Sunday, October 19, 2014

Hiking Flagler Trail south

After so many hikes during the heat of summer, I can’t get over how nice the weather has been lately.  It was a great day for a picnic, so we brought subs with us to enjoy by the bridge that crosses the econ river.  After seeing the water levels along the river a couple of weeks ago, we weren’t sure if we would be able to make it all the way, but they have come down quite a bit from where they were.
Tina on the trailWe started our hike at the Snow Hill Rd. trail head; from there you have to cross Jacobs Trail Rd. to get to the actual trail.  It starts out heading north in a very narrow area that runs parallel to that road.  Even though the trail is only about ten feet from the road, the plants are so lush that we only actually saw it a couple of times. 

The trail runs pretty straight, for the two mile journey up to the river, but there are a couple of really nice spots to watch for.  The first landmark that we came upon was a bench on the side of the path.  It was a little too soon for a break, but it was a good photo opportunity, so I couldn’t pass that up.

Pretty swampA little further along we came up on an area where wetlands surrounded us on both sides.  The light coming in through the canopy brightened it up enough to make the watercress floating on the water look almost thick enough to walk on.

As we walked past the swamp, it wasn’t too much further down the trail that we came upon another bench.  This one was right next to a junction with another trail that came in from the east.  This trail looks like it is part of the network of trails that are accessed from the Jones East Trailhead of the Little Big Econ State Forest.

Side trailWe were both ready for lunch by this point, but the bridge wasn’t too much further ahead.  As we continued north we came upon a big blue post that marked another trail junction.  Part of the fun when hiking is finding new spots to explore later, so we took a quick side trip here and found that this trail looks like it continues on for quite a bit.  The trail is blazed with blue arrows, instead of the normal blazes that we usually see, so I’m not sure if it is part of the Florida Trail system or not.

North from here just a little further and we were at the bridge.  I wanted to try my hand at making another photosphere from the middle of the bridge.  I thought it would come out pretty good, and I guess it was okay.  I’m finding that there is a real knack to making these things.  The geometry of the bridge was pretty tough to get aligned… I guess I learned something else to avoid with these types of pictures.

Alligator by the riverA trip to the river here is never complete without at least one alligator sighting.  While we were having our picnic we saw a handful of guys in kayaks come by pointing at the alligator sunning himself.  One of the guys paddled up pretty close to the shore (we couldn’t see the gator from where we were), got a picture and they continued down river.  We never did hear the telltale splash of the gator jumping in the water to get away, so I wasn’t sure they really saw him.  A little later though, we went to the south side of the river and he was still sunning himself.  It’s a little difficult to see it in this photo, but his coloring was so dark he almost looked blue.

It was flooded hereAfter we had lunch, we decided to head west for a little bit to see what the trail looked like – it was just two weeks ago that the trail was flooded out, and we were curious if it was still wet.  The water levels have really pulled back quite a bit.  What was once a completely flooded (about four feet deep) spot wasn’t even damp.

Oakworm mothWe went a little further on to see the tree that I was sitting on during our hike two weeks ago, and the Central Florida Highlanders had it all cleaned up.  Along the way Tina noticed an Oakworm Moth fluttering on the path; it just didn’t seem interested in flying.  If I don’t know what the “real” name is for a plant or animal, I’ll usually just make one up (it’s kind of an ongoing joke).  Tina came up with the name “Golden Flapping Ground Moth” for this guy, but since she looked it up we have to stick with the real name now.  An interesting thing that she found out about these bugs – as adults, they cannot eat.  They basically fatten up while they are caterpillars, and then after reaching the adult stage all they do is mate and die.

Stump FungusAs we headed back to the trailhead, I did get one more picture that I wanted to share.  This is called “Stump Fungus” – and no, I’m not going to look up the real name!
As usual, there are more pictures below, and if you would like to see where each of the photos were taken, you can click on the “Trip Details” link below them map.

Trail head
Andy on Bench #1
Bench #2
First trail junction
Side trail market post
Blurry Andy by fallen tree
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