Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Twin Rivers - the Suwannee with and without the Withlacoochee

Hollow fallen tree with attitude.

"Key West or Bust" - Day 85

Today's hike took me alongside both rivers for which Twin Rivers State Forest is named.  Here's the account from my personal journal:

"I was on the trail at 9:30—two hours after sunrise. The hike was, for the most part very pleasurable.  I started by walking down the west bank of the Withlacoochee, headed toward where it empties into the Suwannee River.  The trail stayed close to the river for a couple miles with lots of views, but the views themselves were just of a big river. There weren’t many impressive trees lining it, though when the trail went inland a short way there were loads of huge live oaks and other trees—it was like a hall of giants. Unfortunately the grandiose beauty of such sights doesn’t photograph well, so I stuck to shooting selected river scenes and smaller stuff.  Here's the choicest view of the Withlacoochee:

The trail left the river before it met the Suwannee in order to cross a railroad track and old and new versions of US 90 at the old abandoned river town of Ellaville (a short side trip from the trail).  Here's a comparable river view of the much wider Suwannee below the Withlacoochee:

Besides the angry overturned tree featured as the headline photo, smaller stuff of interest today included the lush ferns and mosses.  It had rained overnight and the Resurrection ferns had all sprung to life.  Here are some cute little ones on a small tree accompanied by bright green moss.

When the trail came to I-10 it left the river and took me west--in the woods but right beside the noisy highway for a mile and a half, then south for a mile on River Road--a lightly traveled dirt road with an over-built bridge over I-10, separating Twin Rivers State Forest on the east from mega-farms on the west.

The trail then plunged into the State Forest again and there was a very distinctive area of longleaf pines and old but still dwarf Post Oaks. These post oaks had Spanish moss and resurrection ferns all over them. So except for the fact that they’d dropped all their leaves they looked like miniature versions of live oaks—very pretty.

Soon the trail came beside the Suwannee River and followed it for a mile or so, then another mile or a bit more and I was at the Black Tract trailhead where my car was parked. Driving it out, down River Road showed me how soft the rain had made that road. It was a big surprise—it had seemed so firm when I walked it yesterday. Still, there weren’t any places where the soft sandy mud was very deep, so the car wasn’t even close to being bogged down.  The key is to keep moving at a steady pace regardless. Once on paved roads I drove on past the van’s current parking place beside the Withlacoochee and followed the 2.4 mile trail road walk to a boat ramp on the Suwannee River above the Withlacoochee.

The parking area here serves as a trailhead for the Big Oak Trail--formerly part of the Florida Trail.  The road walk that replaces it was what I drove in on, and the last mile and a half of that was on pretty sketchy dirt road. I had to drive my passenger car through several bog pits, but they had very firm bottoms. The water wasn’t more than six inches deep at worst and the mud was only a couple inches thick above the solid base. One could get stuck there, though, and I surely would have preferred not to drive the car there. But once committed to that road I knew it would be more risky to try to turn around than to just keep going.  To repeat, the key is to keep moving, regardless.

I got to the boat ramp/trailhead successfully and then walked back to the van--road walk, nothing of interest.  I was finished at 4:45PM—an hour before sunset, having hiked close to twelve miles."

Below is a map of the day's hiking, with links to more photos.

Twin Rivers State Forest at EveryTrail
EveryTrail - Find the best hikes in California and beyond

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