Thursday, January 19, 2012

Hiking in Withlacoochee State Forest

We found our way to a trailhead today.  It was very good to be back in hiking boots and walking in the woods after about three weeks of this other stuff we’ve been doing.  Today’s hike was in the Croom Tract of the Withlacoochee State Forest.  There are several loop trails in this area and we did loop C.
Live Oak

The Florida Trail system is fairly extensive and I’m trying to get my mind around what we’re doing exactly.  A few months ago Gene ordered maps and a Data Book for Central Florida from the Florida Trail Association.  The Florida Trail is a long-distance hiking trail which runs the length of Florida.  In addition to this “thru” trail, the Florida Trail Association maintains many “loop” trails on various public lands.  All these trails make up the Florida Trail System and are listed in the Data Book and are drawn on the maps.
Getting Ready
The Florida Trail is blazed in orange.  The loop trail we hiked today was blazed in orange.  As far as I know, the loop we did today was not part of the Florida Trail.  It is identified on the map and in the Data Book as Withlacoochee State Forest, Croom Tract, C Loop.
Gopher Tortoise

We struck out at 8 am.  Tony and Diana wanted to go and Tony volunteered to drive.  The trailhead was only about 17 miles from the campground, but we were unfamiliar with the road and how to get there, so we made several stops to compare the GPS map and coordinates with the trail map and Data Book directions.  We finally found the Tucker Hill trailhead parking lot.
Hunter's Camp

The trailhead parking lot was very large with a nice restroom facility and a picnic area. There is a day use fee of $2 per person.  There is an additional fee for hikers who want to camp overnight.  There was an information kiosk with brochures about the area and a small trail map.  We paid the fee, grabbed a couple maps, used the restroom and were on the trail shortly after 9 am.
Our trail passed by the edge of Smith Prairie

We started out in temperatures low enough to require a light jacket, but the sun did its thing and we were soon making clothing adjustments.  By the end of the hike, we were positively hot.

The trail, as you might expect in Florida, is flat and the surface was sand overlaid in most areas with pine needles.  We walked through forest of pine and live oaks draped with Spanish moss.  About halfway around our loop, which we did in the counterclockwise direction, we came to a very large hunter’s camp.  The camp was empty today.  We stopped for a short break at one of the picnic tables.

For our first hike in Florida this year, we enjoyed this easy 7-mile walk.  The trail was well maintained and easy to follow.  We crossed three forest service roads, but these were all signed and labeled on the map.

The highlight of the day was the gopher tortoise.  He was content sunning himself at the edge of the trail and allowed us to make numerous pictures.  Other than birds, the tortoise was the only wildlife we saw.

We have Vern scheduled to come tomorrow, but we’ll be back on the trail on Saturday.

We want to welcome Ray at Dreams of Travel in a RV. Ray has a dream like we had and many others do of the RV lifestyle. Hope we can encourage you along in your dreams, Ray.  We’re glad you’re tagging along.

I have a correction to make.  In my previous post I stated that we had last seen Mike and Peggy at their home in Maine in 2010.  That’s just not true.  We last saw them in Oklahoma City in 2011.  How could I forget.  That was the day their toad came unhitched from their rig.

That’s all for today.  Thanks for tagging along.

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