Saturday, March 21, 2015

Hiking to Culpepper Shelter–Third Try is the Charm

Trailhead signToday we made our third attempt at hiking out to Culpepper Shelter.  Our first attempt was back in June but we didn’t quite make it because it was getting to be too late in the summer day and it was getting too hot to go on.  Our second attempt was in November and we almost made it, but the St. Johns River flood plain was, well, flooded.  Today’s hike was about 10.4 miles round trip and, more importantly, we finally made it!  Temperatures were in the low 70’s and the rain has been light lately so it was a dry trip the whole way around.  This is probably the last cool weekend we’ll see until fall or winter, so it was a perfect day for a hike. 

My not-a-turkey shirtWe started our trip from the trailhead at Brumley Road, where we met a couple of hunters who were leaving.  This is turkey season, and they said that even though they saw plenty of turkeys on their way out here, they didn’t spot any back in the forest.  Since I do hike in areas where hunting is allowed, Tina bought me a nice bright shirt to wear.  On this trip, Tina named it my “I’m not a turkey” shirt.

Tall oaks with spanish mossAs we walked along the road leading to the northbound trail we came across another group of four hunters; just like the first two, they didn’t seem to have any luck today.  I guess the turkeys have learned that this isn’t the best spot to be this time of year.

Heading along the road, we turned north along the white blazed trail which took us to the river.  This part of the hike is a little less than 2.5 miles long, and at the edge of the river there is a sign indicating that the yellow blazes will lead us to Culpepper Shelter in 2.8 miles.  We didn’t believe the measurement was correct, so we checked it out on the way back – it’s pretty close to spot on.

After walking along the river, we came upon the first landmark that we were looking for to do a little geocache searching.  The landmark was a spot that I called a bridge of roots when we made the hike back in June, and the name of the cache that we were after was called “La Expedición Perdida”.  The guy who hid the cache wrote a great story to go along with it, and when we got close, we could see how this unusual tree played into the story that he wrote.

Tina on squid oakOak looks like giant squidFound it

Twisted fallen log

After signing the log and looking around (and climbing on the tree) we headed back to the river to continue our journey up to the shelter.  It wasn’t too far from here that we came upon a twisted fallen log that looked like it was a perfect stop to sit down and take in the view. 
Under palmsWe took a couple of pictures here and then moved on; we soon came up on the spot where the flood plain turned us around on our previous trip.  Back in November, Tina took a couple of pictures of me muck-walkin up to these palm trees where there was no dry land in sight headed towards our destination.  Today it was nice and dry.  From here the trail was all open plain and blue skies along the river. 

Culpepper shelterAs we rounded the next couple of bends in the river, our destination was finally in sight.  It took a lot of patience, waiting on the right weather conditions, but we finally made it.  The views from here are absolutely beautiful, and it made the trip worth it.  We stopped here for a bit to have lunch and take a few pictures; we saw a couple of boats pass by with fishermen heading upstream to try their luck, and a herd of cows on the north side of the Econ river close to the St. Johns.  Other than that, we had the place to ourselves.

Old man pepper's stashBefore heading back, we decided to look for another geocache that was nearby.  This one was called “Old Man Pepper's Stash”; it was hidden well, but not so well that we gave up on it.  (It may sound kinda wimpy, but we usually don’t look for more than 15 or 20 minutes before we want to get back to our hike.)

On the way back, Tina took some flower pictures that came out really nice.  The first one is a picture of tiny blue flowers (less than 1/4 of a inch) growing in the flood plain.  She also took a picture of a Coral Bean flower, a Dixie Iris, and some water plants

Tiny blue flowersCoral beanDixie IrisWater plants

This is still one of my favorite trails along the Econ River.  The forest has very little undergrowth, so spotting wildlife is pretty easy (though during hunting season all the animals tend to stay hidden).  We’ve seen everything from deer to snakes and birds to alligators back here; it is a spot that seems like a lot of people haven’t found yet.  As always, you can click on the Trip details link below the map for a better view of everywhere we hiked and where we took many of the photos.

Cache hiding place La Expedición Perdida Signing La Expedición logUnder palms 2
They hate this sign View  downstream 2 Resting on fallen log
Where we stopped last trip Find the turtle Big river puddle
Approaching shelter View from Culpepper Shelter Shelter memorial sign
Andy in shelter Northern view from shelter View from shelter 2
Inside Culpepper Shelter Trying to knock down grapefruitThinkin Signing the stash logView  downstream
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