Sunday, March 06, 2016

Hiking Seminole Ranch–Lake Cone Area

Large oakThis trail starts just off highway 50 next to the Christmas RV park.  The parking area is next to a large locked gate that has an open smaller gate on the left side.  Head north from here along an unpaved road for about 100 feet and the entrance to the Florida Trail will be on the right.

Bridge-2After crossing a couple of bridges (the first one crossed a dry creek bed), the trail runs along the northern side of Neat Creek before joining up with a white blazed spur trail.  This trail isn’t as well maintained as the Florida Trail, however it is clearly blazed and easy to follow.  As I walked along the edge of the creek, I noticed a lot of sea shells in the water.  Looking a little closer at one of the bends where the creek had eroded the soil , I found a layer of shells that is about five or six feet below ground. 

Shell layerIt’s difficult to tell if this is an area of interest to archeology or geology… this could be an area of a prehistoric Indian mound, but it really didn’t have the overall “hill” type look of other Indian mounds that I’ve seen.  I suspect that this might be a view into Florida’s ancient past when the area was completely under water. Trail to conservation area

About 1,000 feet from the start of the white blazes, the trail makes a turn to the north where it leads to another gate that opens to a forest road – this is marked for the South Marsh Trail.  Following this path will lead to a chain across the road and a sign marking the beginning of a conservation area.

Beyond this point the hike gets a little more interesting.  The first view that greets you after leaving the trees is a wide open grass prairie.  Keep an eye on the trees, and you will likely see several hawks patrolling the area.

Prairie pano

I picked a time for this hike when the water levels were low, but many areas of the trail were still muddy or even lightly flooded.  For the most part, all of the wet spots are easy to navigate and stay dry by walking across the grasses (tuft hopping) that grow in the trail or along the side.

Creek crossing trail-1After about a half mile through the prairie, the trail is crossed by a couple of small creeks.  Both are relatively narrow, but are just a little too wide to jump over.  Here is where a pair of overshoes might come in handy, but I was luck this day and found a fallen tree to cross the first one, and a bunch of branches that I could use as a landing spot to jump over the second one.Begin long water hazard

After crossing the second creek, there is about another three quarters of a mile worth of tuft-hopping to go there is a water hazard to deal with.  It has been awhile since we’ve had any rain, but the water here was still about 12 to 20 inches deep.  It’s a good spot to use the overshoes if you have them.  This water hazard goes on for about the next third of a mile.

FT heading southAfter reaching dry ground, I eventually came back to an intersection of the Florida.  I was surprised to see a parking area here.  This was a good spot to stop for lunch before continuing on.Stile crossing fence

After about five or six hundred yards, the trail leads to a the first of two stiles that I crossed on this trip.  This one stepped over a fence, the other (further south) went through another fence. 

Blue trail intersects FTSo far, mosquitoes had been held at bay by the breezes blowing across the prairie, however they were hungry through the first section of the forest – a quick spray of Off when I got to the intersection of the blue blazed spur trail kept them away though, so it was only a brief annoyance.  Bridge-5

South from the intersection, the trail crosses over one short boardwalk, and four more bridges.  These are all built with very heavy lumber; I wonder if they are built this strong to support cattle crossing them.

Fishhawk Pond CampsiteOn the southern end of the trail I came upon Fish Hawk Pond campsite; this backpacker camping spot has a covered picnic table and a fire ring.  Today it also comes with free condiments (notice the ketchup and mustard bottles tucked under the roof).

Lake viewAfter passing this spot, I jumped off the Florida trail and followed the road that goes along the edge of a pond.  I met a couple of cyclists here who had been fishing, but not with much luck.  It looks like an ideal spot for bass, but they just didn’t seem to be biting.

This is a fun hike, but be prepared to deal with some wet spots.  There is quite a bit of wildlife back here; I saw tracks from raccoons, fox, bobcat, deer and more.  If you would like to download a gpx file for this trip, or see where each of the photos were taken, click on the Trip Details link at the bottom of the map.

Click a photo for full size, or hover for a description.
(more photos in the Photo Gallery)

Trailhead FT enters the woods White trail start
Tree star Trail turns north South Marsh trail
Creek crossing trail-2 Long straight path Flowers along the way

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