Saturday, December 26, 2015

Spring Creek is closed, here's the best of the rest

If it hasn't become apparent up to now, today's post will make it clear - I'm a tree person.  The highlight of my day was 'discovering' the artistry of a common southern oak species that was never on my radar until today--the Shumard Oak

"Key West or Bust" - Day 76

For today's report I'm tapping into my personal journal again - need to save some time:

"It was the coldest morning of my winter of hiking.  As I drove to my first trailhead parking spot I could see that there was a general frost on all the grassy areas. I parked at Purify Bay Road at the start of the closed section of trail where the Spring Creek Boardwalk had been washed out by a hurricane. This would have been a pretty place to hike—long boardwalk through a wetland with views out to the open Gulf of Mexico. I took a photo of the closure/reroute sign

and then walked the other way back to my other vehicle, about 3½ miles through some of the prettiest dry land forest I’ve seen. There were mature palms mixed with the Longleaf and with various twisted and struggling oaks - took lots of tree photos.  Here's the best of them: a live oak in a dry sink

All the oaks in this ecosystem are dwarfed in scale by the Longleaf Pines.  The Shumard Oak--a species I've never paid any attention to until today's 'discovery' of the artistry of its leaves, seemed to be more robust than the others.

Two Shumard Oaks, left and center, and a Turkey Oak at right with the Longleaf Pine behind it

This turned out to be the only enjoyable section today. Next I drove the car down to the Trailhead and parked beside the van in order to transfer my cold-morning gear to the van. It had warmed up and only required a sweat shirt by then, and even that would begin to feel too hot later in the day as the temperature reached 70 under ongoing sunshine.

I drove the van out to Joe Crum road and began the five-mile boardwalk bypass road walk to the road crossing on Spring Creek Road where the closure sign is posted on the other side. I did that without incident or much interest, then drove the car on to a busy trailhead farther up Spring Creek Road.

By then it was mid-afternoon and people were out walking their dogs and enjoying the Sunday afternoon’s perfect weather. So the parking lot was nearly full—I got the last space of five or six. This leg was in the woods but the first mile was right beside the paved road, I think it’s called Shell Point Road. The trailhead is at the intersection of this road with Spring Creek Road. The scenery was just trashy looking forest—not dense and tropical but not open savanna either--too much underbrush for my liking.

After crossing the paved road the trail continued to follow it for a bit then struck out westward toward Spring Creek Road. The interesting thing about this section were that it was the first place where there were a significant number of tall mature palms mixed in with the rest of the forest, and there were some pothole ponds. But the ponds weren’t pretty like the one secret little pond I had photographed in the first leg this morning,

and the trail was poor, hard to follow, overgrown and with deadfalls, and on lumpy up and down footing where it went through a big plantation of pines planted in monstrous machine-made furrows. The other complaint (if I need another one) is that the mosquitoes were back now that it was warm and approaching evening. So I was just enduring this section. I got to the van with an hour and ¾ to sunset, having hiked 13 miles, and that was enough for today."

The map of today's route is below.  Included are links to many more photos - more trees included.

Walking around the closed Spring Creek boardwalk at EveryTrail
EveryTrail - Find the best Hiking in Florida

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