O’Leno, no Keno, me oh my oh

?????????????????????????This easy-to-find state park in High Springs (just north of Gainesville) is dissected by the Santa Fe River. I am always curious about name origination and more times than not Wikipedia provides the answer. The Santa Fe derives its name from a Franciscan mission, Santa Fe de Toloca, formerly located near the river. Santa Fe means “holy faith” in Spanish. Coincidentally one must have faith with this river, as it fully disappears in a large sink hole within O’Leno State Park, travels underground and resurfaces 3 miles downstream in River Rise Preserve State Park.

River sink. The water swirls down the drain, giving the turtles on the logs a calm ride.

River sink. The water swirls down the drain, giving the turtles on the logs a calm ride.

I assume High Springs was named for the numerous springs around the river and the sink holes that occasionally change location and the places where the river sinks and rises.

O’Leno was an interesting read.

Originally named "Keno", then Leno then O'Leno for Old Leno

Originally named “Keno”, then Leno, then  O’Leno for Old Leno

You may recall I am not a fan of bridges and even the mild-mannered suspension bridge in the park gave me pause. ??????????????????????????????????This park is another Florida oldie, built by the CCC in the late 1930s. Trails, large pavilions, a youth camp and a large metal dock to swim in the river are all easily accessible. The forecast held a fair amount of rainy moments with thunder showers likely so we got going and headed out for the River Trail once settled.

Memorable not for my bridge walk but for warm enough for shorts !

Memorable not for my bridge walk but for warm enough for shorts !

Hadn’t walked very far when thunder rumbled and the sky went dark. Gotta love those pop-ups! Russ said better double time it back but I ran because getting drenched wasn’t on my to-do list but then neither was crossing the bridge twice. It hardly sways with one person, but two will make it move- wheeeeee.

Our rain shelter

Our rain shelter

Took us a bit to figure out the reason for bench dividers... or are they?

Took us a bit to figure out the reason for bench dividers… or are they?

We made it to a large pavilion and hung out with Betty for quite a while. She is a winter volunteer at Stephen Foster State Park (came to O’Leno for a few hours), playing violin to pay her way. She shared how volunteering works and that good vocational skills are in high demand. Was a pleasant way to pass the time and we got a picture of her tiny camper as she drove off.

Betty hails form South Dakota; imagine living in this for much of the year.

Betty hails from South Dakota; imagine living in this for much of the year.

We did get to walk the River Trail and others another day; Russ was also able to bike a few of the passable trails. Also pretty certain that the three-foot long black snake warming itself next to the path, raising its tail with a rattle noise before slithering away, was perhaps a rattlesnake???

We drove to downtown High Springs one afternoon in search of the Secret Garden Bakery (we found it!) and came upon the final day of the 2015 Model-T Gainesville Winter Tour. Must have been 30 of these beauties by the time they’d all parked across from a rustic and inviting restaurant.

Model-T road trip heads through downtown High Springs

Model-T road trip heads through downtown High Springs

 

 

The plates were fun to read

The plates were fun to read

 

We all know why the trunk is so named, right?

We all know why the trunk is so named, right?

 

I've had time over the past few weeks to improve my skills

I’ve had time over the past few weeks to improve my skills

Do these look like palm trees?

Do these look like palm trees?

 

 

 

 

 

Our spacious site, 007, at the park

Our spacious site, 007, at the park

The park has a tiny Nature Center with Friday-Sunday 10-2pm hours and the day we stopped they’d closed early. We met the outdoor gopher tortoises though.

Couldn't make him smile, but he didn't run and hide like his neighbor

Couldn’t make him smile, but he didn’t run and hide like his neighbor

 

The tunnels help out other creatures too

The tunnels help out other creatures too

The park had a prescribed burn (RX burn) last year and you can see the dark char still, as well as new growth. Important for keeping the habitat in balance.

The prescribed burns allow grasses, shrubs and other small plants to grow

The prescribed burns allow grasses, shrubs and other small plants to grow

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