Sunday, January 31, 2016

Hiking Longleaf Pine Preserve

Tina and AndyThis trail is relatively new, or recently expanded; the only other hike that I could find online in this area was a much shorter one that was shared on TrimbleOutdoors about two years ago.  The trailhead is just off Rt. 44 east of I-4 where all three blazed trails start and head to the north.  We followed the red balloon loop on this trip – this trail is an old unpaved road called Old Sawmill Rd.  Beginning of trail-2

The trailhead kiosk warns parts of the trail can be under several feet of water when flooded, and we have had a lot of rain over the past week.  When we saw the standing water on the trail at the very beginning, we really didn’t expect to be able to finish the full loop, but it turned out that we were able to stay mostly dry for the full hike.

Along the boardwalk-1Shortly after the trail begins, there is a boardwalk that runs along one side of the trail.  The boardwalk is relatively new and in very good shape.  There are a couple of spots where plants are growing up through the boards or hanging over the boardwalk, but we just pushed past and through those spots.  The boardwalk spans about 150 feet, and the trail next to it was easily under two feet of water.

Old gated spotAt the end of the boardwalk, the trail markers indicate a left turn followed by a sharp turn to the right where it joins up with Old Sawmill Rd.  Here the trail / road passes through what looks like an area that had been gated before passing by a small farm. Conintuing to the north past the farm, the trail enters the trees again where we were shaded for about a quarter of a mile. 

Small side trailBefore leaving the canopy of pine trees, there is a small side trail that heads to the east.  This trail runs along the side of a small creek.  The property boundary is pretty close and this offshoot doesn’t lead very far.Contrails

Back on the red trail, the path opens up into a field of palmetto plants.  There were several gates along the trail beginning here with trails heading off to the west.  Most of these gates were unlocked and there was no signage on them.  Since the paths are on the preserve property, I expect that the standard rule of “leave the gate as you found it” would apply if we went exploring in that direction.

Visitors not wanted-1After entering the canopy of trees to the north, another private drive forked off to the right.  It would seem that the people who live back here are not interested in having visitors.  The road name caught my eye (you can see it if you open the photo).  There was also a sign next to this gate (not in the photo) identifying “Sam’s Camp”.Tina by trail map

From here the trail continues to the north through the pines and eventually comes to another open area where there is a bench and another trail map.  This map is a stone’s throw from the part of the trail where the balloon branches to the left and right.  We followed the trail to the left from here, heading to the group campsite for our picnic lunch.

Group CampsiteThe campsite is only about a mile to the north from this spot, right next to Lake Tuskarora.  The campsite area is huge, and very well maintained.  There is a picnic pavilion with three tables, a fire ring with benches and a couple of grills.  Running along the perimeter of the lake is another trail made by the Boy Scouts back in 2010.Santa's Shroom

After lunch, we continued along the red trail to finish the loop and came across some mushrooms growing in the pine needles.  When we got home and looked it up we found that this is probably the most easily recognized hallucinogenic mushroom called “Santa’s Shroom” or more properly “Amanita Muscaria”. 

Wet trail intersection-1Where the trail finally came to the spot where it was going to bring us south again, it was flooded.  Up until this spot any trail flooding was easy to walk around, but this spot was not as forgiving.  We both ended up getting a little bit wet as we jumped across the narrowest wet area we could find.

Heading south from here the trail was mostly shaded and straight.  There was a small area that had been torn up by boars, but there was no other flooding to speak of.  This was a great spot for getting outside and enjoying some really nice views.  If you would like to see the technical details of this hike, or download a gpx file, click on the Trip Details link at the bottom of the map.

More photos are available in the Photo Gallery
(Click on any photo for a full size view)

Andy by the truck Heading to trail entrance Trail markers
Beginning of boardwalk-2 Along the boardwalk-2End of boardwalk-2 Andy at end of boardwalk
Angry plant wants to be left alone Oak by the trailFerns on oak tree Trees on side trail
Trailhead kiosk Duhqphuk RdClouds over trail Sam's Camp
Lake Tuskarora-2 Lake Tuskarora Trail-1Wild boars damaged trail-2 Trailview


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