Sunday, November 02, 2014

Hiking Tosohatchee Off the Beaten Path

Getting ready to head outI frequently use Google Earth with the “Photos” layer turned on to help me build a guide-trail for a hike.  Most times you can see the path that others have taken by simply looking at the aerial view of the terrain and seeing where the  photos sit.  That is what I did for today’s hike.
Parking area by the riverWe started our adventure where Powerline Rd. ends at the edge of the St. Johns River.  This seems to be a pretty popular spot for fishing, but it was a little too breezy for the fish to be interested today.  The wind wasn’t blowing hard – just enough to keep the bugs at bay.
The last time that I was out this way, I was impressed with how well graded the road was.  Since it is still early in the season, I guess they haven’t gotten around to that yet.  The road out is about six miles long, and it was washboard the whole way.  I found that wasn’t too bad if I got my speed up to about 40 mph, but that’s about twice the speed limit and there are a few spots with dips in the road that make that an unsafe speed to keep up.  In the end it was best to just hug the side of the road go slowly, and enjoy the view.
Tree snaking up a palmIt was worth the trip though.  Once we arrived at the edge of the river and headed south down the River Trail, we saw something that I had never seen before… it was a tree looked like a giant snake as it grew up the side of a palm tree.  I’m not sure what kind of tree it is, possibly a mangrove, but it sure was neat to see.
Maybe a future trailWe only stayed on the River Trail for a little bit – our target was the trail that runs between the edge of the woods and the floodplain.  We headed off into the woods along an area that had flags that looked like the ones used to mark a potential new trail.  These flags took us right to the edge of the woods where we wanted to be. 
The path along the floodplain was mostly firm mud, but it did get squishy in a couple of spots.  It was basically firm enough to walk on but soft enough to capture the footprints of every critter around.  There were lot that were easily recognizable – raccoons,  egrets, hogs, cattle, dogs, and of course people. 
Egrets on the St Johns RiverThe trail eventually opens up to the river at a spot that was a good spot for a picnic (this was for the return trip).  There were all sorts of water fowl feeding against a backdrop of a clear blue sky.
Game trailA little further south from here the trail that headed off into the woods was just a game trail, and this is where our adventure started to become, well, a little more adventurous.
We followed the game trail a little further south and then west along what appeared to be a trail back in 2010.  This trail took us through back into the woods where it opened up again.  We saw a hunter’s stand back here; the guy who built it really went off the beaten track to place it here. 
Picnic timeA little further along the game trail became pretty much impassable, so we decided to head back to the river.  On the way we saw a group of wild boar running through the woods alongside the trail, and that was about the last of the wildlife that we saw except for more waterfowl.  Once we were back overlooking the river it was time for lunch before continuing on back to our starting spot.
On the drive back, we decided to take Long Bluff Rd. back so we could see if the trail that we were looking for ever hit the road.  It turns out that the trail that looked like it was there in 2010 is no longer there, but the taking the long drive back was a great idea.  We had a lot of fun on this trip; sometimes getting off the beaten path brings new rewards.
River trail view
Along the flood plain
Giant Golden Orb Weaver
Spooky Tree
Andy on the trail
Hunter's stand

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