Thursday, December 15, 2016

Croom River Trail, Hog Island - Withlacoochee State Forest, Florida, 12/12/16

Croom River Trail (AKA Croom Linear Trail), Withlacoochee State Forest, Bushnell, Florida, December 12, 2016

Distance: 7 ish miles (one way)

Trailhead: The trail starts at the River Junction parking lot and ends at the Hog Island Camping Area parking lot.  We spotted a car for this hike. 

We left one car at Hog Island Campground, 9274 County road 635, Bushnell Florida. Head into the campground and hiker parking is on the left (signed, with a kiosk). 

We left the other car at River Junction, which is just beyond Hog Island Recreation Area. Proceed out of Hog Island Campground and turn right onto SW 90th Ave, and then turn right onto SW 60th Street. Continue on the main roads bearing right as it intersects again with SW 90th Ave (past equestrian parking and the signs for the Iron Bridge and Hog Island Recreation Area) until you reach a campground on the left. The parking lot is further down on the right (on the river). There is a hiking kiosk located far right of the lot (in the woods).

Maintained by the Highlander Chapter of the Florida Trail Association, the Croom Linear trail, also referred to as the "Croom River Trail" is yellow blazed and not the Florida Trail. After the hike I found the following webpage: which has a small photo of the route.

Hiked with Lindsey today. We both wanted to check out this trail so we met around 9:30 at Hog Island Campground to leave her car and drive mine to the start: River Junction.
Parking lot at Hog Island Campground.

Kiosk at the campground.

It took about ten minutes of bumpy road to get to River Junction. We parked my car and found the kiosk that began the Linear Trail.

Park in the Day Use lot.
Kiosk is far right (away from the river).

Seems pretty straightforward.

I had trouble researching this particular trail. I'd googled "Croom Linear Trail" and printed off a map from the Florida Trail website which included the Croom area but it wasn't until Lindsey and I were several miles into the trail that we noticed the map did not correspond with where we were! (Lesson learned; bring a GPS!) We continued on, hoping to wind up at the campground and Lindsey's car.

Throughout the hike we thought we were on the Florida Trail, though we were well aware we were east of the river, and the FT is shown on the map as west of the drink. There are many orange blazes interspersed with the yellow blazes. (We found out later that this trail isn't part of the FT, which was disappointing but reinforced my confidence in map reading - something wasn't adding up!).

It's a wide, comfortable path.

It's easy to follow this trail. The path is maintained and yellow blazes frequent. There are dirt roads to cross, a recreation area and highway underpass to go around, and more than a few turns so it's important to pay attention especially to double blazes (turn or trail junction ahead).

Yellow blazes are frequent.
Fields of palmetto.
Cypress basking in the wet.

Short walk down the road and through the underpass. Follow the blazes.

Path is blazed and double-blazed (turns).

We came across two blowdowns in the path. The first we walked around to get back on the path. The second we had to bushwhack further down and pick up the trail about 100 feet later.


When we got to the Iron Bridge Recreation Area we took a short break. It's a peaceful place, with just one car in the lot. The yellow blazes continue at the end of the parking lot.

Iron Bridge area.

Check out the cactus here.

Throughout this hike we had no doubt we were headed toward the campground. At about 6.5 miles I got concerned that the there may be a short spur trail to the parking area and didn't want to miss it by staying on the thru-trail (we still thought we were on the Florida Trail). Second-guessing set in and Lindsey checked her phone map, which showed we were clearly headed in the right direction.

Soon we crossed a dirt road and headed into open woods where we eventually saw campsites and shortly thereafter, the lot and Lindsey's car (right on the trail - no spur afterall). 

Our car!
Yes, we made some rookie mistakes but had a great time and although there is a definite wilderness feel, we were never far from civilization and well defined landmarks that would get us back to where we needed to be. Still, I cobbled a map of sorts (below - entire trail is east of the river).

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Morris Bridge Park, December 8, 2016

Morris Bridge Park trails, December 8, 2016

Distance: 9.4 miles (RT)

Trailhead: The address of Morris Bridge Park is 13330 Morris Bridge Road, Thonotosassa, Florida. Parking is on the left before the bridge (there are restrooms!).  It costs $2 for parking. 

Note: This route is on biking trails.  If you are on foot, you must yield to cyclists.

Hiked with a group today.  The morning was clear but chilly (in the 50s).  

Morris Bridge area parks have a lot to offer in the way of nice trails for mountain bikers and Flatwoods Wilderness Park just down the road offers paved trails for road and other bikes. 

Map of the area. See below for our route.

The area is serene, with the Hillsborough River just lazing by.  We went left of the restrooms and headed down the boardwalk toward the bike trails.  The trails are well marked and numbered.

Though not shown here, there are lots of birds poking around in the wet.

Difficult for bikes, not walkers. 

We came across just two bikers, riding together.  Not much traffic on a Thursday morning.

We stayed on the Main trail.  Every off-trail leads you back  to Main.

We did WALK the Indian trail, which is not so difficult.

Regrouping to discuss trail options.

Went on Gator Bait, though apparently the gators did not find us appealing!

We stopped for a snack at an intersection about six miles into the hike.  There was a kiosk with a rough map.

Lush surroundings with pines and palmetto.

Power lines
Route in yellow.

This is a nice, easy walk in the woods and pass wet areas. I expect I will return.  If you do hike in this area, bring your bicycle.  If you don't mountain bike, there is a seven mile paved trail at Flatwoods.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Sawgrass Lake, Florida, November 27, 2016

Sawgrass Lake Park Trails, November 27, 2016.

Distance: 2 ish miles

Trailhead: The address of Sawgrass Lake Park is 7400 25th Street N., St. Petersburg, Florida. Entrance to the park is free.

Several months ago, our friend Becky gave us a booklet entitled, "Florida Hiking Trails, A Guide to Florida's Top Hiking Trails."  We took the challenge: to hike each featured forest, park or preserve.  

Sawgrass Lake Park is #19/29 listed in the booklet.

Hiked with Rich. We were pressed for time and didn't feel like driving too far so we picked the closest and shortest hike in the booklet: Sawgrass Lake Park, heading down Highway 19 toward St. Petersburg.

Like other parks in the area, Sawgrass Lake is a wild forest nestled between civilization. It's very convenient to be able to go from life in the city to a walk along the paths and boardwalks, see wildlife and enjoy the lake and this large maple swamp.  

Turtles float on the vegetation.

There is one drawback; the highway is very close to many of the trails and the noise can be distracting.  There are several points where you can see the road and the many vehicles whizzing by.  We went on a Sunday afternoon and at times had to raise our voices to be heard over the traffic.

Armadillo sniffing out food.

Baby alligator.  We saw several small ones.

The trails are boardwalks, brick, and dirt.

We headed toward the overlook, a two-tiered pavilion where you can view the lake and the many birds and turtles inhabiting it.  The overlook is not for the timid; the structure sways back and forth.  The rangers might want to check the foundations!

Overlook on the lake.

Sawgrass Lake

All together it's just two miles of trail but a nice way to spend an hour.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Terra Ceia Preserve, Florida, November 6, 2016

Terra Ceia Preserve trails, November 6, 2016.

Distance: 5.9 miles (several loops and one out-and-back)

Trailhead: The address of the Terra Ceia Preserve is 130 Terra Ceia Road, Terra Ceia, which brings you to the Haley House on the preserve property
(coordinates  27.579500,-82.577667). The address to use for car navigation systems is 130 Terra Ceia Road, Palmetto, Florida.

Heading South on I-275: Take US 19 exit #5, two-lane exit  - stay in left exit lane, make first left on Terra Ceia Road at end of exit, make 2nd left on Hightower Road (road winds back under 275). Trailhead is at the end of the gravel road.

Heading North on I-275: Take US 41S exit #2 to 73rd Street, go right. Make a right on Bishop Harbor Rd, and a left on 77th Street E -  pass Haley House on your right, make slight right on Hightower Road.  Parking is a few hundred feet in. Trails are beyond the gate

Haley House (ranger headquarters).

Hiked with a group led by George Mesnier, Trail Manager of the Terra Ceia Preserve. The trails are new and well maintained and the preserve staff expects they will become popular.

You'll head here at the Hightower Road sign.

Gated for foot traffic only.

Trail kiosk. I took a photo of the map for reference.

There are creeks, marshes and tidal flats in this area.  At one time there were houses and there is still evidence of that (just a bit).  Throughout the hike you step on and off a wide path that is also used as an access road for maintenance.

There are three paths with corresponding colors.

We swung right, onto the blue path.

Then we hit the white trail.

The trail took us in and out of the woods.

We arrived at the tidal flats where we saw small fiddler crabs and tasted saltwart leaves.  The area is vast and damp, eagerly waiting to get wet again. Note: this area is under water at times.

Tidal flats.


Spiders spin their webs across the trail, at chest/head height (Yay, um Ew!). 
This one is about 3-4 inches long.

Being new to the area, we are curious about plants and wildlife, specifically what stings, bites and charges.  Feral hogs (aka wild boars) are a Florida hiker's biggest wildlife concern, with snakes not far behind.  We saw neither today.

A ranger's hog trap. Hogs ruin new plantings.

Below is my favorite photo. Though alligators are generally not a concern with hikers (we aren't food to them), it is wise to be aware.  Just to the right of this sign, in the distance, is a park bench (barely visible here).  Sorry, but if you are telling me to watch out for alligators here, I'm not likely to sit down and relax!

End-of-hike pond shot.

All in all it is a nice walk in the wood and around wetlands with a good group of people. We were done by lunchtime.

For more information about the Preserve, visit: