My Prairie Love

There is a hidden gem located in my favorite town, Gainesville, Florida, which I will get to in a minute. Gainesville was my birth place and my home for a total of 11 years. My first memory was after a Florida Gator basketball game and my first time living on my own was in this amazing town. I lived in Gainesville with my family for the first 4 years of my life before we moved around a bit. I circled back for college after I was accepted to the University of Florida. Needless to say, I have so many incredible memories in this town and it is the place I will always call “home.”

My first few years of college were really emotional for me, as I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. I mean I still don’t really know, but I have always found peace and comfort in the outdoors. It’s also worth noting that it was in my second year of college that I brought baby Bella home. 🙂 Back to the point though, Gainesville is full of fun outdoor activities. Two of my favorite outdoor things to do is to go shark teeth hunting in the creeks around town, and that hidden gem I mentioned, Payne’s Prairie State Park.

Payne’s Prairie is a gorgeous swampland that hosts several trails where you can potentially see wild Florida Cracker horses and bison! A trek down the La Chua trail on a warm summer day will leave you speechless. The number of alligators I have seen on this trail is unreal. I once counted just over 100 gators before losing track. I’ve seen alligators fighting, stalking and eating prey, and lazily lounging on the trails right next to me. The horses are beautiful and the bison are always a treat when you get to see them, as they are incredibly elusive. From 100 degree hikes, to watching sunsets, to hula hooping sessions, and wine drinking, to bike trips, and to countless hours spent with friends, this place will always have a very special place in my heart. I got to take a quick visit here with some close friends while I was home visiting and it was as magical as ever. There’s nothing like sharing memories and laughing with old friends while admiring the power and beauty of the outdoors. Payne’s Prairie is such a magnificent place and if you are ever in the area, it is definitely worth the stop. I’ve included several pictures from random adventures throughout the years and a picture of baby Bella for good measure.

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FL>>CO

If anything can go well it will. On August 14, 2015 I found out I would be moving to Denver, Colorado approximately two weeks later for an internship with the Denver Zoo. That was two weeks to finish up work with my pet sitting company, find a place to live in Denver, move my home full of things from Jacksonville to Tallahassee, pack what I could fit in my little Mazda 3, and drive Bella, my 6 year old chocolate lab, and myself the 1,662 miles to our new home.

My excitement was undeniable. I had been needing a change and the mountains had been calling. Growing up, my family moved a lot. We had moved from Florida, to Iowa, to Tennessee, and back to Florida. After living in Tallahassee, FL for a number of years, I moved to Gainesville, where I got my degree in animal science from the University of Florida. I continued living in Gainesville after finding a post-grad job and moved to Jacksonville a couple years after that. While I will always consider Florida my home and location of some of my favorite people in the world, I had always missed living in the mountains of Tennessee. The mountains have a pull on my soul that is nearly indescribable There’s something so special about being lost in the tall, vastness of the forest and reaching the peak of a mountain after challenging yourself to make it there. I had only been to Colorado for skiing vacations in the past, but I had a feeling it was just what I needed.

So, I took to Craigslist and found a place to call home. It seemed like a good situation, pet friendly, month to month, fenced in back yard. Rent was decently cheap compared to the rest of Denver and the location was pretty ideal; in the middle of where I would be working and where the mountains were located. And the rest is history. I packed a few belongings in my car, bought an air mattress, and drove out west, not having the slightest clue what would happen when I got there.