Sunday, May 14, 2017

Croom A Loop Day Hike, Florida, May 11, 2017

Distance: 7.5ish miles (AB and A loop)

Trailhead: This hike starts at the Tucker Hill Day Use area, 26414 Croom Road, Brooksville, FL. The area opens at 8:00 a.m. and there is a $2 fee to park.  Trail is located across the street (I've included a map at the end of this report). 

Hiked with the Sun Coast Chapter of the Florida Trail Association, led by Mitch. This area was mined years ago and the hills and dips we encountered are overgrown quarry pits. Mitch knows the area and after the hike took me to the location of a particularly deep pit (directions below).

This area is the place to train if you live in Florida and plan on hiking the Appalachian Trail. Trails total just under 20 miles, divided into three loops: A, B and C, with the optional A-B, and B-C.   

Ten of us left the Tucker Hill Day Use area parking lot, crossed the street and headed into the woods toward the junction of the loop trails.

Photo courtesy of TripAdvisor

Heading into the woods.

We followed a yellow blazed trail until we got to the loop junction, which is well marked. Here we turned right, on to the A-B trail (blue-blazes).

We started on the A-B cross trail.

Trail has blue blazes.

For the most part this hike is in the trees, though I would call this area VERY open woods as the tall pines are far apart.  The trees don't provide adequate protection from the sun (wear a hat).  

I found these woods..... different, with areas of pine dominating the gads of turkey oaks.

Big pines and small but enthusiastic turkey oaks.

We gently descended on the A-B trail and made our way through the 2+ miles of woods. The trail crosses two forest roads: FRs 5 and 7. It's a beautiful, interesting trail.

Field of grasses nestled among the miles of woods.

Don't confuse the blue blazes with the blue rings painted on the trees!  This was a mistake I made several weeks before when I tried to hike this loop.  The rings on the trees (same paint, same height as the blazes) mark the equestrian trail, not the hiking trail.  Also this area has many mountain biking paths - stick with the blazes!

It wasn't long before we arrived at a clearing with several signs, indicating we'd reached the junction of the Florida Trail.  We stopped for a bit then headed north on the Florida Trail (aka the A Loop trail).

A little homemade but effective!

We headed this way, orange blazes.

If you play around in this area you could get a smidge of elevation gain; there are small pits everywhere. The group split off, with some of us playing in this one below.

Not much of a climb but more fun than flat!

It's hard not to think about the many thru-hikers who walked these woods. It's peaceful, serene; the pines don't judge.

Sun was high and it was getting hot.

Back across FR 7.

We walked up and down gentle rollers as we approached "lunch hill," a small bump with a "scenic overlook."  We stopped here for lunch.  In 92° heat that little incline got our blood pumping!

After lunch we continued on to complete our loop.

Crossing FR 4.

Eventually the Florida Trail (orange blazes) turns and we were back hiking the yellow blazed path. 

We got back to our cars early afternoon.  Can't wait to do this hike again!

Location of that deep pit is not shown on this map. Click here for a more detailed map.

Large, deep quarry pit.  At the end of the hike, Mitch had me follow him west on Croom Road past equestrian parking, turning right at the post that reads "FR3/FR6." I recommend high clearance all-wheel drive on this road. There are a few places where my Forester had to stop or back up and reassess to get through comfortably.  We went .8 miles down this road (stay on the main portion of the road), and walked down the short driveway on the left to this huge pit, complete with rough paths. Great for training!