Sunday, May 03, 2015

Hiking Charles Bronson State Forest–Northern Section

Cattle building by entranceWhen I was here in November the ground was much wetter, so there were several areas that I was unable to explore.  With dryer weather lately, I was able to explore a few more areas today.  I started my trip at the end of Curryville Rd near the Chuluota Wilderness Area.  Right next to the trailhead, is what appears to be an old cattle corral; it looks like it could still be a working corral.

As I headed north along the dirt road to the north, I saw my first deer of the day.  It was quite a ways off, so I couldn’t get a clear photo, but it did bode well for seeing other wildlife out here. 

Pastorial pano

I followed this road to the north until I arrived at another trailhead sign.  This one has placards that show, among other things, the dates for the hunting season. Today was going to be a hunt-free day, so my hopes of seeing some wildlife out here today went up.  No hunters usually means fewer people to spook the animals.Old feeder - probably for deer

Continuing to the east for a short bit, passed through the first gate across a road headed north towards the forest I planned to explore today.  Along the side of this road/path there were ditches and about every hundred yards or so were old sluice gates.  I suppose that they were used to retain water for livestock, or maybe even to flood the fields back in the day.  Towards the end of the road and a little to the east was an old feed trough.  This one seems a little too small for cattle, so I wonder if it might be used to feed deer in the area.

Trail heading eastEntering the woods from here, I passed two trails that headed off to the east, and one creek that was mostly dry today.  This was a small section of the woods to pass through as I headed north, and I was soon back in a pasture. 

Hunt stand by trailAs the trail continues alongside the forest, I soon came up on a hunter’s blind, or hunt stand.  Though the wooden ladder that led up to the inside was a little weathered, it appeared to be solid and still in use.  Inside the hunt stand was an office chair; it even had wheels on it. 

Orange flagged trailFrom here my plan was to continue to follow the road/path further to the north, but I noticed a trail heading into the woods with orange flags on the trees.  I thought this might be a possible future leg of the Florida Trail,so I decided to check it out.   As it turned out, the trail of flagged trees only went for about a tenth of a mile before I couldn’t find any more flags, so I shifted my direction to the north where I would join up with the guide-trail that I had loaded on my GPS app for today’s trip. 

Tree claw reachingIt wasn’t too far along before I joined up with the forest road that I was looking for.  Following it to the east, the road took me pretty close to a spot to the south that I wanted to explore so I jumped off the trail to see if I could make it that far.  The further south that I went, the thicker (and hungrier) the mosquitos became.  It wasn’t too long before I had to stop and break out the bug spray. 

Old cedar planksUnfortunately, I came up on an area of swamp that is just too muddy to get through today.  There is very little standing water, but the mud is soft and deep so I headed back to the north to reconnect with the trail I was on before.  Following this trail along, I passed by a stack of old cedar planks in the woods.  Obviously there was a little sawmilling operation going on back here at one time… I read on Florida Trailblazer that there is also an old band saw blade around here somewhere, but it is well covered by leaves by now.

Water levels lower than last tripThis trail eventually heads to the north where it opens up to a pasture area.  This was the spot that I reached on my last trip up here, but back then I came here from the east and the water level in the canal was much deeper than today.  This was a great spot to sit under a tree and take a little break for lunch.  This area was shady and there was a nice breeze blowing to keep any flying bugs at bay.

Nobody HomeAfter lunch, I headed to the east while staying on the south side of the canal and I saw something that was pretty neat.  It was an empty tortoise shell that was completely (top and bottom) intact. The shell was about twelve inches or so long, and  I could tell this was one tough turtle when he was alive.  If you look closely at the shell you can see he survived a pretty bad wound during his life. 

Entering white blazed trailAt the end of this long straight grassy area, I came up on one end of a white blazed trail.  I saw this last time I was here and wanted to check it out then, so it was on my list for today.  This trail winds east and west as it makes its way to the south where it exits the woods almost due south from where it entered.

Along the way, the trail crosses over four different bridges (the second one has a sign identifying Turkey Creek), and passes through areas with little  undergrowth as well as some places that are almost dark because of the heavy plant growth.  Like most blazed trails in this area the next blaze was always in sight of the one that I was passing, so this trail is very easy to follow.

First bridgeSecond bridge - Turkey creek

Third bridgeFourth bridge

Once I came out of the woods, I was back to following the pasture roads until I could try again at the area that I wanted to explore earlier – this time I was going to approach it from the south and see if I would have any better luck.

Deer by fence

As I approached the gate leading into the woods, I saw another deer who watched me as I approached.  As I got closer it became a little uncomfortable with my presence and started to take off into the woods.  Before it left though, it stopped to give me a nice pose for the camera.  For this shot, I wished I had a better camera with me.  The one on my phone does a good job, but it has limitations when it comes to zooming in on a subject.

After I took my photo, the deer ran off into the woods and I passed through the gate to head north to see if I could find the area I was hoping to explore.  I made it up to the general area, but just like when I tried to approach from the north, the mosquitos back here were thick and hungry so I didn’t hang out for too long.  Instead it was time to head back.

Herd of cattle watchingI made it back to that pasture and headed south along the first pasture road going my direction.  About halfway down that part of the trail, I saw two deer and a fawn way up ahead.  When I got closer though, they spooked and the three deer turned into ten (with two fawns) as they took off running in the other direction. 

A little further along, there was a herd of cattle watching me from the other side of the fence.  They were watching so closely I thought I’d take their picture… I told them to say “cheese”, but they didn’t get the joke.

And this was just about the end of my adventure for the day; from here I headed back to the trailhead to head home for dinner.  It was a great day to spend outdoors, and this is a really nice spot to visit.  If you would like to see the technical details of this hike, or pull down a .GPX file, click on the “Trip details” link below the map.

Parked by trail entrance First deer today Pasture View
Feeder Another trail to east Creek - mostly dry today
Inside hunt stand Thick muck blocks the way Dry creek crossing trail
Turkey creek Deer running away White blazes

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