting and the next time you turn around they are holding hands, walking down the path like best friends. Soon after this picture was taken they started running and pulling at each other until one of them tripped and fell down. Oh was cute while it lasted.


So much for looking at the camera BEN!

Home Sweet Home

First off, I can't begin to tell you how excited I am to be living in Florida. For those of you who aren't familiar with the geography of Florida, I have included this fun map. The red arrow shows where Gainesville is located. I think it is just about perfect. It's right in between the Gulf and Atlantic coasts so it's only about an hour and a half to a beach on either side. It's 1hr and 40min from our door to Disney World. Surrounding us are several state parks and forests that offer fun camping and day trips. You can't find anywhere better, in my humble opinion. We are starting into summer and it's true what they say...Florida is hot and humid. But I have not found it to be unbearable yet. I am looking forward to our mild winters. No more waiting for the plows to come so we can leave the house.
While on his interview in Gainesville, the residency program put him in contact with several current anesthesiology residents, and after talking with them, we came to the conclusion that the Mentone neighborhood was were we HAD to live. It's on the outer edge of Gainesville but is still an easy drive to the hospital. Besides the fact that it's a great neighborhood, there was something else that attracted us to the is FULL of medical residents and members of our church! Click here to see some pics of the fun things in our neighborhood.
Here is our home, sweet home! Since we still own a house in Wisconsin, we have to rent in Florida. We had been searching the internet forever, looking for places to rent in Mentone and there was not much available. At 1:00 am one morning, Ed woke me up and said, "Stef, I think I found our house." I looked at the listing and it did look perfect. I called the rental company first thing in the morning and found out that it had just been listed the day before. We expressed great interest in renting it, but they didn't want to rent it to us without someone looking at it first. I immediately called Maria, the wife of an anesthesiology resident, who I had been emailing earlier about the area, and asked her to go look at it for us. Thanks Maria! With her help, we were able rent our place by the end of the next day. It was a good thing, too, because people were already starting to line up behind us to rent the place, in case our application fell through. Click here to take a photo tour of our house. Sorry there are no pics of Ben's room and the bathroom. He was sleeping and I didn't want to disturb him. The house is not perfect.  The carpet could use replacing, the bathroom fixtures aren't great, etc, etc, but it's a rental and it will do.  We can't just go making changes because it's not ours, and it's probably better for our budget that we don't! Oh well...all in all we are really enjoying our Florida home!

A Little Celebration and Our First Official Florida Adventure

Before heading to our new house we stopped in Orlando for a Graduation Celebration. We were joined by Kayle and Becky (my parents), Kevin and Betsey (Ed's Parents), and our good friends from our BYU days in Utah, Dan and Julie Larson and their three kids Gwen (4), Asa (3), and Navy (6weeks). I am sure that I will be going to Disney again so I will spare you having to look through hundreds of Disney pics today. 

Making It Official

On Friday, May 13th, Ed officially graduated from medical school at the University of Wisconsin. Two days later, we were on a plane to Florida. (A special thanks to my mom and Josh for helping Ed pack the moving truck and to both my parents for driving our cars down to Florida so we could fly with the boys!)

How We Got Here

Our Florida Adventure all started when Ed agreed to apply to the University of Florida for his anesthesiology residency, mainly to appease me (I'm a bit of a Florida nut).  By the time he interviewed in Gainesville, he had already interviewed at several other programs that he really liked and I think he went into his Florida interview somewhat skeptically.  I remember getting the call from him after his interview, though.  He said it sounded like the perfect place for us. I was shocked! I thought he was kidding. He wasn't. He ranked Florida first on his match list and on match day, the day med students find out where they will be doing their residency, we were delighted to open our letter and announce University of Florida, Anesthesiology.  My dream come true!