Saturday, December 20, 2014

Hiking Charles Bronson State Forest (Joshua Creek Trailhead)

Joshua Creek TrailheadOnly a few more days before Christmas and there is still a lot to do, but a little exploring is just what the doctor ordered before jumping back into the holiday fray.  There are a lot of trails through this area and I’ve only seen a couple of them, so today I decided to look at some new areas.  Most of today’s hikes were along forest roads, so I numbered the “trail view” photos to show what the conditions were like.  I really expected to see more water than I did, but as it turned out the trails were almost perfect for hiking.

Palmetto Field
I started today’s trip by heading north from the trailhead.  When I was getting ready to head out, I noticed three or four horse trailers in the parking area, so I expected to see some riders.  I wasn’t disappointed – I wasn’t more than a half mile down the trail before I saw them coming towards me.  Usually when I’m out hiking and come across equestrians, they take one side of the trail and I take the other.  Other than some hellos, it’s usually a non-eventful passing.  This time though, as soon as the lead horse saw me, it spooked.  The rider kept the horse under control, but I thought it better just to move to the edge of the trail and be still until the horse passed.  I think the horse was used to having the whole trail to itself and was jus a little surprised to see another creature out today.

Joshua CreekAs I continued along, I passed what looked like a wide open field, but it was really full of palmetto plants that were about chest high.  As I looked over the field I thought about how nice it is to be in Florida this time of year.  Blue skies, warm temperatures, it really doesn’t get much better than this.  Beyond the field, I noticed a couple of old cement pipes near the trail.  They look like they might have been used for a culvert, which would make sense since they are near where the trail crosses over Joshua Creek.

Marked side trail
I soon came up on a spot where the trail branched off to the west.  It wasn’t going in the direction that I was planning, but I was curious what I might find down that way.  As it turned out, the trail went into the woods towards Buscombe Creek.  I didn’t quite make it all the way out there, but I got pretty close before the trail became too muddy to hike comfortably.

Old livestock penTurning back to the original trail, lunch time was quickly approaching.  I found an old livestock pen (just fences, no actual building), that was a perfect place to stop.  I took off my CamelBak and hung it from a fence post while I enjoyed a sub sandwich while I looked around.  The pen is surrounded by an old barbed wire fence that looks like it runs along all of the palmetto plants, and it was just as quiet as can be.

After lunch it was back to the trail.  This area is also a forest road and there are a lot of palmettos on both sides of the trail.  I took this panoramic photo as a 180 degree shot.  The left side of the panorama is looking back where I came from, and the right side is where I am going.  It looks a lot better in full-size so it can be panned back and forth.
180 Degree Panorama
In this area, there are several game (or cattle) trails that cross the main path.  They look like they would be reasonably easy to travel, but I really wanted to head to the east from here.

Open fieldThis is the first spot that I came to where the trail faded away into an open grassy field. It was big enough to allow a little breeze through which kept the journey cool, so it was a comfortable area to hike as I headed along my way.  After the field, the forest road picked back up again with marshland on either side, and in this area the mosquitos were a little annoying.  If I had my bug repellent I would have used it, but I didn’t so I just soldiered on.

Big OakIt was worth it though – once I got past this part of the trail there was a huge oak tree at the intersection that would take me on a jog to the north before I continued eastward again.  It was here that the trail ran along side another open field.  I also saw an old 55 gallon drum (oil?) on the side of the trail.  It was crushed pretty thoroughly, and based on how rusty it was, I imagine it has been there for at least a decade.  Probably a hold over from when this was farmland.

Fresh blazesAs I walked on the trail along the open field, I would catch site of white blazes on the other side from time to time.  This the the trail that I was going to hook up with and head to the south.  This is the first part of todays hike that actually had me on a blazed trail, and it looks like the blazes on this part of the trail were recently painted; the trail crew must have been through here recently!

As I was hiking down this blazed trail, I came up on the remnants of an old tree.  I was debating on whether or not to get a picture when all of the sudden I heard a LOUD noise right next to me on the trail.  It startled me enough that I backed up an tripped over something.  As I was getting up, I finally figured out what the noise was – a rattle snake!  This is the first time that I have heard a rattle snake rattling, and I was amazed at how loud it was.  I looked around and finally spotted him tucked behind a tree and under some plants; there was no way to get a good picture and he was way too angry for me to mess with trying to get a better view.

Old agriculture equipmentWith that bit of excitement behind me, I continued along the white-blazed trail to the south and eventually to through the edge of a field that took me back towards the west again.  I noticed a big clump of grass that seemed a bit out of place so I went to investigate and found that it was grown up around an old piece of agricultural equipment of some sort.  It looked like it was meant for tilling up the soil.

Pitcher plantsWhat I saw just a little further along was something that I’ve looked for on several past hikes but have never found until now.  It was a mound of pitcher plants.  I always expected these to grow in areas that are much more marshy than this was.  Now that I know where they grow, I’ll probably find them a little more easily.

Eventually this trail joins up with Phillips Road, and it was around this spot where I saw the famous Wild Florida Cows.  I stood back and watched one of them in the middle of the trail who didn’t realize that I was there right away.  As I watched it, another couple of cows came out of the woods to my left, saw me, and turned and ran.  This made the one that I was watching look up and see me, and it ran off too.  These ladies don’t seem to like getting too close to people, so I was pretty careful about not sneaking up on any of them.

After the cows ran off, I was able to make it to what looks like a hunting cabin or a forestry cabin.  I’m not sure what the purpose is, but on the back patio there were about eight bedframes.  I thought that was strange, but what was a lot stranger was the “abandoned” cabin that I saw in the same area.
Abandoned cabinFreezerBug house
I put “abandoned” in quotes because it is in complete disrepair and covered with so many spider webs that I can’t imagine anyone has spent any time there, but there is a canoe in the back, and inside there appear to be clean dishes, water bottles, and some other stuff.
Old canoe and equipmentInside cabin 1Inside cabin 2
If I had to guess, I’d say that there is probably a squatter that has taken up residence in here for the evenings, because the stuff on the shelves doesn’t look like it is that old and the dishes in the sink don’t look like they belong to the rest of the cabin.  (I should mention that the front door was wide open, and that’s where these pictures were taken from.  I didn’t want to go in just in case someone was staying there.)

Forestry EquipmentFrom here my adventure for the day was nearly complete.  I headed down Phillips Road and with some private farmland to the north, and I also came up on some forestry equipment.  This looks like it is used to till up the soil much like the old piece of equipment that I described earlier.

There was also a farm on the south side of the road almost at the end of my hike.  I took a picture of something I had seen on TV before, but never up close.  It’s basically a pen that will funnel the cows in so they are brought single-file to something that will hold them still.  I guess this can be used for a lot of things like treating illness or branding.  There was a pretty good size herd of cattle on the farm keeping an eye on me as I passed by.  I thought they looked delicious.

So what started out as a simple day of exploring turned into quite the adventure today.  There are still a bunch of trails to explore back here, so I’ll be back again.  In the meantime, I hope everyone enjoys the story and the pictures.  As always, just click on the “Trip details” link below the map if you would like to see more info about where the pictures were taken or to see more information about this trip.
Old Culvert Pipes
End of side trail
Break for lunch
Cattle trail
Field along trail
Old 55 gallon drum
Clearing along trail
Hike along field
Wild Florida Cows
Creek by trail
Hunting cabin
Cattle Holder
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