Monday, June 01, 2015

Hiking Split Oak Park

Split Oak Park Trailhead KioskI was using Google Earth to find new areas to explore and came across this area from a hike shared that Tom Choma shared back in 2008.  This is a pretty popular spot – when I arrived there were already 5 or 6 cars in the parking area and I saw a couple of groups of people out enjoying the day. 

Just so you know… the southern (roughly) two thirds of the park trails have a lot of sugar sand.  In some cases it was as deep as twelve inches.  This is Florida’s natural version of a stair master – it makes for a good workout.  The scenery makes it worthwhile though, so I’ll be coming back to this park before too long.  I’ll probably mix it up with a visit to the “Back to Nature Wildlife Refuge” that is less than a half mile from the trailhead; it looks like an interesting place to tour.

Island Pano

Today’s hike started by heading east from the trailhead to the edge of a pond in the middle of the park.  The pond has a small island in the center and trails that go around the perimeter, and is a nice spot to stop and enjoy the scenery.Oak skeleton

My first destination was to the north, so I didn’t spend a lot of time around the pond.  I took the trail north from the pond on the east side of a long cypress dome. This trail was full of natural grasses and doesn’t seem to be used as much as some of the others, but it is wide and very easy to follow.

Picnic areaAfter passing the cypress dome, the area becomes much more shaded mostly by oak and pine trees that make up the wooded area.  Where the trail starts heading to the east again, there is a small spur trail that goes to the edge of the pond where I found a picnic area under the trees; a perfect spot for lunch.Pond with island

One thing I noticed at the first pond, and at this one, and just about anywhere else that the trail was next to a source of water, was a big red post with a pipe fitting and a PVC tube running into the water.  This is obviously a spot to hook up a pump and a fire hose; you can see one of them in the photo called “edge of pond” below.

Massive OakAfter lunch, I headed northeast again along the main trail until I came to the blue “lake loop” trail.  In the heart of the forest, there are some amazing oak trees.  The one in this picture has a diameter that is approximately six feet (72 inches).  Doing some back-of-the-napkin math, that makes this tree roughly 450 years old!

Bonnet Pond OverlookIn the same area that I found this tree, is where the Bonnet Pond overlook reaches out over Bonnet Pond.  This is a great spot to pause and soak in the sounds and scenery.  A cool breeze blows across the water and the sound of cricket frogs fills the air.

Creek crossingFrom here I took the path back to the southeast to follow the trail along the eastern edge of the park.  The trail passes by a spur that leads off to Moss Park, and a little further along crosses a small creek that connects two of the ponds.

Sawgrass MarshTowards the southern end of the park, this trail leads to another overlook; this one peeks over Saw grass Marsh.  I spent a little time looking over the marsh and enjoying the breeze when I heard something walking through the grass below.  I stayed still and waited a bit and a couple of wild pigs came out of the grass not more than twenty feet away.  I stayed still and watched them until they realized I was there and ran off.

You might notice in that last picture that there is some rain headed my way… sure enough, it caught me.  As I followed the trail around to the west, I could hear how excited the tree frogs were getting with the rain on its way.  There wasn’t much of a chance that I was going to make it back to the truck before it hit.  Oh well, that’s all part of the adventure!

If you would like to see the technical details for this trip, just click on “Trip details” at the bottom of the map.

Start of trail Trail splits Trail splits
Lake Loop marker Split OakTwisted tree Bonnet Pond Placard
Bonnet Pond Trail to Moss Park Fence by trail
Sawgrass Marsh Overlook   Sawgrass Marsh Placard

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