Sunday, May 27, 2012

Seminole State Forest, North Entrance

Zoomed shot of small alligator
The starting gate at the north end of Seminole State forest is not as developed as the south gate, but it works very well.  You park and pay the iron ranger, then go south through the gate and to the left from the road.
Immediately you drop into woods with big oak trees and lots of thick underbrush.  The trail is Florida Trail Nice, very soft and mostly wide.  After turning left you pass directly beside a large and deep sinkhole.  When the trail turns right you pass a dry lake bed on your left and an open area on your right.  There are several places for a tent if you needed to camp.  After the clearing is a bench overlooking a lake.  There is a children's camp across the lake with boats and dock.
Continuing along, the path is straight until you come to the dirt road.  Following the road to the left takes you to an intersection where you turn right.  A sign there shows another Florida Trail campground nearby, and all the trails and campsites in the forest.  Drop down the hill and into the shade for a cool(er) walk.  There is water down here and alligators.  A little one was watching me pass by.  After the water you climb up a ridge and follow the trail to the left alongside the hill for a ways.
The trail passes above Shark Tooth Spring, then joins the path to the camp site.  If you turn left here and follow the trail a little bit you will come to a small bridge over water.  The spring is just up from here and under the hill.  In the sand under water are hundreds (maybe thousands) of tiny prehistoric shark's teeth.  With the Boy Scouts a few years ago, we found several, some a 1/4" long.  Most were half that size.  They have been coming out of the hole in the hill for years.  This stream runs into Blackwater Creek.
Campsite sign
There is a picnic table at the campsite and lots of open area.  It is right next to the road but a good place to camp if you are here late in the day.  The sign was cool (but filter your water)!
From here you cross the road to the trail and follow along the road.  When it drops you back onto the road, cross over and pickup the trail along the other side.  A few years ago this was under water but with this year's ultimate dryness, there was no water.  I was enjoying the solitude when I spooked a deer.  Then I spooked a bear.  The deer ran towards me which was a little scary.  He veered off, stopped and looked back at me.  The bear was just gone.  In 10 seconds he had moved yards away from me and into the woods at a 45 degree angle.  I could still hear him crashing through the woods on the same trajectory.  Away was good.  He had thick black hair and was as big as me.
After the bear sounds quit, I followed along the trail a little bit slower.  I did come to a blind by a clearing which was quite nice.  You could sit here and watch wildlife if you had a chair.  The trail finally dumps you out on the road again, right by a sign and right where you turn left to follow the road to get to Blackwater Creek.  That was where I stopped for a snack the last time with my fiend Walt.
When I got to the picnic tables at the creek I had been walking about 90 minutes, same as the amount of time it took to hike from the south the last time.  One of these days I'll drop a car at one end and walk with a friend across the whole thing at once.  In the winter I'll walk across it all and back when it is cooler.  That will take all day, and maybe I will camp out.  That's nice to dream about when it is 90+ degrees and just the first week of May.  That's hiking in Florida!
A quick snack and a turn around back to the car.  No bears or deer this time, but there was a much larger alligator snoozing along the road in the dark trees by the water.  He was far away and not a problem.  Maybe he ate the little one.
A deer is looking at me in here somewhere...
To get here, go east on I-4 from Orlando to state road 44.  Exit and go west through Deland (check out the cool old homes) and cross the river.  The road to Seminole State Forest is marked with a sign and is a left turn from SR 44 in Cassia.  If hungry there are many places to eat along the river and in downtown Deland.

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