Sunday, May 24, 2015

Hiking Savage/Christmas Creek Preserve

Savage Christmas Creek TrailheadI must have driven past this area a dozen times on my way to other trails, and every time I did I told myself I need to explore that area.  Well, today was the day and I’m glad I finally checked it out.  This area covers 1,126 acres and has miles of trails to explore.  The area has several loops and cross trails so it is easy to hike for as long (or as short) of a trip as one likes.  Today I hiked the perimeter of the preserve – with enough of a breeze blowing, the temperature was comfortable and the bugs were held at bay.  One of the highlights of today’s hike was the wildflowers in bloom; I didn’t photograph all of them, but I did get some pretty good flower photos.

TarflowerYellow flowersMock Bishop's Weed
Yellow scrub flowersMarsh Pink flowerMarsh Pink flower curled

(Hover for the flower name, or click on the picture for a larger view)

Bat housesI started the trip at the trailhead on NW Fort Christmas Rd and followed the orange trail to the green trail.  About halfway along, I came upon some bat houses mounted high up on the trees.  Bats are great for keeping the mosquito population in check – a single bat can eat over 1,000 of them in a single hour.

Herty cup fragmentFurther along the trail, I found a fragment of a Herty pot right in the middle of the trail.  This surprised me mainly because of where it was.  I would have expected this to be off in the trees somewhere.  After I finished the hike, I did a little (very little) research and found this on a pamphlet for the preserve:  The community of Christmas was home to the Peavey-Wilson Company, which produced turpentine and other pine byproducts, such as tar, pitch, and rosin.  Remains of Herty pots, a clay turpentine pot used for the collection of pine resin, can still be observed throughout the property.  After spotting the Herty fragment, I kept my eye open for cat-faced pines, but I didn’t see any.  New growth after burn

After leaving the green trail loop, I headed south and west along the red trail.  There is evidence of several prescribed burns in this part of the preserve.  Some of them recent enough that I could smell the odor of burnt plants.  After hiking past the burn areas though, the trail opens up to a green grassy area with fresh greenery and grasses along the side of the trail.  It was in this area that I saw a few wild turkeys.  That has to be one of the hardest birds that I’ve found to photograph.  They don’t like to let people get very close to them at all.

Along the trail pano

Pond pano

Hwy 50 trailheadAfter passing the pond, I noticed a porto-potty off to the west; I thought it was odd to have one this far away from the trailhead so I went over to take a look and found that there is another trailhead into the preserve.  This one is just off highway 50.  Tom Choma mentioned on his blog that this was coming – I didn’t know that it had been put in though.

Older culvert pipeThe yellow trail heads east from here and passes over a small creek (I’m guessing this is Savage/Christmas Creek), with a PVC culvert – on the other side of the creek is the old metal culvert pipe that it replaced.  I took the white loop on the other side of the creek and saw another older culvert pipe that was probably replaced by the other metal one that I passed. 

Bookend OaksThe white loop trail passes through a shaded forest of palms and oaks.  It passes very close to highway 50; though I couldn’t see the cars on the road, I could hear them passing by.Hidden picnic table

At the end of the white loop, I was looking for the picnic table that was described on the map at the trailhead.  This was my lunch stop.  I didn’t find it as quickly as I expected though – it was in a great spot under a shady tree, but there were a lot of plants growing around it and up through it.  After a quick check for poison ivy, I saw that it was fine place for a lunch break.

After lunch, I continued north along the yellow trail to the north.  At this portion of the trail, there was about a half mile of sugar sand, so when I arrived at the green loop, I took advantage of the firmer ground that it offered to get around the rest of the soft stuff.  I could have done the same at the blue loop, but I passed that one by.

Field by trail pano

After the green trail, I was back on the yellow trail which took me back to the bat houses that I saw on the way out.  If you would like to see the technical details of the hike, download a gpx file, or just see where all of the photos were taken, click on the “Trip details” link below the map.

Information kiosk Trail junction Infected tree
Tortoise Turnaround spot Old fence post
Red trail marker Posts block side trail Recent burn area
Marsh behind burn area Grassy trail Landing strip
Old culvert pipe White loop Deer moss
Cement cattle feeder Fire watch tower Bench along trail

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