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Adventures for a summer's day


Published: Wednesday, June 1, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, May 30, 2005 at 12:54 p.m.

It's summer, which in Gainesville is a season that runs much longer than the official calendar dates, and that means we have extra time to celebrate fresh air, sunshine, deep blue springs and all the joys unique to North Florida. Here's a checklist of cool summer fun spots as close as your next free morning.

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Rowers at sunrise on Newnan's Lake

John Moran

1: Explore Newman's Lake

Slip a canoe or kayak in at the boat ramp at Powers Park and try an early morning paddle on Newnan's Lake. Check out the birds and the wildlife and bring your fishing pole if you feel like it. But know this, Newnan's is a wild lake, so it's not an adventure for the timid. A close encounter with a gator that's nearly as big as your boat is guaranteed to produce a chilly tingle that will run right up your spine.

2: Scalloping

Off the Dixie County Gulf Coast, a scallop is a shellfish, and it's also a verb. July starts scallop season, and hunting them is family fun. Grab a boat, a diving mask and a net bag and go see. If you don't find scallops, snorkeling in the shallow clear water is cool pleasure. And if you do find them, you'll be eating well. Don't forget the diver's flag and the saltwater fishing license, or it can be a very expensive undertaking. Sunscreen is a must.

3: Get a little `wild' in Ocala

Silver Springs is one of Florida's oldest attractions, and its nextdoor neighbor, Wild Waters, is a lot of cool wet fun. Adults can hit both in a single day for $35.99, and those under 48- inches tall can double-up for $26.99. It's a much shorter drive than the one to Orlando; it's also cheaper, and the lines are way shorter, especially if you go during the week.

4: Spring into summer

OK, maybe the idea of fighting the rush-hour traffic of tubers on the Ichetucknee turns you off. Go to a map of Florida springs (the Suwannee River Water Management District has a good one on its Web site www.srwmd.state.fl.us/) and pick out a couple you've never visited. Manatee Springs State Park near Chiefland has shady trails, a nice picnic area and a beautiful spring for swimming. The boardwalk along the spring run to the river is peaceful and a great place for nature and people watching. Fanning Spring State Park, just upstream, has a great riverside swimming hole. Or, if you are looking for a little road trip, De Leon Springs State Park near DeLand is fun, and the Old Spanish Sugar Mill restaurant has griddles on the tables, so you can play with your pancakes before eating them.

5: Go batty

Slather up with bug repellent, go buy an early evening ice cream cone and then head over to Lake Alice and walk around and look for gators as the sun goes down. Then step across the street an watch the bats fly out of the UF bat house. The bats are looking for the bugs that you are hoping aren't snacking on you.

6: Go lighthousing

St. Augustine and Ponce Inlet, south of Daytona Beach, both have restored lighthouses that are fascinating and beautiful to visit. Reward yourself with a great seafood dinner for making the climb to the top.

7: Museum doubleheader

The air-conditioning is cool, and exhibits are hot at the Harn Museum of Art and Florida Museum of Natural History. The hot weather outside should have the butterflies in the manmade rainforest good an frisky and amusing to watch.

8: Summer biking

There are lots of places to bike and still beat the heat. The Jacksonville- Baldwin Trail has lots of shade and the simple joys of Everybody's Restaurant in Baldwin. The Trenton- Fanning Springs leg of the Nature Coast Trail offers lots of shade with a nice cool spring and a variety of places to eat at either end. The Suwannee River Greenway in Branford offers the triple-dipper option of getting wet at Ichetucknee Springs, Ivey Memorial Park on the Suwannee River and Little River Springs, next to the Suwannee. A leisurely sunrise bike ride along the packed sand at the edge of the Atlantic at Crescent Beach is beautiful, and the morning breeze off of the ocean is heavenly.

9: Golfing getaway

If you are a golfer, you have access to more than a dozen courses in the area. I'm betting (just a friendly wager, nothing serious) there's at least one you've wanted to try but never got around to it. This is your chance.

10: Antiquing in High Springs and Micanopy

It isn't just for tourists. Make a game of it. Each person in your party is tasked with finding five items that they can remember throwing out at some time in their lives that are now sitting on some store owner's shelves with price tags. The person with the highest price total wins a barbecue dinner at Pearl Country Store in Micanopy. (Bonus points if you find one of those classic Gary Kirkland University & Main coffee mugs.)

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