Thursday, February 6, 2020

Blackwater Creek Nature Preserve, Plant City, Florida, February 4, 2020

Distance: 6.5 miles (RT)

Location: Trailhead is located on 2469 Patrinostro Road in Plant City. There is a small parking lot (parking is free). No restrooms, no water.

Blackwater Creek Nature Preserve is a 2200 acre parcel consisting of pine flatwoods, marshes, prairies and a blackwater stream (so named for its color, the result of decomposing debris in and on the bottom of the stream). 

Note: Most of this hike is in the sun; be sure to bring plenty of water and sunscreen.

Hiked with Lindsey today.  I'd been to this preserve several years ago, on a group hike with a naturalist.  The group moved very slowly, stopping to talk here and there.  I was anxious to revisit the preserve and walk it without all the breaks!

Entrance.



The trails encompass a large, odd shaped loop (see below), with an optional stop off at the river. We didn't use the bypass but that's an option for you should you want to shorten your time here.  We went counter-clockwise, onto an old road with a few trees.  Be aware there are MANY roads that shoot off from these two trails but your path is well marked (it helps to pay attention).

Much of this area is wet for most of the year.

We went left,


A good portion of this hike is out in the open.

And mostly old roads......


It's incredibly peaceful here.  We didn't see anyone else, just a woodpecker and a few cranes at the river.



When hiking old roads on prairies, fields and flatwoods, it's easy to get turned around; at times feel like you're walking in circles. Everything looks the same to the untrained eye.  The Preserve map has numbered the trail in sections and as you can see, the numbers on the posts we passed correspond to the map.



Number 8 signals a junction that will take you to the river.  This area is a no miss, makes the road trudge in the open worth the trip!




Lovely Blackwater Creek.


We hung out for a bit, taking in the peaceful, slow moving water of the creek. Then back out and in the open!



There are more shaded areas on right half of the map than on the left, and more than a few muddy spots.


We were quickly back at post #1 and a few minutes later, back in our cars.  

I'm glad I revisited this hike, though I doubt I'll return in the warmer weather!

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Creek Bluffs Loop, Tiger Creek Preserve, Lake Wales, Florida, January 19, 2020

Distance: 2.8 miles (lollipop loop)

Location: The trailhead is located at the end of Wakeford Rd in Lake Wales (8373 Wakeford Road is listed as the address on the webpage). There is no fee to park.




Hiked with Rich.  We were in the area and decided to do a short hike before heading home.  We chose the Creek Bluffs Loop because the website description promised lush river landscape and high bluffs.


Small parking lot.

We parked the car in the near-empty lot and walked through an opening in the fence that continues on a very sandy road.



Deep sugar sand is tough to walk in.  There are several areas on this hike where the route puts you on the silky white stuff (the one drawback of the hike IMO). 


Follow the signs.

The trail leading to the "loop" part of this hike is blazed in white.


First part of the hike 

Very quickly the trail leads you into lush Florida river terrain thick with palmettos.


Slopes down and around.


Pink-blazed Creek Bluffs Loop (the circle portion of the hike) is well marked with many twists and turns but we found it easy to follow.  

Start of the pink-blazed loop.

Headed to the creek and bluffs.


We stopped and sat on a bench just about the time the SpaceX rocket was launched. It was the perfect viewpoint but the clouds prevented us from seeing it.


There are many benches on the bluffs overlooking the river.



The trail eventually crosses a sandy road and leads into pine scrub. There are a few small ups and downs here but for the most part it's in the open and not as appealing as the trail creekside.  This part of the trail is a little more than a mile so we were back at the beginning of the loop in no time.

Unless you want to make a long day of it, stay on Creek Bluffs.

The way back to the car.

After a lunch of barbecue in Lake Wales, we headed home.

The Creek Bluffs Loop is a nice little hike if you are out this way and have an hour to kill.



Saturday, January 18, 2020

Circle B Bar Reserve, Lakeland, Florida, January 15, 2020

Distance: 5.5 miles (RT)

Location: The Reserve is located at 4399 Winter Lake Road in Lakeland. Trails are well signed and maps are available.

Note: A good portion of this hike is without shade. Bring a hat, sunscreen and plenty of water.

Originally wetlands connected to Lake Hancock, this area was drained for cattle farming and in 1949 became a working cattle ranch: the Circle B Bar Ranch.

In 2000, the property was purchased from the Belloto family by area county commissioners and Southwest Florida Water Management District with plans of restoration. The effort recreated the wetland and is now home to several distinct ecosystems and hundreds of plants and animal species. Polk's Nature Discovery Center, which serves as a visitor's center and educational program and meeting venue, is located at the end of the road. There is no fee to enter the Reserve, which has picnic tables, restrooms (mostly portajohns), and nature trails.

Hiked with Sue and Elethia today.  I'd heard a lot about the Reserve but passed on previous offers to hike as it's a long drive for me; seemed like a lot of effort for just five or six miles of hiking. But I figured it was time to check the place out (and there was a promise of catfish for lunch after the hike!).     

We arrived just before 9:00; the Discovery Center not yet open.  Fog engulfed Lake Hancock and only a few folks were on the trails (mostly photographers).

We started on the Shady Oak trail toward Alligator Alley and Marsh Rabbit Run.  Oak trees shaded our path. Two feral hogs rooted around in the grass next to the trail (hogs are very elusive - it was pretty incredible to see them just a few feet from us!).

Here "Wildlife has the right of way!"

Mellow path - plenty of lazy oaks!

The inhabitants of the Reserve were going about their day.  We saw dozens of Anhingas, whistling ducks, herons, and ibises.  


Lake Hancock just waking up.

One of the many Anhingas.

Raccoons simply walked along the path, oblivious to us.  


One of the three raccoons - very close.

Heading along Alligator Alley.

Flock of whistling ducks.

We went left at the trail junction onto Wading Bird Way.  The lake lies to the left and right of this berm.  This "trail" is a dirt road; we had to make way for the Reserve's tram.

Trail junction. We went left.


Obligatory gator shot.....

At the end of Wading Bird Way is another junction. Right leads to the Fort Fraser Connector Trail and the end of the Reserve; left loops around via the back side of the water, eventually back toward the Discovery Center. We went left.

This portion of the hike is out in the open and the sun was just peeking through the fog - it was getting warm. Some shade is available once the road swings to the left.  


Eagle Roost trail has an eagle's nest(left, in the distance).

Eventually we wound up back at the junction of Alligator Alley and Marsh Rabbit Run. We headed straight, taking a left on Treefrog Trail.



Treefrog Trail is more trail than road: narrow, and sweetly lined with a few citrus trees. It's somewhat shaded and very pleasant but the trail drops you off at the entrance to the Reserve so we had to walk the paved road back toward the Discovery Center.

A family of feral hogs were grazing in a field.

Mother pig ushering her babes back in the woods.

A big educational event was planned for the next day and tents were being set up in a field. We checked out a small cabin, part of a recreated nineteenth century cow camp where ranch hands would gather livestock in preparation for a cattle drive. Beyond the field and cabin is the Lost Bridge trail, a somewhat wet path that leads to the Discovery Center.


Image may contain: Sue Mitchell, smiling, house, sky, tree and outdoor
Part of the cow camp re-creation. Photo courtesy of Sue.

Lovely bridge on Lost Bridge trail.

Not sure if the bridge above is the reason for the name of the trail but after trekking through the often-flooded portion of the path, I wonder if the bridge lost might have been one that should be over the wet trail!  Those who hike in Florida regularly expect a portion of trails to be under water and plan for it with a change of footwear at the end of the journey.

About 50 yards of the trail was wet.

Back to the car and changed, we headed to Catfish Country in Bartow, just a few miles from the Reserve.

Visiting Circle B Bar Reserve is definitely worth the drive!  The park is open until sunset, a popular time to view wildlife.  I'll definitely be back here, lots to see.