Saturday, September 13, 2014

Hiking Hal Scott Preserve–White Trail

TrailheadAfter seeing pictures of the area and descriptions of seepage bogs, how could I not look forward to hiking through this area?  Hal Scott Preserve even has a bit of history to it that goes back to the Timucua Indians and has campsites that are several thousand years old.  To be hones, I didn’t see the campgrounds (I probably wouldn’t recognize a thousand year old campsite if I was sleeping in it), and the Timucua  Mounds are in the northern part of this preserve.  Still, it was a great day to get outside – blue skies and cool breezes followed me around for the whole trip, and there wasn’t a mosquito to be found.
Fishing PondHeading west from the parking area where there were already a couple of cars parked, but I think most of them were there for the fishing since they seemed to be mostly by the pond access area.  After passing the trailhead the path takes a turn to the south along the edge of the fishing pond.  As I walked up to the edge, I saw several fish in there – this is probably a nice spot to drop a line.
My first plan for today’s hike was to make my way to the camping area by the canals.  I saw some photos on Google Earth that showed picnic tables down there, and I had it timed so I’d arrive there right about lunchtime.  As I headed on past the pond, I had to get a panoramic shot of the palmetto fields and blue sky.  Notice the trail – it is mostly a forest road for the whole hike, which is a lot less primitive than most of the hikes around central Florida.
Palmetto Panorama
Purple FlowersTurning south at the trail intersection that leads to the campsite, I noticed that there didn’t seem to be a lot of traffic on these trails, judging by how few prints there were.  In this area, I saw no hoof prints, only one set of foot prints, one bicycle, and (surprisingly) some car tire tracks.
It turns out the car tracks were from some visitors who were already occupying the campsite.  (This group campsite must be reserved, and the water management district does allow campers to bring a small number of vehicles to the campsite.  This sure put a damper on my plans for where to have lunch; instead of sitting down for lunch I ended up eating while I hiked.
Working wellBefore heading back the way I came though, I did a little bit of exploring at the end of the canal down here.  After getting a quick photo of a pump well, I went down to the creek that runs out of the canal towards the river.  This area must be what was referred to when I read about the seepage bogs – this swampy area seems to border both sides of the Econlockhatchee River.  While I was here I tried creating a photo sphere from the middle of the swamp.  It came out pretty good, but I don’t know if it will work here in the blog or not, so if the one in the table below is just a weird looking flat image when you click on it, try the link.
Road being madeAfter heading back up to the main trail (and finishing my lunch along the way) I came upon an area that looks like they might be adding a new section to the trails.  If you zoom in a bit, you’ll notice that two of the trees on either side of this cut area have big white bands painted on them.  While I suppose this could be a planned fire-break, I don’t really think so since this trail curves around and later rejoins the trail that I was walking on.  I might have to come back next year sometime to see what this turns into.
Road floodedFrom this point, the trail continues on to the Econ River.  There is a bridge further west, but this part of the trail was flooded over.  Here I had a choice.  Do I put on my water-boots and go to the bridge, or continue on to the north with the white blaze trail that I had been following?  I decided to stick to the original trail, but not before I took another photo sphere picture of this spot.  Like the other one, I tried putting the picture directly in the blog down below – let’s see if Google's blogs work with Google's photo spheres.
Horses approachingSo after playing around with my camera, I jumped back to the white blazed trail and headed north.  Most of this part of the trail was pretty uneventful.  I did see some bobcat tracks in a muddy spot before a couple on horseback approached.  Since they came from the direction that I was headed, I asked ‘em what the trail was like back there.  They said it wasn’t bad, but there were a couple of wet spots.  Now, if someone on a horse says there are a couple of wet spots on the trail, I think I’ll pay more attention. 
Path entering woodsFrom here the trail was pretty close to entering the woods again where, right as the shade starts, there is a small stream that flows to the west and I expect that it feeds into the Econ river.  The road / trail crosses the stream and heads further north, but it was time to start heading back, so I headed back south a bit to take the trail that the equestrians said had a couple of wet spots.
First flooded spotFor some reason, I was expecting to come up on more wet spots than I did, but what was lacking in quantity was made up in quality.  There were two spots that couldn’t be crossed without getting a little bit wet.  Ever since hiking in Seminole Ranch, I’ve been carrying some overshoes that were perfect for these spots.  The water was only about a foot deep, so being prepared let me keep my shoes dry for the rest of the trip.
It was nice to get outside today; and sometimes a solo trip is perfect for clearing one’s mind and just enjoying nature.  There are a lot more trails in this area, so I’m sure I’ll be back.  During the spring the water levels will be lower, and I might just be able to cross some of the spots that I held back from today!
As always, for details of the trip or to see where the photos were taken, look at the map at the end of this post.
Parking Area
Camping Area full
Swamp Sphere
Blue sky over trail
River Sphere
Bobcat prints on trail
Small stream
The trail back
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