Saturday, August 22, 2015

Hiking Buck Lake Conservation Area (Eastern Trailhead)

Andy getting ready to head outToday we got an early start and headed out to Buck Lake CA.  The trails back here are really forest roads, and would be great for bicycling.  I don’t think we came up on any spots with sugar sand – the roads we were on were all either shell or grass.

Shaded picnic tableAt the trailhead, we found that the kiosk was stocked with plenty of maps of the area (which is always nice).  As we entered the CA, the first thing that we saw was a smaller kiosk with hunting information; next to that is a covered picnic table and a game cleaning station set back a ways. 

Yellow loop trail viewNear the beginning of the trail there is a short “yellow” loop that heads to the east (there’s also a porto-potty there).  The first part of this loop is mostly straight, following a canal along the way east until it turns to the north through a scrub area. We decided to go a little off-trail on the return leg of the loop.  Tina on side trail

The side trail we took was more of a game trail than anything else, but it was pretty clear to see where it headed.  At one point the game trail skirts the edge of the trees to the north, and we startled a deer who ran off deeper into the woods.

Mostly dry pondOn the way back to the main trail this path takes us to a low area that, in the rainy season, is a small pond.  It seems to be dry today, so rather than walk around the edge we forged through the center.  There is some water in the middle, but the grass is so thick that it is easy to walk over the water and stay dry.Baby turtle

Shortly after the pond, this trail intersects with the main road that heads straight to the north for about another mile.  This part of the hike probably would have been the least interesting part of the trip if it wasn’t for a friend that we met along the way.

Dung beetleTina noticed something another small moving on the ground, also on this part of the trail.  It was a dung beetle moving her treasure across the path.  We were surprised by this guy; I didn’t know that they were found anywhere in the Americas.  It turns out that they are quite common though.Trail into woods 2

At the end of this straight section, the trail splits into two directions – we headed to the northeast through a section of woods that leads to another scrub area.

Magnolia and blue skyAfter passing through the small section of forest, the trail opens up into another scrub area that is full of flowering plants.  There are field is full of small purple flowering plants and young Magnolia trees in full bloom.

Campsite 2This section of the trail makes a slow turn to the west where we arrived at our planned destination for lunch.  It is a campsite that has several picnic tables in the shade, which was the perfect spot to take a break and enjoy the occasional cool breeze.

Well with hand pumpIf you notice, in the back of the photo of the campsite there is what looks like a small information kiosk.  It was empty today except for a little scorpion that seems to call it home.  Before we packed our stuff back up to continue the hike around the loop and back to where we started, we took advantage of the well.  Since the temperature was climbing, we soaked a couple of bandanas and splashed some cool water on ourselves before moving on.

The trip back passes a flood plan filled with palmettos and scrub plants – the panoramic view under the blue sky and white clouds is something that always strikes me as uniquely Floridian.

Flood Plain Pano

Small flooded spot in roadSoon the trail joins intersects another portion of the larger trail and we took the eastward path to continue the loop back to the main road.  On this part of the trail we came upon the only flooded spot.  I suspect that this part of the road is always underwater since it seems to be right next to a very small pond.

This spot is exactly the reason I carry my overshoes in my backpack – wet shoes and socks just aren’t my thing.  Tina, on the other hand, thought it was fun just to wade through.  I gave her a little break while I pulled on my overshoes to wade across.  She thought it would be fun to take photos of the whole process (and time me to boot!).  If you look at the last thirteen photos down below (if you hover over them, you can read the description), you’ll see how much fun she had teasing me.  I stuck by my story though – I took my time so she could take a break.

Shortly after forging this mighty river, we are back at the long straight road that takes us back to where we started.  This is a really nice area, but the weather guessers let us down today.  It was supposed to be a high of about 90 by 1pm, but the actual temperature was around 96 (the heat index was over 106)! 

If you would like to see the technical details of the hike, or download a gpx file, just click on the “Trip details” link below the map.

Photo Dump

Road maintenance equipment Buck Lake CA parking area Buck Lake CA kiosk
Trees and Blue Sky Andy on yellow loop trail Andy on side trail
Long straight road Stable by the trail Purple scrub flowers up close
Grassy road under clouds Purple scrub flowers Campsite
Scorpion Cautious gopher tortoiseAndy preparing to cross the water Tina's wet shoes
Andy still preparing to cross Mudshoes on - almost ready Finally ready to cross
Crossing the waterCrossing with dry feet Almost there Feet still dry
Finally made it Washing sand off the mudboots And finally ready to go

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