Saturday, November 08, 2014

Hiking the Econ from Lockwood

Lockwood TrailheadToday I hiked along the Econ River starting at the trailhead on Lockwood Blvd.  Even though this trailhead is only three or four miles from my house, I had never noticed it before.  It really doesn’t stand out from the road; approaching from the south (it’s about a quarter of a mile north of 419) the sign is easy to miss since it is next to a very big power pole.  There is plenty of room to park on the side of the road, and about twenty or thirty feet in from the entrance there is an information kiosk.  The kiosk was empty today, but I expect the Florida Trail Association will have a map or other information posted their soon.
Long narrow bridgeThe first part of this trail heads due east and goes over a couple of small boardwalks before coming to a long narrow footbridge.  The footbridge goes over a wetlands area; the water looked like it was only a couple of feet deep today. 
Small creekAs the trail is flanked on both sides by a fence as it continues east past the bridge, but the fences are no longer seen once the trail starts heading to the northeast.  The Flagler Trail portion of this hike starts in this area, and it’s not yet been cleaned up like the Florida Trail portion has been.  It’s not difficult, or even uncomfortable, to hike through, but the grass is about waist high in a couple of spots.  Continuing along the trail from this point, I came upon a little creek.  I think this is “Boonie Falls” based on the photos that I saw at the Florida Hikes website, but it wasn’t marked with anything so I’m really not sure.
Gate crossingShortly after crossing this creek, the trail took me to a locked gate that seems really out of place.  Next to the gate there are two fence posts with the top two strands of barbed wire removed between them.  I stepped over the bottom two strands of the barbed wire fencing and continued along my way.
DeadfallHere, the Florida Trail continues to the northeast, but I decided to head to the east along a more grassy trail.  Sometimes it’s more interesting to take the less traveled path… after all, I could always turn back if I needed to.  As it turned out, I didn’t need to turn back.  This old trail was just a small loop that hooked back up with the main trail a little further along.  There was a very small deadfall of that had to be crossed to get back on the main trail.
UpstreamA little further along the trail I noticed an area off to the right where the woods seemed to be a little less dense, and curiosity got the better of me so I had to go take a look.  Back in this area was a creek that was running (mostly) parallel to the trail I was on.
Hog trapIt was just a little further off the trail from here where I found a hog trap.  It looked pretty simple and effective… it was basically a circle of fence material with a simple boar-sized door.  The hog goes in to get the corn scattered on the ground and the door drops closed behind him. 
Back on the trail from here, it wasn’t too much further along that I came upon a wild orange tree.  If anyone sees a wild orange tree and has never tasted one, I strongly recommend that they give one a taste.  I they have tasted one, they’ll appreciate why I’m not having any myself.  Wild oranges are almost as sweet as lemons – almost, but not quite.  I don’t know if farmers have bred them to be sweet or if it simply the way the are grown in orchards, but domestic oranges are very different from wild ones. 
Fishermen at pondA little past the orange tree, I came upon another rarely used trail that went to the south.  I went to have a look to see where it went, and it took me to a little pond where there were several bat houses mounted.  There were a few folks fishing down here, and when I saw them on the way back they said that they caught about 15 fish.  They were either very small fish or they through ‘em back because only one had a bucket big enough to carry anything and it was not a large bucket.
Cookie salesman on the riverA little further along, I took a small side trail down to the river.  As I approached the river, there was a guy who had just pulled his kayak up to the river bank and was getting ready to do a little fishing himself.  We had a nice little chat and I learned that he sold cookies at the farmer’s market in celebration, and he wasn’t looking forward to being out in the rain tomorrow as the cold front moves through the area.  I didn’t catch his name, so I’ll just think of him as the cookie salesman in case I meet him again.
Hobbit HouseAfter I said my “goodbyes” and “good lucks” I continued on my way and saw what looked like a hobbit house.  All this needed was a round door on the front and it would have fit perfectly into a Tolkien novel.
Oak over riverFrom here the trail hit a junction point with three directions to choose from (four if I count the trail I arrived on).  I decided to stay close to the river to see what I might find there.  The trail took me to a spot along the river with a giant oak tree reaching over the shore to the river.  This would have been a good place to stop for lunch, but I wanted to get a little further along the river before I took a break. 
Stump by the riverThe spot I found for lunch was perfect.  It was the stump of a tree overlooking the river with a view of a perfectly shaded campsite on the other side.  As I sat there quietly eating lunch, I could hear all sorts of wildlife in the woods on the other side of the river.  I didn’t see much more than bushes and palm leaves moving around, so I can’t be sure what animals were roaming around.  It could have been deer or hogs, but whatever it was stayed out of site.
Andy by big cypressAfter lunch it was time to move on to a spot I was looking forward to seeing again.  This is probably the biggest cypress tree in the forest with a trunk that is more than eight feet across at the base.
Big cypress treeTina took a picture of me standing next to it back in March, but today the tree is completely surrounded by water.  Off to the right of the tree I could see one of the knees that was easily five feet above the water line; it’s amazing to me that the root structure of this tree has knees that are bigger around than a lot of mature full size trees. 
I am going to have to learn how people estimate the age of trees like this based on their size.  I have no doubt that this one is older than the United States, and I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that it was much older than that.  If you decide to look for the tree, there is a major landmark on the trail that one can’t miss.  It is the northern most bridge on this trail.  This tree is just a little south of that.
From here I headed on a little bit further.  My destination was the boy scout benches at the edge of the river, and I was almost there.  While I was walking towards those benches I met a really nice couple who were taking their kids to their favorite picnic spot along the river.  We had a nice little chat, and I told them about my blog.  So if you’re reading this and it was you that I was talking to, I hope you’ll drop a note to say “hi”!
As always, you can see where each of the photos were taken by clicking on the “Trip Details” link at the bottom of the map below.
First boardwalk
Second boardwalk
Flagler Trail view
Grassy trail
Blurry trail view
Blurry downstream
Orange blazes
Blurry orange tree
Trail to pond
Down river view
Trail junction
Shaded campsite
Bridge near cypress tree
Little Purple flowers

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