The Greenhouse Hub

It’s my final week checking out trails that are unique to Gainesville, and I’m excited to share with you The Greenhouse Hub – a new property and trail connected to Greenhouse Church. The good news: you do not have to practice a particular faith or attend this church to attend the Hub. Instead, the Hub is a completely open area of land five miles from the church itself. It is used for one-on-one time and self reflection. The Hub is completely free for anyone to use, and you can park your car at the entrance or drive through the gates to the start of the path.

My favorite part about the Hub was the different areas around each winding turn that had rest spots. I found a swinging bench where I was able to feel the cool air as I swayed back and forth. I also really appreciated how tranquil the environment was for others who were walking the area. While the plans are not completely done,  a video posted on the official Greenhouse Church website states that phase one is expected to be completed by the end of the summer. According to Pastor Mike Patz, the space is open to anyone, whether they are religious or not. Here’s a peek at the plot of land below:

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To watch the full video and see the plans for the Greenhouse Hub, click here.

Despite not having buildings yet, what I loved most about the Greenhouse Hub was the array of personalization that each turn had for those exploring. This area would be perfect to run through, but take note that the trails are very thin. If many visitors are at the Hub, it might be difficult to navigate. One of the best parts was reading through the check-in book at the beginning of the trail. It had quotes, sayings and comments left by all the visitors.

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Pictured above is the cover of the check-in book at the beginning of the trail.

Overall, the Greenhouse Hub space is very open and inviting to all those who enter. While its neat that it is connected to a church, I really just enjoyed being with nature outside. The check-in book at the beginning of the trail was fun to read, and I had a great workout. When I finished running the trail, there were plenty of benches and seats along the path. I found one to sit on and cool off after my long day.

Here’s what you need to know:

Address: 12148 NW 39th Ave. Gainesville, FL 32608

Hours: open dusk until dawn every day

Bring: water bottle, mosquito spray, sunscreen

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Broken Arrow Bluff Nature Park

Yesterday I went to Broken Arrow Bluff, a Gainesville Department of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs sponsored area. According to the Broken Arrow Bluff website, the entire trail is about 11 acres. The bluff is next to Kanapaha Botanical Gardens, which is a great place to visit as well. I visited this location with the expectation of seeing another trail similar to the ones I’ve visited thus far. I was entirely shocked with Broken Arrow. I would not recommend planning to run on this trail because of how steep the land is, but I would highly recommend taking a walking tour of the area.

I felt like I was in Jurassic Park at points, with huge live oak trees and an array of multi-colored birds flying around. I would highly recommend visiting. The trail is incredibly steep, and it is not marked off well. This means that it’s easy to get lost, which is exactly what happened to me. Since Broken Arrow is part of a sinkhole, the entire path is very, very steep. At the bottom of the sinkhole is a still portion of water. From far away, it looks like a green plain at the bottom. Up close, however, there is algae just sitting on the top of the water. I sat there for about 20 minutes, taking in the entire view. When I was there, I didn’t see a single movement in the water.

So why should you visit Broken Arrow? For starters, it feels like you’re in a new country. The huge rocks and sweeping trees make you forget that you’re still in Gainesville. It’s also only about 15 minutes away from campus. I personally had a good workout just by walking the trail. The steep terrain coupled with dodging tree vines made it difficult just to walk in itself. Lastly, the unique views constantly kept my mind running, even if my feet weren’t in a full sprint.

There are many benefits to visiting Broken Arrow Bluff Nature Park, but before I recommend visiting the area, I want to give you a few helpful hints. First, bring your own water bottle. I didn’t see a single station for water along the path, and since the trail is right next to foggy, still water, the humidity can really take a toll on someone visiting. Second, there is no set parking area. In fact, when you pull up next to the park, you are next to a neighborhood of houses. I parked at the base of a dead end and walked to the entrance. Third, keep track of where you are on the trail. Since there are no markers on trees, it’s incredibly easy to find yourself wandering. Thankfully I brought a friend with me, and her sense of direction was much stronger than mine.

Overall, Broken Arrow Bluff Nature Park is highly recommended if you’d like a different terrain. It’s great for power walking or hiking, but not for running. Take in the sounds of the exotic birds, and bring a friend. Don’t forget to fill up your water bottle before you go, but enjoy the free park and the silence from the outside world.


What you need to know:

– No fees to enter park

– Location:

5724 SW 46th Place

– Tips: bring close-toed shoes and water as there are no fountains anywhere nearby


Here’s some photos from my visit:

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To read Gainesville Rock Gym’s review of Broken Arrow, check out this link: http://tinyurl.com/pez8vmo

Sweetwater Preserve

What: Sweetwater Preserve

Where: From I-75 at Williston Rd at the south end of Gainesville, drive east on Williston Rd (SR 331), crossing US 441 after 4.3 miles. Continue around the curve past the western entrance to the preserve and the traffic light. Turn right onto SE 4th St, which curves slightly to become SE 21st Ave. Turn right on SE 15th St and continue a half mile to the park entrance. The first entrance leads to the parking lot nearest the trail; the second, to the parking lot near the historic waterworks and restrooms.

Time: 8 a.m. – 7:30 p.m. every day

After a stressful week spent in the library, I was aching to unwind somewhere new. I decided to visit Sweet Water Preserve, which has over 59,550 acres of conservation land. It also features over 20 miles of trails and hiking land. On the main trail, a brochure stated that the trail was once a rail road which now became a hiking, biking and equestrian trail. The trail was created as part of the Alachua County Environmental Protection campaign, a program used to promote green areas in the county.

One of my favorite parts of this trail is that it has the best shade! While it was a hot day out, I was able to cool off in between my running and enjoy the canopy of trees above me. The trail had very little rocks, but the path was incredibly clear.

One of the highlights of the trail was the river that was situated along the left hand side of the pathway. Wooden benches were placed overlooking the water. At first glance, the water appears to look murky and unclear. Upon further glance, however, the water is actually so clear that the bottom of the stream can be seen. Since the bottom of the floor is sand, the water appears dirty. While the trail is right off of Williston Road, surprisingly the trail was incredible peaceful.

On the path, I met an explorer who was simply enjoying the day. Here’s my interview with Carrie Smith, a 20 year old civil engineering major from Germany.

Q: Are you an avid runner?

A: Absolutely not! I just enjoy finding new places in Gainesville.

Q: How did you hear about Sweetwater Preserve?

A: Honestly, I’ve been following a couple of websites. I read Florida Hikes, a website that has tons of hiking trails for people to visit.

Q: You mentioned you were a civil engineering major. How do you relax?

A: I definitely try to get away from the busyness of campus. I feel like I spend forever in the library Monday through Friday.

Q: What piece of advice would you tell someone who doesn’t like to run?

A: I hate to run too, so I can definitely relate. I never regret going out and seeing some place new, so I’m all about the power walk. You don’t have to run eight miles to feel like you got a good workout. I just enjoy the quiet time.

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Carrie Smith, 20, fixes her hair before walking through the canopy of Sweetwater Preserve.

For more information on other hiking and walking trails, check out Florida Hikes! Here’s their review on Sweetwater: http://floridahikes.com/sweetwater-preserve

Loblolly Woods Nature Park

Last week I had the opportunity to check out Loblolly Woods Nature Park, which is one of ten City of Gainesville Hogtown Creek Greenway Parks.

The path is about 3 miles in length, and it’s perfect for biking or running. Oftentimes, however, there was tons of debris in the way, so I would definitely recommend taking a bike if you choose to not use the walkway. The canopy of trees that surrounds the trail makes one feel like they are in Georgia or Tennessee. The area is also teeming with creatures – squirrels, butterflies, spiders and so much more. There’s a man-made wooden walkway that is perfect for running, but it also takes away from the idea of running on a trail.

Possibly my favorite part of Loblolly Woods Nature Park was the natural forming stream that trickles in between the pathways and under the man-made walkway. Even though Loblolly was located right off a major roadway, the stream keeps the noise from the cars at a minimum.

Protip: There are TONS of spiders everywhere! Crawling on the floor, creating webs and waiting for their next meal. If you are afraid of spiders, I would not recommend this trail. Since there are over nine different trails throughout the woods, tons of webs are intertwined between trees. I think I ran into over 15 webs along the way (complete with me freaking out over them!). If this is something that scares you, bring a friend to lead the way and clear out the webs.

Lake Alice Trail

While most students were preparing for a nice break from campus life, I found myself struggling to balance four exams in two days. I had these exams back-to-back, which led little time to think about my vacation.

I also found myself trying new study spots on campus – anywhere from Ben Hill Griffin Stadium to random classroom buildings (side note: I highly recommend Dauer Hall). Eventually, however, I found myself outside.

Lake Alice is located right on campus, and this is where my feet brought me this week. I didn’t have time to trek across Gainesville to find the newest, most unique trail. I did realize, however, how an individual can find peace and mental restoration on Florida’s very own grounds.

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Pictured above is the campus map of Lake Alice. It is located off of Museum Road.

There are a few highlights that I found on this trail. The first nature spot is the lake itself. On any given day, a gator might be resting on the banks or taking a swim. I found that traveling past the lake gave me a refreshing view to take in while on my run.

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Pictured above: Lake Alice at dusk. 

The second aspect of the trail that I enjoyed was running into the Baughman Center. While the center was closed, I had never realized that our campus even had this building! I definitely plan on returning to study there during the weekdays. The Baughman Center website states,

“In April 2012, the Baughman Center was ranked third on the Florida Architecture: 100 Years 100 Places list published by the Florida Chapter of the American Institute of Architects.”

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Pictured above: The Baughman Center gave me a nice running break.

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I would definitely recommend stopping to take a rest spot along the trail. I loved this bridge on my way to the Baughman Center.

Finally, along Museum Road I passed the bat houses – another iconic image of the University of Florida. This is unique to our campus, and I appreciated the many people anxiously awaiting to see the bats fly out of their house at sunset time.

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The bat houses (which are pictured on the left hand side) made me appreciate our school and its unique qualities.


Reasons why you should check out the trail on Museum Road:

1. It’s close. The pathway is on campus which makes running more convenient.

2. It’s picturesque. Between Lake Alice, the Baughman Center, and the bat houses, you’ll be sure to keep entertained while on the run.

3. It helps you appreciate our campus. How many schools can say they have bat houses on their campus? We attend a beautiful university – so take advantage of it!

4. It’s close to the gym. Keep running on Museum Road and you’ll quickly run into Southwest Recreational Center.


So what are you waiting for to start your run? Get out and see our incredible campus!

Morningside Nature Center

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Sarah Spann, 21, a UF student, works on her stride at Morningside Nature Center.

Well good morning Gainesville! This weekend I had the chance to visit Morningside Nature Center which features over 278 acres of trails and various forms of wildlife. I also had the opportunity to catch up a past UF Cross Country athlete Sarah Spann while we were on the trail.

The nature center is just seven miles from the heart of campus, and the drive took approximately fifteen minutes. Immediately we found signs that pointed us to easy access parking. The best part about the trip? It was free! After we parked, we began running the trail. Spann, who runs anywhere from three to six miles per day, said she loves getting off campus and being able to detox. I had the opportunity for a quick Q&A before she returned back to blogging for her site, freshfitnhealthy.com.

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I love being able to see the trail before we began running! For more information on the center, visit here.

Q: How did you first get involved with running?

A: I was always active as a little girl, but I actually hated to run until high school came around. Some of my best friends made me come out for the team, and here I am today.

Q: And how did that continue into college?

A: As soon as I started taking running seriously during my junior year of high school, I began looking into places I wanted to run for in a Division I setting. UF had the best program for me, so I continued pursuing that passion.

Q: Why do you run? What does running do for you?

A: Running is honestly just an outlet for me. It helps me de-stress, it helps me when I have a lot on my mind and I need to sort them out and it also helps me get out and enjoy the nice Florida weather.

Q: Where is your favorite place to run in Gainesville?

A: I love any trails in Gainesville because there are so many of them. I also just love being in the stadium. My favorite spot is Morningside Nature Center because there’s always a chance to see some wildlife on the trails. It’s also really close to campus, so I don’t mind driving to this location.

Q: What’s your one piece of advice for someone who has never been running before and believes they can’t do it?

A: Anyone can run, all you need is a pair of shoes and a place to go.

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To find more information about Sarah’s lifestyle and fitness blog, visit her website, freshfitnhealthy.com! I especially love her article on Staying Active as the Season Changes – check it out HERE!

Meet the Runner

My name is Noelle Spencer, and I am a sophomore studying political science and public relations at the University of Florida. My blog, RunRise, focuses on the different running trails within Gainesville, Florida. As a student, I have found that running has been the perfect way for me to de-stress from my school days. While running started as simply a hobby, it has now become my passion. Here’s how:

I began running after I gave up my passion of dancing. I needed to find a way to channel my energy and focus on the positives in my day, and I wanted to grow stronger and healthier. My very first mile was over 10 minutes long, but this only motivated me to cut down on my time. While I was struck down, I was also excited for the challenge. I started running on campus, and I later moved to running stadiums. That simply wasn’t enough; in fact, oftentimes I couldn’t fully relax because I was surrounded by my classroom buildings, and I constantly ran into friends while trying to escape from the chaos of campus life.

Now, I run two miles a day, and I have found an inner peace and a greater relaxation that comes from my alone time with the beautiful surroundings. I am grateful for running and the way it has allowed me to become physically fit as well as mentally sound. Instead of running on campus, I decided to explore the other areas in Gainesville. What I didn’t realize was how many trails there are available (mostly free of charge) for anyone to use. Each trail is unique in its pathways, its animals and its scenes.

With this blog, it is my hope that I will share with you some trails in the Alachua County area as well as ways to detox from the hectic community that we live in today. Throughout this blog, I will highlight areas that are within a reasonable distance from campus. After I run the trail, I will write a review which includes any tips I have as well as highlights that I have found. I encourage you to run along with me, post your opinions on the trails too and start living a healthier life.

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