Sunday, March 15, 2015

Hiking Seminole State Forest

Beginning of trailThis weekend we headed out to Seminole State Forest to do a little exploring.  The weather was great and the trails were dry, so it was a great time to be out.  We started our hike from the trailhead on Brantley Ranch Road; the trail starts out with the Florida Trail going through a small field and into the woods.  There are different color blazes throughout, but the portions that follow the Florida Trail use the standard orange blazes.

Reading trail logThe first part of our hike took us through pine trees and the path was covered with soft pine needles, and shortly after entering the woods, we came upon a mailbox with a Florida Trail Log where we signed in.  The log has been recently replaced, and entries only go back to November of last year, but if you stop by and read our entry you’ll see that we wished everyone a happy Pi day.

Andy in sinkholeNot too far from the beginning of the trail, we came upon a sink hole that isn’t too overgrown.  We climbed down to look around and do a little geocaching while we were here.  There is a cache somewhere down here but we couldn’t find it after about fifteen minutes, so we passed it on.  We were a little more interested in seeing the sights in the forest.

Tree growing around fenceJust past the sinkhole, we noticed a barbed wire fence wrapped around a tree.  There was no gate or anything, so I wonder if it isn’t left over from an old ranch or something.  Though the wire wasn’t corroded too badly, the way the tree was growing around it made it clear that it has been there for awhile.  From here, the trail runs along side a lowland area – probably a swamp or a pond during the peak of the rainy season, but it looked mostly dry today. 

Big tree and blue sky 2After passing the lowland area, the south side of the trail opened up into a huge field of grass with nothing but blue sky overhead, and following the edge of the field further, the Florida Trail took us back into the woods where we had a view of Lake Jordan from a memorial bench.  On the near side of the lake were the pieces of what was once a floating pier; basically big Styrofoam boxes covered in fiberglass with wood planking.  On the other side of the lake we could see Camp Boggy Creek.

All paths convergeThe trail soon turns south and to Hanna Dr. which we followed east towards a trail junction.  There is a post here that is blazed for each of the trails that converge at the kiosk; it is very colorful.  We also saw our first (of two) deer of the trip at this spot; a doe crossing the road by the “scrub restoration” sign.  Hanna Dr. continues south through the trees from this junction.

Jungle roadThis is a really nice spot; it is what spring in the jungle looks like.  As we walked along the road, a forest ranger approached in a pickup truck.  He stopped to see if all was well, and tell us about a few things to look for up ahead.  He also told us that we missed a turn off for the Florida Trail, but it was only about 20 yards or so away from the road and that it joins up again just up ahead. 
Spring coming from side of hillHe also told us about a spring coming out of the side of a hill not too far up ahead, so after we said our goodbyes we kept our eyes on the trees to look for the orange blazes.  It wasn’t too much further down the road before we saw them and it was in the perfect place to take us down to the spring.  The spring isn’t very large, but it provides enough water to keep a tiny creek flowing.

Sand trapBy this time we were getting pretty hungry, and luckily we were close to our planned spot for lunch.  Before we got to our lunch spot though, the trail took us past what looked like a well groomed sand trap.  Nothing was growing here except for a few trees, and the sand had been leveled and kept smooth.  We couldn’t figure out what this area was for, unless the plan is to plant some scrub plants as part of the restoration effort.

Blackwater CreekEventually we made it to the campsite at the Blackwater Creek bridge; this is where we stopped for lunch.  There was one guy already there who was fishing from the bank, and two equestrians who had also stopped.  It looked like we were all planning lunch at the same time, so we spent some time together at the picnic tables.

Bridge over Blackwater creek 2While we were enjoying lunch and their conversation we saw something that reminded us that tick season starts in the spring.  Since we really didn’t have any cold weather to speak of this winter, it looks like this might be another big year for the nasty little critters.  The bigger ones aren’t so bad, because they are easy to see.  But the small ones are about the size of the period at the end of this sentence and one must look very closely to find them.  Tina and I each found about 15 of them on us when we got home, so we’ll be treating our hiking clothes with Permethrin before our next trip.

Blue blazes through scrubAfter lunch, we went back towards the main road to head a little further south and see the trail at Moccasin Springs before taking the loop back.  There we came upon another couple having lunch who had kayaked up the creek to get here, so we said hello and took a quick look around before getting back to our hike which led us to a blue blazed trail going through a scrub area.

Neon fungusBack in this spot we saw a strange fungus growing on a couple of trees.  It was a bright fluorescent yellow that looked like it was growing in veins.  I thought it was sap from the pine tree at first, but instead of it being sticky, it was actually a very fine powder.

Spikey StumpContinuing west from the alien fungus, we soon passed what appears to be a dried up pond.  I looked at it from Google Earth and I could even make out where it was deeper (and probably wetter) in the middle.  On the western end of the pond is an old tree stump that is probably about seven feet tall.  It looks like something I might see in the desert, and appears a little out of place with all of the “softer” looking trees around it.

From here the trail heads north and continues in that direction until just before Sulfur Run where it turns to the east again.  It was here that we joined up with the trail that we took as we headed out. 
This is a really nice area for hiking, and if you forget to pick up a map at the trailhead, there are several kiosks with maps behind mounted to help with orientation.  Also, don’t forget to sign the log book – it’s kinda neat to see everyone who signs in with a quick hello.  If you would like to see where the photos from this hike were taken, just scroll down to the map at the end and click on the “Trip Details” link below it.

Trailhead Kiosk Trail through woods Sink hole
Andy by mossy tree Lowlands by along the trail Memorial bench
Disassembled floating dock Trail follows road Fallen tree along the road
Scrub restoration Sulfur Run View from bridge 2
Kiosk at trail junction Mocassin springs junction Dry pond
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