Sunday, May 10, 2015

Hiking Withlacoochee State Forest–Part of Citrus Tract “C” Loop

Tillis Hill Campsite 2We spent this weekend in Withlacoochee State Forest for some hiking and camping.  Our first planned trip took us along part of the “C” loop of the Citrus Tract on the Florida Trail.  Forest road 13

After getting our campsite set up, we headed to the north along Forest Road 13, looking for the intersection of the yellow blazed trail about a mile up ahead.  It was early afternoon, and the road was mostly shaded with a breeze blowing to keep things cool.  Shortly after turning north, we saw an area along the road that has lush bright green grass and is sparsely populated with pine trees. 

A little ways down the road, we eventually came up on some trees with red bands painted around them (I’m not sure what they are for, since there isn’t a trail there), and later on we arrived at some trees with blue bands painted around them (blue bands are equestrian trails). 

Grass and pines - pano

Start of yellow blazed trailThe yellow blazed path is in between the red and the blue, so we had to back up a little bit to find the trail.  It wasn’t hard to find, but it is set-back a little from the road so it is easy to overlook.

Yellow trailAs we left the road behind, the trail winds through the woods with a cushion of leaves to walk on as it slowly bends to the north.  Soon the forest opens up into an area with very little undergrowth.  It was clear that there had been a prescribed burn back here some time ago, and unfortunately many of the blazes on this part of the trail are in need of repainting.  The ground, though, shows the trail clearly so we didn’t have any trouble staying on track.

Andy on yellow blaze trailAfter the cleared area, the trail crosses Forest Roads 18 and 18A and starts to bend more to the northwest.  At this spot on the trail Tina stopped to take my picture just in time for us to see something that neither of us had seen on our hikes in Florida.  A coyote took off down the trail, obviously startled by our presence.  As soon as the coyote was out of site, a deer (a pretty good size buck) took off next – I think he was startled by the coyote.

We're going thatawayContinuing towards the northwest from here we soon came upon the C-D cross trail, which leads east.  Our first destination was just about 100 yards to the west, so we went that-a-way. 

Sinkhole - Not a caveWhat we were looking for was the first of a few waypoints on a trail that I downloaded from the Florida Hikes website.  These waypoints were labeled simply “caves”, and it piqued my interest.  What we found didn’t qualify as a cave… it is really more of a sinkhole, but there is a small hole in the limestone formation at the back.

We trekked around this area for a little while just looking around and exploring, but dinner time was approaching so we headed back to the campsite.  We returned along the part of Forest Rd. 13 that we didn’t see on the way out and it was just as pretty as the part that we did see.

Today’s hike was a great success.  I enjoy seeing new things, and seeing the coyote on the trail was a first for both of us.

If you would like to see the specific path that we took (or download a GPX file for your own GPS), just click on the “Trip details” link below the map.

Blazes burnt off here Interesting tree skeletonIn sinkhole In sinkhole 2

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