Sunday, April 16, 2017

Cypress Flood Plain River Hike at Richloam, Webster, Florida, 4/13/2017

Cypress Flood Plain River Hike at Richloam, Withlacoochee State Forest, Webster, Florida, April 13, 2017

Distance: 11ish miles (lollipop)

Trailhead: Hike begins at the Richloam fire tower at 38294 Richloam Clay Sink Road, Webster, FL.  (I've included a rough map at the end of this report). 

This is one of my favorite area hikes!  A beautiful forest turns into the mysterious and forgotten - you'll feel like you've gone back in time and discovered a deep, isolated part of the world within the cypress flood plain.

Hiked with the Sun Coast Chapter of the Florida Trail Association today. We parked at the fire tower and headed back up Richloam Clay Sink Road (left out of the parking lot) a hundred yards or so before ducking left into the woods and onto the trail.

The group parked in the fire tower lot.

On Richloam Clay Sink Rd - trail ducks in just before the next intersection.

The path is blue blazed and connects to the Florida Trail, which has orange blazes.  The side trail that leads from the Florida trail to the river is also blue blazed. All trails are well marked.  

We went south - a new sign was installed in 2018.

Extremely dry forests and more than a few wildfires have been plaguing the state but this area is unaffected so far.

Keep south. From here on the blazes should be orange.

It's serene as we passed through thick woods, and fields of tall pines. One of the dirt road crossings requires a left turn and short walk to the continuation of the trail (noted by a double blaze prior to reaching the road).

There are several road crossings (see map).

No, you shouldn't bring your tractor on this hike!

The trail is well maintained and crosses several bridges.

A well-built bridge over a dry stream bed.

Another road! It's obvious where the trail continues, though.

Our plan was to enter the "lollipop" portion of the route from the south, making a small clockwise loop.  We walked by the first sign to the trail pictured below (this is the north entrance). We will return from the river to this sign.

North entrance to the river - we went straight (clockwise loop).

Side trail to a primitive campsite.
Picnic table and fire ring at the site.

Five miles went fast! We took the south entrance of the "Scenic Low Water River Trail." Note: this sign may be facing south, so you may be approaching the back of the sign.

This is the south entrance to the river, we went here.

The scenery changes as you get closer to the river. The sun went behind a cloud, muting the already shadowed surroundings. 

The group entering the enchanted forest.

We were in a cypress flood plain, lush and eerie.  Several watermarks remain on the trees, a field of large multi-shaded trunks. 

Like sentinels guarding the river (photo by Howard).

Two watermarks, one over 4', are shown here.

The woods are hushed as we got out our phones to take photos.  Though the trail is dry, it wouldn't take much rainfall to muddy up the plain.  To think the only way around here in high water is by boat - we'd be up to our chests in water.  We so often forget how powerful our weather can be!

We made our way to the edge of the Withlacoochee River where we had lunch and watched things in the river float by.  It's a peaceful spot (the river is quite low).

At the river.

To complete the lollipop portion of the hike the group headed right (as you face the river) and following the river (and the blue blazes) back to the Florida Trail, where we took a left and backtracked back to the cars.

We followed the river for a bit on our way back.

Back to that north entrance trail.

We got back to the cars before 2 p.m. and headed home.  

This hike wowed me - definitely worth the miles. 

I'd go back again just to see those dark giants looming over a silent wood.

Map with the route highlighted.

Our track.