Saturday, April 04, 2015

Hiking Tosohatchee WMA– Southern Area FNST

Power Line Rd and Bridge to FNSTToday’s hike took me through the southern portion of the Tosohatchee Wildlife Management Area to explore a portion of the Florida trail that I had not yet seen.  One of the ways I track the different hikes that I make is be importing the trails from my GPS into Google Earth… I recently found that the entire Florida Trail is also available as a KMZ file that can be imported into Google Earth – loading my own hikes and this file made it pretty easy to see which areas I have covered.  I started my trip at parking area #10 which is on eastern portion of Power Line Rd before it starts to turn to the southeast.  The parking area is on the north side of the road, and a bridge leading into the woods is on the south side of the road. 

Arch over trailEntering the trail from the bridge the trail starts out as a very well shaded palm hammock with an natural entry arch formed by a large oak tree not too far away.  The ground today was soft, but not muddy, so it really made for an easy hike.  It wasn’t too far into the hike that I came up on an intersection of trails with signs pointing which way to go.  I was planning to stop at the Tiger Branch campsite for lunch, and this sign told me that I had a little less than three miles to go.  I guess I should point out that hunting (in season) is allowed in the Tosohatchee WMA, so bright colored clothing is recommended.

Turkey decoysThis is still turkey season, so I was surprised to have walked up on a couple of one-legged turkeys along the trail.  They must not have heard me coming because when I saw them, they pretty much froze in place.  I was only about ten feet away from them, so I was surprised that they stayed in place while I slowly took out my phone to take a picture.  As I left, I wondered if there was a hunter nearby watching this silly hiker being so careful not to startle these birds. Heading south along the trail from the one legged turkeys, I eventually came up on the only creek that recently had water in it.  There were a few cinder blocks thrown in to make crossing it easy.  While there wasn’t any water flowing, the creek bed was still muddy.  As we approach the summer months, even that will be dry soon.

TurtleBeyond this creek, the trail was a little more overgrown.  It’s difficult to tell if it was last cleared recently, or if the flora in this area grows so fast that it simply started reclaiming the trail.  There is evidence of an old burn down here as the trail turns to the west, but the undergrowth is already nearly as high as the trees.  After hiking through the forest this far, I noticed a clearing on the south side of the trail. This little guy was “hiding” on the edge of the clearing (which turned out to be a little swamp), and I also heard something here that sounded like a snake sliding through the underbrush, but I couldn’t see it whatever it was.

Trail through palmettosThe ecosystem along the trail soon started to change around this part to more of a pine hammock with palmetto plants in the undergrowth.  Hiking on a trail of pine needles, I soon came up on another sign that let me know that I was still going the right direction for the campsite that was my first destination.

Berries growing hereI was surprised to find berries growing along the path; I haven’t come across edible wild berries since I lived in Virginia.  I’m not sure what kind of berries these are, so I decided to taste one to see if I could tell.  The taste was tart, not at all bitter, and very little sweetness; also stem that they grew on had thorns, not unlike a blackberry plant.  If anyone knows what this might be, I hope you’ll let me know.

Sign to campsite - follows blue blazesAfter crossing a firebreak / forest road, the trail heads to the southwest and eventually I came upon a sign pointing out the way to the campsite; the sign is facing south, and I almost didn’t see it.  From here I followed blue blazes on a spur that goes just a little ways off the main trail. 
Tiger Branch campsiteAs I was walking here, I saw a big turkey but I didn’t have my camera ready so I wasn’t able to get a picture.

The campsite was a great spot to stop for lunch; I even had a couple of bars on my cell phone so I was able to send a text to let Tina know where I was.  I took a nice little break here just to enjoy the the sounds of the wind blowing through the trees and the occasional bird singing.

Orange and white blazesJust south of the campsite, I found a water pump and a couple of jugs of water to prime it.  I passed these and headed back to the Florida trail where it soon turned due south again.   Here the trail joins up with another trail and the blazes for both are shown along the way.  There must have been a recent burn in this part of Tosohatchee; I noticed that the ash still had the shape of the leaves and grass – the next rain will probably wash the ash away.  I thought it was interesting how much of the trail remained green in about a twelve inch wide area as the burn came right up to the area where people have walked.  I can only assume that the plans were so low and compacted that the flames just couldn’t get a purchase.

Another intersectionAfter crossing another fire break I came upon another trail intersection.  This one pointed to “Lake Charlie”, but when I looked at the satellite view of the area, I couldn’t see any lake in that direction. I decided to stick with my original plan and follow the trail I was on to the south.

Brown water snakeIt wasn’t too far from this intersection that I reached my destination.  I supposed I could have continued south along Yates Trail to finish out this section of the Florida trail, but if you take a look at the last photo at the bottom, you’ll see that it just looks like an overgrown road.  Instead, I looked around here a little bit and noticed a small pool next to the road.  There were several little  fish in there, and also a little Brown Water Snake.  That seemed like a good spot to wrap up today’s hike.

Just a couple of general notes – if you want to make this hike, but don’t feel like doing a 10.5 mile distance, you can cut it in half if you can park a car at parking area 29 and then starting the journey from parking area 10.  Parking area 29 is at the southern end of this trail.  Also, it is still tick season.  I saw a couple on my pants during this hike, but none of ‘em made it to my skin thanks to the magic of Permethrin!  As always, the technical details of this hike and the locations of the photos can be seen by clicking on the Trip details link below the map.

Parking Area 10 Entering trail from bridge Trail through palm hammock
Bricks crossing creek Old burn Overgrown section
Swanpy clearing Sign to Tiger Branch campsite Pine hammock
Trail crosses firebreak Handpump and prime Trails intersect
Termite Swarm Recent burn Parking area 29
Trail continues south    
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