Saturday, November 19, 2016

Hiking The Yearling Trail

The Yearling Trail in Ocala National Forest meanders around an area that was a homesite to the Long family which led to the inspiration for Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings to write The Yearling.

Road sign
Entrance to The Yearling Trail

Trail map-2We started our hike on Florida 19 (right across the street from Silver Glen Springs.  At the trailhead, there is an information kiosk with some background information about the area.  There is also a trail map here, but notice the compass rose on the map… it is flipped.  We didn’t notice until we turned left at the end of “Major Churchill Rd” and realized we were traveling south instead of North.Tina and blue sky

After the trailhead signs, the trail heads due west through a scrub area.  We noticed that much of the trail was covered in the same kind of shells that are common to Native American middens/mounds.  Without an actual mound to be found, I wonder if this was spread over the trail as part of a reconstruction project.  Many historical mounds in Florida were dug up in the 20th century to be used as aggregate for roads and other projects, so it is possible that is what was done here as well.

Jody's Trace MarkerAfter a little less than a mile down the trail we came upon the intersection to Jody’s Trace which jogs to the right.  The trail itself isn’t very obvious, but the trail marker is clear.  There is also a really big hole that has been used as a fire pit that helps to identify this spot on the trail.Find the beige blaze

Following Jody’s Trace is a little challenging at times… not that the hike is hard, but the blazes are not all easy to see.  They are painted kind of a beige color that blends in nicely with the rest of the trees.  To illustrate, click on this picture and see how long it takes to find the beige blaze.

Cattle dip-1After a little more than half a mile along Jody’s Trace, we came upon the old cattle dip along the edge of Calvin Long’s field.  According to the trailhead map, this dip has been around for nearly 100 years.  Other than a small section of broken wall, it looks like it could easily be used again.Tangled Trees

We continued along the trail for about another mile before intersecting with the Florida Trail (the Pat’s Island trailhead is just north of this intersection).  At the Florida Trail, we turned to the left – this is where we realized the map had been flipped at the trailhead.  It’s funny how something like that can be disorienting when it is not expected.

Reuben and Sara Long homesite-1We followed the Florida Trail to the south for about three quarters of a mile before coming upon the homesite of Reuben and Sarah Long.  The area fenced off to identify the site is surprisingly small.

About three quarters of a mile to the east of the Long’s homesite is the Long Cemetery.  This is a small site with only a dozen headstones, and each one had a small stack of coins on top of it from visitors who paid their respects.  Of the twelve headstones, there were a few that caught my eye.

The Long Cemetary-pano
The Long Cemetery

Two of the stories that stood out were Ella Rogers, who died in a forest fire and Harvey Rogers, whose clothing caught fire while playing too close to a fire.  I don’t know if their deaths were related, but they may have been.  Unfortunately the headstones didn’t give a specific date for their deaths, so it would be difficult to find out.Making friends by the sinkhole

North of the cemetery, is a very large sinkhole where we met another couple of hikers who were out enjoying the day.  This sinkhole was used back in the day as a place to gather drinking water.  These days, the hole is dry, but it is deep enough that it would hold a lot of rainwater during the rainy season.  

Tangled TreesJust north of the sinkhole there is the Patrick Smith homesite, and further to the east is are a couple of other homesites, but none of these are well marked like the Long homesite.  The return trip took us along the  Grahamville Road portion of the trail for about a mile before we came back to the intersection with Jody’s Trace.  

Though we didn’t see any wildlife on this hike, there was evidence of everything from deer to black bear.  This is a great spot to visit – as the only trail in Florida (that I know of) that inspired classic American literature, it’s been on my list for spots to visit for some time now.  For specific technical details about this hike, click on the “Trip details” link below the map.

Photo Gallery
More photos available on our Shutterfly

Andy by big fire pit
Firepit by Jody’s Trace
Evidence of bears
Evidence of Bears
Cardinal Hiding
Cardinal Hiding

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