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A new view of the woods
Winter's change in flora, fauna gives visitors something else to see
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Winter in the Woods Holiday Celebration
What: Cookie decorating, candy cane hunt, natural seasonal crafts and hikes
When: 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday
Where: Elachee Nature Science Center, 2125 Elachee Drive, Gainesville
How much: $5 adults, $3 ages 2-12, free for kids age 1 and younger and members
More info: 770-535-1976

With all of the holiday hustle and bustle, don’t forget to take a step back and enjoy the season.

And we mean literally, despite the cold weather. This year, try taking the family to enjoy the outdoors.

“The winter woods provide the perfect opportunity to get outside, stretch your legs, enjoy the solitude of the woods, and examine the rolling landscape,” said Lavon Callahan, communications director at Elachee Nature Science Center in Gainesville.

Elachee is a 1,500-acre woodland nature preserve in Gainesville with more than 12 miles of trails, along with indoor exhibits and educational programs. This weekend, the center celebrates the season with its annual Winter in the Woods Holiday Celebration.

The event includes cake decorating, a hunt for candy cakes and natural crafts that highlight the season.

“Two local school choirs from Chicopee Woods Elementary School and Fair Street (International Baccalaureate World School) will set the tone with their joyous voices,” Callahan added.

But the Winter in the Woods party isn’t the only reason to get out and enjoy nature during the winter. For example, Callahan said, while on Elachee’s trails you can see many types of animals, from chipmunks to wild turkey.

“Most plants have died back for the winter season, but the evergreen Christmas fern is always green in the woods this time of year,” she said. “Many people enjoy the trails in the wintertime, and it is a great place to bring out-of-town visitors.”

Gwen Graphman, who works in the store at Vogel State Park in Blairsville, said the winter landscape at the park offers a different view in the wintertime.

“You can see a lot farther off in the distance and the mountains and all,” she said. “And if there’s any frost or snow, even when it stops down here, you might still be able to have some on the tops of the mountains. It’s a totally different view in the wintertime than it is in the summer.”

And while the activities come to a halt when the temperature drops — paddle boats are put away and much of the park’s programming stops during the colder months — Graphman said the cabins are still available for a cozy evening by the fire instead.

At Elachee, about 60,000 visitors tromp through the woods each year, Callahan said, including school field trips.

“The kids’ favorite is the live animal room with native snakes, toads, tree frogs and turtles,” said Callahan.

Staff writer Kristen Morales contributed to this story.

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