Friday, July 17, 2015

Hiking Hickory Bluff Preserve

Hickory Bluff Preserve TrailheadThis is a nice area for a short day hike; the large loop is only about 2.3 miles long, and the trail includes several interpretive signs, a view of the St. Johns River, and plenty of places to sit and enjoy the views.

Interpretive sign 1Starting at the trailhead, we entered the woods and very quickly came up on the first of six interpretive signs.  This one describes the Saw Palmetto; I learned just how slowly they grow (about 1.2 cm per year); that makes a lot of the plants that we see on the trails a lot older than I would have expected.

Giant gopher tortioseIt was just beyond this sign that we had to pass a trail guard.  This gopher tortoise sat in the middle of the path and just stared at us as we walked up – he even “smiled” for the picture.  He didn’t seem to be bothered by the two of us at all, but once we passed him by he took off as fast as his little feet would take him.

It just stops hereNext two the third sign there is a post with blue trail marker arrows on it – they pointed to paths that lead to the left and right (though it is pretty clear that the trail continues straight ahead), so we decided to see what those little paths might reveal.  The one to the right quickly ended at a wall of palmetto plants, and the one to the left just circled what is probably a small pond during the wet season.

Campfire circleFrom here we enjoyed an enchanting stroll through a canopy of oaks and palms that lead us to a porta-potty.  Past the porta-potty the view opens up to a campfire circle along the river’s edge.

Private canal and gun rangeWe spent a little time exploring along the river’s edge and found an old playground, a bat house on a post, and a “Private Canal and Gun Range”.  Since I’ve never seen a canal-and-gun-range before, I had to get a picture of that sign.

Old swingsetAfter exploring along the river for a bit, we headed back past the swing set to the trail where the loop heads to the northwest.  The trail first passes a large oak tree with a bench sitting in the shade, and a couple more signs (I liked the one that showed examples of different types of animal prints). 

Bench under oakIt was right by the fourth bench where a cross-trail heads back to the trailhead that Tina saw a deer in the path.  It was a pretty big one too.  They just looked at each other quietly until the deer saw me – I guess two people were too many and he spooked and ran off.

It’s right around this area where the blue trail connects with the red trail and brings us back t where we started.  This is a nice spot to visit, and is the perfect length for a short hike before the heat of the summer day comes.  If you would like to see the technical details of the hike, or download a gpx file, just click on the “Trip details” link at the bottom of the map.

Getting ready to head out Hickory Bluff Preserve Trailhead 2 Pasture by trailhead
Road back to trailhead Road back to trailhead 2 Tortoise guarding the trail
Interpretive sign 2 Tina near first bench Tina near second bench
Interpretive sign 3 End of the road Beautiful path to a porta pottyBeautiful path to a porta potty 2
Campfire circle 2 Down river Up river
Across river Pavillion 2 Pavillion
Bat condo Interpretive sign 4 Playground
Low water mark Private canal and gun range entrance Private canal and gun range 2
Interpretive sign 5 Bench under oak Interpretive sign 6
Fourth bench Fifth bench Sixth bench

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