Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Citrus Tract - B Loop, Withlacoochee State Forest, Inverness, Florida, November 28, 2017

Withlacoochee State Forest, Citrus Tract B Loop (modified), Inverness, Florida, 11/28/2017

Mileage:  13.9 miles (loop)

Trailhead: This hike begins at the Florida Trail System crossing on Trail 13, Inverness.  (Note: some of the roads here are named "Trail" and are also referred to as FR or "Forest Road" - all three used interchangeably). Take Trail 10 to Holder Mine Campground (address 4399 Trail 10, Inverness). Continue driving on Trail 10 for two miles more, turning right on Trail 13.  Proceed .1 mile, parking is on the left.  The trail crossing is just before parking.

Citrus Tract is one of three areas in the Withlacoochee State Forest. The tract has four hiking loops (A, B, C and D) and connector trails. A portion of the Florida National Scenic Trail (referred to here as the Florida Trail), orange blazed, runs within the Citrus tract.  Today we chose to hike Tract B Loop.  It was a big group so some of us left our cars at the campground and carpooled to the trail. Everyone was excited to get out and hike!

The parking area is a clearing on the left just as you turn right from Trail 10 onto Trail 13.  Backtrack a few feet to the well-marked crossing of the Florida Trail.  

Parking area.

The plan was to hike most of Loop B, counter-clockwise, so we hopped on the Florida trail heading east (if you are looking back at Trail 10, head to the trail marker on the left side of the road).

Trail marker.

Soon we hit a junction. We went left, onto the connector trail toward B Loop. 

We went left onto a blue blazed trail.

We arrived at Forest Road, or "Trail" 10A and crossed it.

This is the back of the trail sign (eliminates guesswork).

All road crossings are so well marked.

Forest Road or "Trail" 8. 

Our surroundings change as we pass through the diverse terrain that is central Florida - from open pine forests to shaded hardwoods to humid mossy lowlands (complete with a cave). Though we're in the woods for the entire 13+ miles, enough sun shines through that I needed to wear a hat and sunscreen. I also wore pants thinking I'd be going through tall grass (I didn't  - my pants collected a lot of burrs).

5 Mile Pond.

Nice shady walkway.

We reached another junction and went left. We were officially off the connector trail and on B Loop (blazed in yellow).

Tired?  Have a seat - I insist!

The FRs/Trails came and went as we advanced within the loop. We stayed on trail, checking the map periodically.

FR/Trail 6.
FR/Trail 4.

Large burnt area (prescribed burn?).

We crossed Trail 13.  Our cars were way south of us!

FR/Trail 13.

There's a cistern here (for horses). Nothing in the way of potable water on this hike (unless you have a filter). We took a break here.  I went off trail to go to the bathroom and walked into a spider web, complete with a wood spider the size of the palm of my hand. I would've included a photo here but was afraid if I tried to take a picture, he'd grab my phone from me!  Other than seeing several bald eagles and a host of vultures, this was the only critter we came across.  

Compared to the others, FR/Trail 13 is a wider, better maintained road.

Heading into the woods after the break.
Trail/FR 5.

Trail/FR 4.

Trail/FR 6.

Trail/FR 17.

The group stopped for lunch. We'd done the far end of the loop and were heading back toward cars.

Nice woody area.

Trail/FR 8

Soon after we crossed Trail 8 we reached the sign for Jackson Camp (now officially named Primitive Camp Zone B).

The campsite is quite large with benches surrounding a fire pit (just a big area of ashes).  

There are plenty of flat spots for tents. Perhaps the most noticeable characteristic in the campsite is the sign with directions to the water pump. Potable water is not within this campsite but down the road a piece. Below is a photo of the sign at the campsite, providing detailed directions as to the location of the pump.

Get your water before dark!

Yellow ring signifies campsite perimeter.

Back on the trail temps had warmed up and the pace of the group slowed a bit.  Thankfully clouds came in and the wind picked up, making for a cool, comfy last few miles.

Back at Trail/FR 10A - almost done!

Trail/FR 17, heading south - we'll need to cut east soon.

At the crossing of Trail 17 we decided to check out an old cemetery so we went left and down the road. A few yards down the road we went right on an old road (near the first white tree ring) and there it is!  

Cemetery is quite old, couldn't read most of the stones.

We then bushwhacked back to the trail (not far at all).

Junction coming up!

About three miles to go to get to the cars!

Open woods near the end of our loop trip.

As visions of coolers of cold bottles of water and removing our boots danced in our heads, the woods around us suddenly changed.  It was cool, moist, lush.  The trail dipped and to the left we saw a big cave.  Who doesn't love a cave?!

There's a big crack at the top where you can see the bottom of the cave.

Before we knew it we were back on the Florida Trail; the orange blazes a welcome sign after a long hike.

As much fun as it was, we were glad to be back at our cars.  Can't wait to do Loops A, C and D!
Special thanks to Joe Dabe for making sense of this labyrinth of trails and roads!

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Upper Hillsborough Tract, Zephyrhills, Florida, 11/6/2017

Linear Route, Upper Hillsborough Tract, Upper Hillsborough Preserve, Zephyrhills, FL, November 6, 2017,

Mileage:  10ish miles (RT, up and back)

Trailhead: This hike starts at the north entrance: County Road 54, directly across from Berry Road, Zephyrhills (2.1 miles east of intersection of CR 54 and Chancey Road). North entrance parking does not have a driveway. Across from Berry Road there's a clearing with fence and trail sign.  Parking is free. 

Hiked with Lindsey today. We were itching to get out and begin our hiking season (Florida hiking season typically begins in October and runs through April - later depending on how well you tolerate the heat).  

Parking area is a clearing, no driveway.

There's a map at the kiosk.

It was a beautiful day, starting out on the cooler side but warming quickly.  

Blazes are frequent. We followed blue, orange and yellow blazes, assuming they all took us to the south trailhead (they did). Right at the beginning we missed the trail and got a little turned around. We quickly backtracked and found our way.

There are blue, orange and yellow blazes to follow. 

Terrain is typical for this area: flatwoods and fields.  Today it was particularly pretty, we were just glad to be on the trail.  

Scrub is quite pretty.

During the trek we saw two snakes, a tortoise and several banana spiders. Right at the beginning something bit my leg as I went through tall grass (there are several grassy areas) and Lindsey found a tick on her pants, so I recommend long pants and sleeves.

Lots of double blazing on this route, which in this case means a turn in the trail.  This is very helpful in scrubby spots where the trail wasn't real evident to us.  

Two blazes placed like this means trail goes left.

We crossed a few old roads and came to...train tracks!  

Love crossing over tracks!
Love those witch brooms!

We could hear planes as we got closer to the south trailhead (Zephyrhills' airport is off of Chancey Road). When we arrived at the kiosk it was blank, nothing on it. 

Southern trailhead (nothing on board).

The trail continues but for us this is the turnaround.  We stopped and had something to eat on the picnic table, watching the skydivers.

Parking lot at south end.

Back into the woods we go!

On our way back we stopped at the primitive camping area - 1/4 mile in from the main trail.  Pay close attention to the blazes on this stretch. 
The way to the campsite is sketchy in spots - Look for blazes.

Love their sway!

It's a cute campsite, and we found a geocache!

The hike back to the main trail and to our cars went quickly.  A good out-and-back! 

Our route (I erased our wrong turn - at bottom here).