Tuesday, January 24, 2017

John Chesnut Sr. Park, Florida, January 22, 2017

John Chesnut Sr. Park, Palm Harbor, Florida, 1/22/2017.

Distance: 3.6 ish miles (cumulative - three separate trails)

Trailhead: John Chesnut Sr. Park is located at 2200 East Lake Road in Palm Harbor, FL. The park runs along Lake Tarpon.

Hiked with Rich today. A storm was headed our way, cancelling our scheduled hike so we decided to check out some local trails.  This one is a short drive for us and offers a host of park-like things to do: kayaking, picnicking, birdwatching, and there are several playgrounds for the kids, a lookout tower, and a nice dog park.

But it's not a "hiking trails" park as we've come to know here in Florida but three distinct paths, each about 3,000 feet long.  We saw no hiking maps at the park  (I've included one at the end of this report), most of the trail is boardwalk, and to cover all three trails involves some road walking.  Still, this is a great place to explore, go for a run, or just be outside under the canopy or on the water.  Today we didn't see much for wildlife.

Entrance is on East Lake Road.

After you enter the park you will see a road to the left which takes you to the boat ramps and the southern loop.  We continued straight, bearing left at the fork, and parked by the restrooms which put us in the middle of the three trails.  We hopped on the trail, heading south toward the boat landings.

No bikes or dogs allowed - we saw both.

Most of this hike is well-built boardwalk.

Lake Tarpon is five miles long and about a mile wide, quite lovely and big enough for boats, kayaks, and jet skis. The boardwalk is constructed over wetlands, barely dry today but I imagine the area gets very wet after a rain. Picnic tables are set up at the many small pavilions located in the woods and on the boardwalk.

View from a picnic alcove.

We reached the 40' observation tower, climbing up it a few times to get just a smidge of a workout.   We continued on the boardwalk to the boat ramps (there's a fee to unload your boat).

View from the top.

Heading toward the boat ramps.

We took a right at the ramps and headed down to the Peggy Park trail, named after a brave wildlife officer killed in the line of duty. The trail offers views of the lake and of Brooker Creek.

Peaceful Brooker Creek.

This loop ended back at the boat landing. We walked the length of the parking lot and headed out to do the last path, the north loop (continue past the dog park and park at the next set of pavilions on right).

Nice dog park.

Part of the park skirts a neighborhood.

After a few minutes on pavement it got boring and we were lazy. So we decided instead to jump into the car and drive to the start of the north loop.

Beginning of the north trail.
More boardwalk.

The trail skirts the shore then swings right, leaving the lake and heading into the woods. When we came out onto the road, we opted not to continue. Frankly we felt we'd seen enough. The trail continues on to the canoe trail, according to the Florida Hikes website, it doesn't loop back though; you'll need to walk the road or parking lot back to your car.

We got back to our car quickly and headed out for lunch. 

Our routes.

Map of the park.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Withlacoochee River Trail, Dade City, FL, January 14, 2017

Withlacoochee River Trail, Florida, 1/14/2017.

Distance: 5.4 miles (loop outside the park) and 3 ish miles (loop within the park)

Trailhead: Withlacoochee River Park, 12449 Withlacoochee Boulevard, Dade City, FL. Maps are at the park entrance (I included one at the end of this report).  Fee to park is $2.00.  The Withlacoochee River trail was developed and is maintained by the Florida Trail Association.

Hiked with a Meetup group today.  We met at the canoe launch, turned right and took the trail by the river.

Canoe launch (trail starts at end, on the right).

The river is beautiful on this misty morning.

The Florida Trail sign marks the beginning of the trail.

The trail skirts the river for a time, then loses it.  At .6 miles we crossed back over into the park proper to take advantage of the bathrooms - then returned to the trail, which veers left and away from the park.

Wetlands to our left.

Restrooms are through this gate and to the left.

Back on the trail, orange blazed.

The path is well-blazed, with a curious placing of some of the double-blazes.  We checked for a trail junction or turn at each double blaze and sometimes didn't find either. However, on a dead-flat route (much of it open woods) we were happy to have the thoughtful amount of orange where we needed it.

Continued on the Loop.

We walked in the woods, through gates and by ferns - and crossed a few grassy roads. At the far reaches of the route there's a sign that points you to several primitive campsites.  We didn't check them out today.

One of the roads we crossed.

Continued on the Loop.

We turned and headed down an old road (at the double blazed post).

The road walk is short lived; we soon ducked back into the woods at the next double-blaze.

Very open in this area - keep an eye on the blazes!

Cypress (area was fairly dry).

Further into the woods the trail touches the river in a clearing complete with flipping fish and a lazy gator. This is a kayaking and canoeing lunch spot, a beautiful setting.

Finding the trail here gets a little confusing, but just for a moment, blazes lead you the correct way!
Open spot - which way?!

We wound up back at the loop sign in no time, completing our circle.

Antsy to do more mileage, we headed decided to hike the trails within the park proper. We started back at the restrooms.

Park trail.

Areas are well marked, you can't get lost!

The park's outlook tower is one of the nicest I've seen.  Seventy steps take you to the top of a well constructed, downright fancy overlook.  

She's a beauty! (Photo by Betty).

Grand as it is, there's not much to see other than treetops.

We followed the red, yellow, and blue trails (noted on the map as Boardwalks #1 and #3 and the Perimeter trails). Off the boardwalks, the trails are completely wooded; we passed the campsites and the pioneer village replica before we got back to the car.

Planks have been replaced on this boardwalk.

This boardwalk could use a little TLC.

We finished around 1:00, found a barbecue place in Dade City and had lunch.

Our routes.

Withlacoochee RiverPark map.