Saturday, March 17, 2018

Croom B Loop Day Hike, Withlacoochee Forest, FL, March 11, 2018


Distance: 10ish miles (B, BC and AB Loop)

Trailhead: This hike starts at the Tucker Hill Day Use area, 26414 Croom Road, Brooksville, FL. The parking area opens at 8:00 a.m. and there's a $2 fee to park.  "B" Loop trail starts just past the kiosk - same side of the street as the fire tower (I've included a map at the end of this report). 

Croom Tract is one of three areas in the Withlacoochee State Forest. The tract has three hiking loops (A, B, and C) and connector trails. A portion of the orange blazed Florida National Scenic Trail (referred to here as the Florida Trail) runs within the Croom tract.  The area is also widely used for horseback riding and off-road cycling.

Yesterday Carol and I decided to hike with full packs to the primitive campsite on B Loop and spend the night. We needed to check out the condition of our backpacking gear (for future, more intense adventures).

Day 1: Trek in five miles.  We got to the Tucker Hill Day Use area around 2:30, paid our parking fee and informed the camp host (he's across the street) that we planned to spend the night at the B Loop primitive campsite.   We were disappointed to learn that a boy scout troop was also camping there. 

Located five miles down the trail, the site is actually less than a quarter mile from Croom Road (trail crosses the road just before the Nobleton Croom intersection). We decided to keep the original plan but first drove to the road crossing, walked in, spoke with the scoutmaster and dropped off our water (any water needed must be brought in to this site).  The scouts were already set up - sites are first come first served but apparently you can reserve a backcountry site if you have five or more intending to stay the night.

After returning to Tucker Hill, we headed on foot to the campsite (it was after 3:00 by then).  Skies were overcast and gray and we worried we might lose the light we needed to set up our site.  But we got there about 4:40 and were having dinner in the daylight.

Parked here. B Loop begins beyond the kiosk.
When hiking here, keep in mind that the Croom tract has many equestrian and off road cycling trails.  Stay on the blazed trails (don't follow the rings painted around the trees - those are horse trails).

Carol checking out some flora.

After about a mile we went left onto B-C Loop for 1.24 miles, then connected back up with B Loop. 

Open pine flatwoods, well marked.

Quite a few forest road crossings meet the trail, each well marked so it's easy to to orient via the map.  

Several miles beyond the B-C Loop/B Loop junction the trail turns left.  I don't have a photo of this intersection -  it's clearly a trail junction and consists of hand made signs and Florida Trail orange blazes.  Turn left here onto the Florida trail.  Don't go straight, don't take the Silver Lake Connector. It's confusing because the sign indicates straight will also get you to Croom Rd (further down).  But go left and you'll cross the road right where we stopped the car to stash our water.


Trail crosses here. Site is on the other side (north side).

At the site we picked a flat spot and pitched the tent, hung the hammock. The scouts were quiet; we were far enough away but did enjoy hearing their evening ceremony and the applause. They quieted down early enough (but were up very early).



Fairly close to the trail.

Sunset.

As with most woodsy overnights, I slept lightly and during the night could hear an owl hooting and another nocturnal creature shrieking (more mysterious than unpleasant).  I awoke as dawn was breaking (thanks to the scouts breaking camp).

A bit of the moon shining through this early morning.

After they left we checked out the main part of this large primitive campsite.



Fire pit and sitting log.

Plenty of room for camping.

Day 2: Trek out <5 miles. Packed up and back on the trail we hiked back at a decent pace - the day was warming up.  


It didn't take long to reach the A-B/B/A Loop junction.  Several handmade signs are here and it can be just a bit confusing but we went left toward Tucker Hill (and our cars).  The Florida Trail continues straight, onto A Loop (see previous report).

This area of the trail has small ups and downs, something you don't see much of in Florida flatwoods. I love a trail with character!

"A" Loop is straight if you want to add another 1.5 miles.


We're back with the blue blazes.

Exactly 2.78 miles later we were at our last trail junction. We went left and ten minutes later the Tucker Hill fire tower was in our sites.

There's another primitive campsite here.

Yellow blazed.

The Croom Tract is one of my "go to" places because of the ups and downs (small inclines that you don't see often in Florida).  I had a chance to check out my gear for an upcoming trip, and to see what this loop was all about. I hope to do C loop sometime soon.