Saturday, October 24, 2015

Hiking Seminole State Forest–Bear Pond Trailhead

Trailhead kioskThis weekend I headed out on Friday to beat the bear hunt which starts on Saturday. Hunting in this forest is limited to mobility impaired hunters this weekend, so I was betting that it would be pretty quiet today.  Other than a few spots where hunters were checking out the area for the next day, I didn’t run across any hunters at all.

There are two trailheads very near each other – one for hikers that heads north along the Florida Trail with orange blazes, and one that has blue blazes for horses.  The equestrian trailhead didn’t have any maps of the hiking trails, but the hiking trailhead did.

Bear Pond Lake
Bear Pond

Trail view 1Heading out along the trail, the first thing I noticed was just how wide and clear the trail was through the trees.  I’m guessing the trail crew has been through here recently, and they’ve done a terrific job as usual.  Very shortly after starting the trail, there is a hand-painted sign indicating the distance to each of the major destinations.  The first one that I am looking for is “Shelter Camp”, which is about a mile ahead.

Wooden bridgeBeyond this sign, the trail soon turns towards the northeast where it runs parallel with the Wekiva River.  There are several game trails on either side of the trail – some of which can be seen from the satellite view on Google Earth.  I didn’t explore any of these on this trip, so sticking with the orange blazes of the Florida Trail, I soon came upon a wooden bridge that crosses a small creek.  Notice the post in the picture marks that this is about .3 miles from the Shelter Camp.

Shelter CampApproaching the shelter, I was pleasantly surprised at how well it is maintained.  There are two bedframes (for lack of a better description) inside to stretch out a sleeping back off the ground, and the roof has been recently repaired with new lumber.  This is a really nice spot to get out of the weather – on the way back, I stopped here for a break just as a brief bout of liquid sunshine hit.

Sign in spotAs I left the shelter, I met up with Ray.  He was hiking in the same direction as I was so we spent the rest of the hike together.  Ray must have started shortly after I did (I don’t see his jeep in my picture of the parking area), and he came along the equestrian trail.  We had a great time hiking together, so I hope we are able to get together on the trails again some time.  As we left the shelter, we signed in at the logbook before continuing are trek to the north.Start of burn area

Just beyond the sign-in log the forest area has been cleared for a prescribed burn.  There was a sign at the trailhead saying that a burn was coming – I’m not sure when it is scheduled to begin, but this is where it will be.  The cleared area is along both sides of the trail and is about a quarter of a mile long.

Hunt buggyAs we left the burn area, we came upon our first indication of hunters.  This “hunt buggy” is pretty neat; it has a blind mounted on the roof so the hunter can drive  up to his spot and climb up to to the top to look for prey.  I was curious how a mobility impaired hunter to would get to some of these spots.  Now I know.  We also saw another one of these up by the bridge at Black Water Creek.  Both were unmanned, so I assume they’re setting up for the bear hunt that starts on Saturday.  (That’s Ray in the picture).Boardwalk 1

The trail continues to the north from here, and eventually turns to the west.  As it heads west there is a short boardwalk next to a water hole, and then the trail crosses the forest road “Wekiva River Rd.” before heading to the north again.

View from bridgeThe very last portion of the trail, before crossing Black Water Creek, goes along this same road.  On the north side of the bridge is a picnic area by the creek; this was our destination to stop for lunch.Blackwater Camp

On the way back we took a quick look at Black Water Camp.  This is a primitive campsite without any shelter, but it does have a picnic table and a fire ring.  Since it is right on the water, I bet that this is an ideal spot to do a little fishing right at the campsite.  I’m pretty sure something will always be biting – either fish or mosquitos.

Trail view 3Instead of retracing our steps for the whole return trip, we took a detour along the yellow blazed trails.  These trails are mostly grassy forest roads, so they are easy to walk along, but the tire tracks make it clear that they are driven on periodically.  We saw several animal tracks along these trail – deer, raccoon, and even bear scat.  Wildflowers

We followed the yellow blazes through a scrub prairie until we arrived at the spot where I photographed the “hunt buggy”; along the way there are a lot of wildflowers in full bloom. 

This area is known for being an active area for the turpentine and lumber industries back in the late 1800’s; there are also portions of an old railroad tramway back here.  The main trails are too well traveled to see any indications of these, so a future trip up here is going to have to include some exploration through some of the game trails to see what else can be found.

As usual, if you would like to see the technical details of this hike, download a gpx file, or see where the photos were taken, just click on the “Trip Details” link at the bottom of the map.

Parking Area Distance sign Trail view 2
Old scrub-jay sign End of burn area Bird house in the scrub
Boardwalk 2 Trail view 4 Small cypress near trail

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