I was slowly headed down to the tip of Florida. It had been a year since I was last in the state, and I was excited to explore more of the depths now that I had gotten into into the full groove of my explorative tendencies. As I drove left the Gulf Coast and headed further inland, I was amazed by the gradual change of the ecosystems. Palm trees slowly gave way to oaks. The fog that had covered everything slowly began to lift and blue horizons started to morph into green forests. The more inland I got, the more I felt that urge to explore and after some quick research I found Cedar Lakes Woods, a small botanical garden that will steal your heart away.
The history of the park is really quite amazing. We will have to rewind more than 100 years into the past when Florida’s Highway 27 was being constructed. Back then, transportation of materials cost a pretty penny and the state of Florida was trying to save as much change as they could. So they mined limestone locally and then like any competent government, left the mine abandoned for over 100 years. In comes Dr. Raymond Webber who bought the property planning on turning it into a personal fishing pond. Slowly over the years, he filled in the mine creating islands and bridges. Shortly afterwards, he discovered a love for gardening as the task of decorating the grounds came to him. With that love he created a non-profit, gifted the property to it, and then gave complete control to “Florida Conservation” to make sure that it would be protected in the future.
As I arrived, I drove through a field of roaming cows, laughing to myself about how different the atmosphere had changed. I walked past a family of wooden snowpeople quickly followed by a giant tortoise munching on some grass quite contently. The wind blew fiercely through the trees overhead. Patches of bamboo swayed back and forth overhead as a small path twisted through them. All of the sudden the trees opened up to show an open pond with waterfalls running down the sides. Paths zig zagged across small islands and flowers bloomed on every hill. I had to stop for a minute just to stand in wonder, as a smile rose across my face.
I followed a path around the pond and down into the center to see everything from another perspective. As I sat listening to the water splashing a swan accompanied by a couple of friends stuffed themselves with algae. A hawk soared above and I was happy. The air smelled so fresh, I had to take a few deep breaths as I clicked away with my camera. It was hard to imagine that the coast was so close to here. Eventually I was passed by an older gentleman who asked if I’d mind showing him some of the shot I had taken. As he looked them over, I could see him beam with pride and he told me he was extremely glad that I was enjoying myself. “That must have been Raymond” I thought to myself, grateful that I was able to give back to him in any way, even if it was just with a smile. With that, the wind bit at my bones as the sun began to set, and I decided it was time to leave.
Closest Supercharger: Gainsville FL 21 mi
3217 SW 35th Blvd, Gainesville, FL 32608
Cedar Lakes Woods
4990 NE 180 Ave, Williston, FL 32696