Quiet little towns like Cross Creek are getting harder to find in the fast growing state of Florida.
Cross Creek is on SR-325 between Gainesville and Ocala. It rests quietly between US-301 and US-441, major north-south Florida Highways.
You'll enjoy the rustic drive through old canopied oaks draped with Spanish Moss. You will come to the community of Cross Creek, nestled on the creek between Orange Lake and Lockloosa Lake.
You will be in the heart of Old Florida and among some of the neatest country Florida back roads in the entire state.
Most Florida tourists don't get off the major highways to poke around in Cross Creek or other small Florida towns. They are missing a treasure.
Cross Creek is famous because author Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings lived there for many years. She wrote many of her stories while living there, including the Pulitzer Prize winning novel "The Yearling".
Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings immortalized Cross Creek and its people.
She moved to Cross Creek in 1928. She was a graduate of the University of Wisconsin, and had been living in New York.
She immediately fell in love with the isolation of Cross Creek. She felt like she was home for the first time in her life.
The Florida Crackers who lived in the area became not just her friends, but the subjects of her books.
Her personal memoir, "Cross Creek", was made into the 1983 film of the same name starring Mary Steenburgen and Rip Torn.
Her Pulitzer Prize winning novel, "The Yearling" was made into the 1946 film of the same name. It starred Gregory Peck, Jane Wyman and Claude Jarman, Jr.
Marjorie liked visiting nearby Gainesville and St. Augustine, and had a cottage on the ocean in Crescent Beach south of St. Augustine Beach.
She married Norton Baskin and they owned a hotel in the Ancient City.
Ripley's Believe or Not is now in the building. Believe it or not.
I have been to Cross Creek many times, but the trip I remember most clearly was on July 20, 1969. That was when the Crew of Apollo 11 made their historic landing on the moon.
I had been returning to Tampa from Jacksonville on a business trip, and parked my car by the side of the road among huge old oaks draped with Spanish moss.
The historic moon landing was being broadcast from my car radio. I stood next to my car and listened to the voices on the radio.
The full moon was in the eastern sky. The darkness of this Florida place made the lunar surface seem eerily bright and close.
The moonlight bathed the old Florida cracker house across the road, the house where Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings lived when she wrote South Moon Under, The Yearling and Cross Creek.
As I looked at the moon and heard the crackling words of Neil Armstrong, I imagined I could hear the faint clicking of Marjorie's typewriter coming from the front porch of her house.
The throaty croaking of frogs and the squawking of fishing night birds drifted in the sultry night air.
The contrast between the modern accomplishments of the space program and the unchanged old natural feeling of Cross Creek has remained in my mind as the turning point in Florida's headlong rush into development and over population.
These beautiful little old Florida towns and places are a vanishing species. Cross Creek remains Old Florida. A place of fish camps and cypress trees, oaks and Spanish Moss.
Marjories's house is still the big attraction in Cross Creek. It is lovingly preserved by dedicated people and looks much like it did in Marjorie's time. It has been preserved forever as Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Historic State Park.
CROSS CREEK FLORIDA MOTELS
If you intend to stay overnight in the immediate area, I recommend the Herlong Mansion Bed and Breakfast in nearby Micanopy. It is a beautiful old restored mansion in a lovely little town west of Cross Creek.
Micanopy is a Florida town with an interesting history. That history includes Chief Micanopy who was the chief of the Seminole Nation during the 2nd Seminole War from 1835-1842.
If you plan to stay in nearby Gainesville, I recommend that you stay at Magnolia Plantation, 309 SE 7th St, Gainesville, FL 32601. Tel: 352-375-6653.
Longtime friends of mine, Joe and Cindy Montalto own this lovely Victorian bed and breakfast with 14 guest rooms each with private bath.
It is in the heart of my favorite university town with plenty to see and do.
Mrs. Rawlings and her husband, Norton Baskin, are buried in the old Antioch Cemetery just northeast of Island Grove. Her fans keep putting deer statues on her grave to memorialize "The Yearling."
Some of her Florida Cracker neighbors are also there, including ones mentioned in her books. These include Zelma Cason, Tom Morrison, Chet Crosby and Berney Bass.
To get to the cemetery leave Cross Creek and go east to US-301 and cross over to SE 219 Avenue. Continue east on SE 219 Avenue for about 2 miles to SE 225 Drive, an unpaved road that can be pretty rough sometimes. Keep following this road until you reach SE 189 Avenue. The cemetery is just to your right.
CROSS CREEK, FLORIDA ATTRACTIONS
Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Historic State Park 18700 S. CR 325 Cross Creek, FL 32640. Tel: 352-466-3672.
Visit the old Wood & Swink General Store in nearby Evinston.
14501 East County Road 325
Hawthorne, Florida 32640
The Yearling is the best place to eat in Cross Creek. There may be other places, but I haven't tried them.
This rustic old place has been a Florida dining legend since 1952.
For many years, with some interruptions, this quaint dining place served thousands of hungry Florida Gator fans, including me.
It was a tradition for many of us Gator faithful who would stop in after a University of Florida football game in Gainesville on our separate ways back to Orlando, Tampa, and other Florida towns south of Gainesville.
HOW TO FIND CROSS CREEK, FLORIDA
From US-301, drive west from the little town of Island Grove. From US-441, drive east from the crossroads of SR-346 and US-441 near Micanopy. Drive east on SR-346 until you come to SR-325, then go south to Cross Creek.
The Google map below will help you find the way.