Saturday, November 28, 2015

Hiking Palm Bluff Conservation Area

Andy by kiosk-2Unlike a third of the country, Tina and I spent Black Friday as far away from shopping as we possibly could; we decided to explore a new trail instead. 

The parking area for this spot is huge, and there are two areas that look like a trailhead.  The one to the south is actually an entrance to the group camping area.  The hiking (white) trail entrance is the one on the east side of the parking area.  Shortly after passing the entrance way, there is a trailhead kiosk with maps that can be taken.  This is one of those areas where the trails are incredibly well-blazed though, so if there are no maps, don’t worry.  I think the during the entire trip we could always see at least two blazes in front of us.Turn south here

Most of the trails are wide / road size paths that are well suited for both hikers and equestrians.  The first quarter of a mile heads to the south east before coming to what looks like a north south intersection.  If you notice the sign though, all of the arrows point to the south – that’s because the only thing to the north is the caretaker’s house.

Gate crossing-1We followed the trail to the south for about another thousand feet or so before we came upon a crossing gate that leads to the red trail.  The gate has a neat way of securing… the vertical piece in the photo moves left to right and slides a horizontal board into a slot.Trail view-4

About 100 yards south of this gate the red trail continues to the east through with pines and palmettos on both sides of the trail for about a half mile before a row of power lines comes into view.

Lilly pads in the creekAfter passing the power lines, the trail leads to the southeast and, in many places, runs alongside a small creek.  Parts of the trail are a little muddy, but nothing was too difficult to pass.Shoe for scale

In the mud, there were several tracks, but one stood out that we couldn’t identify.  With five toes and a large pad, it looked like a bear track, but as you can see by the size, it would have to be a very small bear.  The closes track that matches besides bear seems to be skunk, but even that seems to be a little off.

Cabin remains-2The trail continues roughly to the east before coming to Deep Creek.  I was looking forward to seeing the abandoned hunting cabin by the creek, but it seems that sometime over the  past year it was either taken down or burned down.  All that remains is the old chimney, footings, and some debris.Creek depth guage

There is still a picnic table here, so we stopped for lunch before continuing along the trail.  Deep Creek was a little too wide to jump over, so instead of heading further to the easy, we backtracked and headed south past an area that looks like it might have been an old airstrip.

Alligator tanks-1About a half mile south of the airstrip is a spot that I was told is an old alligator farm.  There are twelve of these tanks hidden under the trees, and inside them the plumbing to keep the water flowing can be seen.Gator farm main building

The main building, just to the south of the tanks, as what looks like an old garage that is falling apart next to it, but the building itself is in pretty good shape.  It appears to be being used to store some old farm equipment and with pallets of something, maybe cattle feed, locked away in the old walk in freezers.

Abandonded cabin-2Just to the south of the main building is another abandoned cabin.  This one seems to be used for storage also, but it surprising to see that it has working electricity.  I loved the bent wood chairs on the porch, and the porch swing is still solid – it was a nice place to stop when a brief summer shower passed by.

For the trip back, we followed the red trail through a pine and palmetto prairie along the southern side of the power lines until the trail headed north back to the second gate crossing to complete this balloon loop.

If you would like to see where the photos for this hike were taken, or view any of the technical details, click on the “Trip details” link at the bottom of the map.

More Photos in this Gallery

Parking area Trailhead-2 Trail view-1
Trail view-2Space invader power lines Gate crossing-1a Trail view-7
Print in the mudCoquina chimney Pocket Guide to animal tracks Creek crossing - downstream
Creek crossing - upstream Old airstrip-1 Approaching old alligator farm-2

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