Saturday, August 09, 2014

Hiking through the Enchanted Forest

Map at Gift ShoppeThis week took us to the Enchanted Forest Sanctuary in Titusville FL.  This is a surprising find situated right between a town, railroad tracks and a small airport – all within a stones’ throw of Kennedy Space Center.  It’s a really interesting spot to visit – it took us through three very distinct habitats and it also has some history to it to boot!
Banana SpiderWe started our trip by signing in at the Gift Shoppe.  There is a kiosk just in front of the sign in area that has a map of the area, showing where each of the named trails go to as well as the types of habitats that will be crossed.  At the Gift Shoppe we saw a bunch of banana spiders (also called Golden Silk Orb Weavers).  These guys are harmless, but they are huge and have a very strong web.  It must be their big season to come out because they were all along the trail.  We easily saw several hundred of them.  One nice thing about them is that the tended to have their webs way above the trails, so there really wasn’t much of a chance of walking into one.  Still – we were watching.  The thought of one of these guys climbing up to give me a peck on the cheek is just a little too creepy.
Addison  Ellis CanalAs we headed out, we took the Coquina Trail which is the northernmost of the trails in the sanctuary.  The trail starts out by crossing over the Addison / Ellis Canal; there is a sign by the canal that gives a little history about it.  It seems that it was a failed attempt to build a canal that would drain the marshland in the St. Johns River Valley so the land could be sold to farmers.
Bridge over canalAs it turned out, there was a ridge of coquina that went through the area that is now the Enchanted Forest Sanctuary, and the equipment that they were using to build the canal just couldn’t handle it.  It is possible that, if they were successful, they could have ended up flooding the valley with salt water from the ocean and the area would have ended up being uninhabitable.  Good thing they didn’t make it!
Bobcat printsHiking along the northern part of this trail, we went through an oak scrub habitat which was very open with sandy soil with lots of flowers and plants along the way.  Soon the trail turned to the south where it goes downhill to a bridge that crosses the canal along the edge of a mesic hammock, and quickly intersects Biodiversity Loop.
Andy by huge tree 2We headed back east from here to walk around the Ridge Trail Loop which is once again in an oak scrub area.  In this loop, we didn’t see any animals besides some lizards and quite a few skinks, but we did see a lot of tracks.  In one spot we saw some very clear bobcat tracks – we later learned that there are quite a few bobcats in this area.
Long boardwalkWe followed this trail around to the Tortoise Trail which then led to Magnolia Loop.  Magnolia Loop goes through both a mesic hammock and a hydric hammock so there is a lot of shade.  It was back in this area where we saw a massive oak tree.  This was easily more than four feet in diameter, and we could see where it was growing strong “folds” around the base as it gained strength the carry it’s own massive weight.  It had branches that were big enough to be trees on their own, and I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that this tree was at least a couple of hundred years old.
Short boardwalkGoing north from the loop along Tomoka Trail, there was a long boardwalk that went through a swampy area of a hydric hammock and another shorter boardwalk through a wet area of a mesic hammock.  All through this area you could see the resurrection ferns in all their greenery after all of the rain we’ve seen lately.  We also noticed that these boardwalks weren’t wood – they are made with recycled plastics that look like wood.  Probably the perfect material for this area since wood would break down a lot sooner here than it would in a drier spot.
As we wound up our trip for the day, we headed back along the Biodiversity Loop towards the Gift Shoppe.  We stopped in a chatted with the folks there, and learned about some of the areas that we didn’t see.  The biggest one was the coquina quarry at the southern most part of the ridge loop.  We’ll have to take a look at that next time we’re here.
All in all – we both agreed that this is an enchanting spot to hike.  If you’d like to see the map in detail, along with the spots where the pictures were taken, just click on the Map Details link at the bottom.
Tina on Coquina Trail
Vines on the trail
Big tree in the sun
Andy by huge tree 1
Habitat display part 1
Habitat display part 2
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