Saturday, October 20, 2018

Touring Silver Springs State (Theme) Park

Entrance
Silver Springs Park Entrance

Silver Springs State Park is the site of the oldest tourist attraction in Florida, and walking through the park is like stepping back in history.  From the driveway on SR-40 to the fountain at the entrance of the park, one can appreciate just how “grand” this must have been in it’s hey-day, and imagine the size of the crowds that must have visited every day.

Springside MallAfter entering the park the “Springside Mall” is on the left, and the boat launch is on the right.  The mall has a gift shop, cafeteria, and an ice cream shop.  The cheese burger and fries at the cafeteria is pretty good; we stopped here for lunch twice.

Boat LaunchThe boat launch is where the glass bottom boat tours start.  This tour is a must-do for anyone in the area.  It doesn’t take too long, and the guide will describe the boils, types of fish, as well as some of the archeological finds in the spring.

Old Theme Park MapThese are the two main sites that remain from the original theme park, but there used to be so much more.  I found an old them park map online that isn’t that old (it’s from around 2006), that shows just how much the park had to offer.  Even the water park has been left to the elements.  At the park, they do have paper maps available, but I had no luck finding one online to share here.

Inside Boat-2We started our tour of the park with a ride on the glass bottom boat.  This tour has been around since 1878 when this area was known as Silver Springs Nature Theme Park (and our tour guide told us that he has been running a boat tour here for the past 50 years). 

Mushroom bowls-1The boats are set up with a bench seat that wraps around the center viewing area, so everyone has a good view of everything in the water.  There’s a short video down below that shows a couple of the highlights from the tour.

Paved Walk-2After the boat tour we walked headed to the east side of the park to walk along the nature trail.  This is a one mile loop through a forest of pines and oaks.  We had our eyes out for the famous Florida monkeys but didn’t see any on this trip.  This seems like a perfect spot for them.

Ross Allen Island-1On the west side of the park there is a boardwalk that goes around the perimeter of Ross Allen Island.  Back in the day, the island had several attractions, but the only things remaining are the stage where the reptile shows were held, and one or two of the covered pavilions overlooking the river.  The whole boardwalk (including the stage and pavilions) are well maintained, and there are no visible remains of what was removed.

Kayaks-1One thing that we didn’t have time for on this trip was to rent a canoe or kayak and go paddling down the river.  We’ll do that on our next visit, but I mention it here to note that the launch (and rental) is on the south side of the parking lot.

The park is also famous for movies and TV shows.  Several Tarzan movies were filmed here, as well as (one of my favorites) The Creature from the Black Lagoon.  Also, the Sea Hunt television series was filmed onsite.  This is piece of old-Florida history as well as recent history many of us remember from these old shows.  It’s good to see that it is being maintained by the state park system. 


Glass Bottom Boat at Silver Springs State Park

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Anhinga
Anhinga
Andy is Mike NelsonCreek Trail trailhead
Sea Hunt Photo and Trailhead
Boat on Silver River
Glass Bottom Boat
Tina and Andy
Trail Selfie
Promenade-1
Silver River
Glass Bottom View-4
Top of Fish

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Hiking the River Trail–Silver Springs State Park

Frog-2
Kermit’s Cousin Lives Here

Andy at TrailheadThe trailhead for this balloon trail is in the northeast section of the park, right next to the Silver River Museum.  It is easy to spot, with a large sign hanging over the entrance.  The trail itself is a very easy two mile hike – the entire path is about the width of a small forest road that is dry and very well maintained.

Trailview-2Starting from the trailhead, the first (roughly) third of a mile goes through a forest of oaks and pine trees, and the slope is slightly down hill.  After that point, the trail passes through a small swamp.

After passing through the swamp, there are two different rest areas that would make a great spot for a picnic.  The real jewel of this trail for me is just after the second rest area.  This is the canoe launce on to the Silver River.

Cypress on the RiverThere are a couple of canoes locked up next to the launch, but the rangers told me that they are only for staff use – they no longer rent canoes on this end of the part; only at the main park area.  The views here are really nice though.

Near RiverWhen I cycled down this trail, this is where I turned back, but when we hiked it, we followed the full loop.  From here the trail is covered in short grass instead of dirt like the trail has been up to this point. 

RIver under TreeAbout another third of a mile down the trail is another access point to the river.  This one is more rustic, but there is an old wooden bench hidden back under the trees.

Trailview-3The loop portion of the trail continues around for about a half mile before linking back to the main trail that we followed from the trailhead.  The inside of the loop is mostly palms while the outside is the same sort type of flora that surrounded the main portion of the trail on the way to the river.

Along this trail, we didn’t see a lot of wildlife, but we did come across a small black snake, and a tortoise. Kermit’s cousin was an unusual looking frog… I believe it is a Leopard Frog, but I’ve never seen one with skin that was blueish green/turquoise before.

Overall, this is a nice short hike that is well suited for just about all skill levels.  It also makes for a nice bike ride.


River Trail Cycling

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Black Snake-2
Black Snake
Cypress Knees
Cypress Knees
Forest Glenn-1
Forest Glenn
Golden Orb Weaver
Golden Orb Weaver
Golden WebRiver View-1
Golden Web and River View
Swamp-2Twisty Vine Andy
Swamp and Twisty Vine

Friday, May 11, 2018

Lake Manatee State Park–Bradenton, FL

Someone described this park better than I ever could when they said “It’s a great spot to go camping especially if you’re looking for a quiet spot to relax and do nothing.

Lake Manatee Swimming Area-1
Swimming Area on Lake Manatee

Our site was on the southern portion of the first camping loop; there are shadier spots on the northern parts of the loop, but this was a great spot for us.  While we were here, we went canoeing on the lake – though the website didn’t mention it, they do have canoes available for rent.  There are a couple of (very) short hiking trails, but they go through mostly scrub land.  The trails really aren’t long enough to bother with a day-pack… a bottle of water is fine since I don’t think they were less than two miles long.


Photo Montage of our Trip

While in the area we visited the Gamble House to see some old Florida History, and also stopped by to see the ruins of “Braden Castle”.  The Gamble House was kind of interesting, but I’d suggest passing on visiting the Braden Castle ruins.  They’re pretty much just a pile of coquina with a placard on them, in the middle of a trailer park.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Biking through Little Big Econ SF (and flying along the river)

I started this trip at the equestrian trailhead on Snow Hill Rd. and road my bike through a neighborhood just south of there  to the hunter’s entrance to the state forest.  There are “no parking” signs all over the neighborhood, so they’ve essentially made this their own private trailhead.

Two Ponies-3
Ponies grazing in the shade

CorralAlong the way through the state forest property, this path goes through five gates that are used to control livestock.  There are a few domesticated horses and ponies back here, so the general rule of leaving the gates as they are (open or closed) after passing through them does apply.Wooden Bridge

There are a few other remnants of the ranch that used to occupy this state land.  A couple of the more interesting structures are a corral and an old wood and metal bridge.  The bridge is still maintained since the forest roads are still used.

The overall distance from the trailhead to the camping shelter is about 4.5 miles; it’s an easy hike or bike ride.  There were only a couple of very small patches of sugar sand that I had to walk my bike through.

River View-1
River View
Camping Shelter
Camping Shelter
River View-2
River View

There are a couple of picnic tables by the camping shelter, as well as a fire ring.  This is the spot where I stopped to do some filming of the river.  Take a look – I think it came out pretty good.

I also had my GoPro filming the trip on the way out.  If you would like to get a feel for what the area looks like, this shows the forest roads leading all the way out.

The map below shows the locations of the major landmarks along the way.  Clicking on the “Wikiloc” icon on the map will take you to the page with more map details.


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Equestrian Trailhead
Equestrian Trailhead
Historic Marker-1
Historic Marker (Side 1)
Historic Marker-2
Historic Marker (Side 2)

Sunday, March 04, 2018

Biking CBSF–Heifer Mound

I took a short ride through Charles Bronson State Forest to capture some aerial video around Heifer Mound and Saddle Mound.  These are two of the largest native American shell middens in the immediate area of the state forest (that I’ve seen), and this spot offers some great views of the St. Johns River

mound
Saddle Mound

Parking for this trailhead is at the Chuluota Wilderness area about two tenths of a mile west of the entrance to the state forest.  From here it is a short ride to the windmill – overall it is almost exactly four miles out to the river.

CBSF Entrance
Park Entrance

cbsf sign
Information Kiosk

There are a a lot of these prehistoric sites throughout Florida, and many along the St. Johns River.  For the most part, they are easy to miss, but some of them really stand out.  Heifer Mound is a well known spot by boaters (especially air boats) as a spot to park and enjoy the views.  There is a flag pole on the center of the mound that sometimes has a flag, but I learned  that the flag is frequently taken by vandals.

boats
Airboats on Heifer Mound

I learned that Heifer Mound is known locally as bullshit mound.  I don’t know if it is because people meet here to sit and talk, or (more likely) because cows from a local ranch have been known to hang out here since it offers dry  ground when the flood plane is underwater.

CBSF-1
Charles Bronson SF
SJR-1
St. Johns River 
Gator-2 Alligator Sunning

There used to be a lot of cattle in this portion of the forest, but I there is no sign of them now.  I found out that the rancher no longer has a lease with the state to let his cattle graze here.  The video that I captured while I was here came out pretty good.  I managed to capture some boats out on the river and also the airboats coming out of the river up onto the mound.

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Friday, January 26, 2018

Biking Charles Bronson SF–Windmill Trip

This is a short ride through Charles Bronson State Forest where I stopped to make a little video of the windmill out there.

Windmill Full.jpg
Aeromotor WIndmill – Model 702

The windmill was made sometime before 1964, when the Aeromotor company moved from Chicago to Broken Arrow, OK.  Since then there have been several hurricanes and tropical storms that have either passed through the area, or passed close enough where this old guy saw some pretty strong winds.  Yet here it is, still running and pumping water like it did more than half a century ago.

I started the trip at the parking area for Chuluota Wilderness Area, which is only about a quarter of a mile from the entrance to the state forest.  The entrance was easy with my bike, there is a simple swinging gate so I didn’t need to lift my bike over the fence.

Entrance
Entrance
Road-1
Forest Road
Windmill Top
Windmill Top

The ride out here is pretty easy; the roads are mostly hard packed or grassy, but I don’t think a hybrid bike would do very well because there are some spots with sugar sand.  My mountain bike handled these spots with no problems, but thinner tires would definitely not ride as well.

Gate
One of many gates
 CBSF Sign

I was surprised that I didn’t see any cattle on this trip, and also that much of the farming equipment that I saw on my last trip was also gone.  I don’t know if the forest service has stopped allowing cattle to graze here, or if the ranchers have simply brought the herds somewhere else.  I’ll probably know more in another week or two; I’m planning to come out again soon to visit some of the shell middens.

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