Saturday, June 30, 2012

Daily Walks

My wife and I almost daily walk the local trails near my home.  We can walk just outside our neighborhood to one trail or drive a short way to the other one which we like better.  It is an old rail trail and is heavily shaded.  This trail is paved, has benches, trail heads for parking and now, even art.
Trail Art
We like the way people have planted signs and dedicated trees for their dearly departed.  We meet a few of the same people daily walking, running, bicycling or skating during our 33 minute, 2 mile walk.  On days with more time before work, we walk further.  On some weekends I'll walk to the end of the trail a few miles away at the Wekiva River, and usually I'll bicycle there.
We walk for the exercise and for the quiet time we have.  It gives us something to plan for and we even catch up on ideas and plan outings.  I find I miss her when I walk alone, and I don't walk as fast without her.  I can hear her laughing at this.
Except for longer walks, I don't carry a pack or even water.  We are in-and-out so quickly, it really doesn't matter.  We get back to the car and hydrate on the way home.
The other trail is along a power line system and has almost no shade.  While we can walk it quicker without using the car, it just doesn't seem the same.  I save this one for walking in cooler weather or for bicycling because I am usually moving faster and going further.  I can cross the Interstate highway on a pedestrian bridge and pick up that first rail trail to follow it to the end and back for a 20+ mile bike trip.
Both trails have a way of grounding us and helping us handle life's stress.  We like them!
I am so lucky to live in such a nice area with such wonderful trails!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

St. Francis Trail

St. Francis Trail
This day hike runs north along the St. Francis dead river alongside the St. John's river in Lake County. Just follow the orange blazes from the trail head sign.  The town was a steamboat shipping community around the turn of the century and had one of the only roads in the area.  St. Francis had a hotel, a general store and a newspaper!  As the railroads took over the steamboat shipping business and transportation of people into the area, the town died off.  In 1939 it closed shop, people moved away and the Ocala National Forest took over.
Raised Trail with a neat use of screen wire
Today there isn't much to show St. Francis was ever there.  You can follow the trail from the trail head about 4 miles until you hit a dead end at a road crossing with a Wilderness area in front of you.  On the way you travel through a low-land area with raised hiking decks (to keep your feet dry!)  and lots of interesting palm hammocks and oak trees.  The dead river is to your right the entire way.  There is a turn-off to see a sulphur spring to the left, save it for the return trip!  Follow along the floodplain area until you get to a sign and follow it to the right to St. Francis.
After more forest, you come to a raised area and a single path bridge over some water. This place was cleared for growing rice many years ago and the dike you walk along was part of filling the area with water to grow the rice.
Single Lane Bridge
There is another road you cross after this, going right takes you to the dead river, very nice and peaceful.  I found two paint buckets upturned to sit on and enjoy the quiet.  This was an old shell mound and it provides the fill for the road back to the trail.  If you look close you can see another shell pile across the river from you.  This is a good location for camping!
You continue along in forest until you reach a road and the end of the trail.  Take the road to the right to see the river landing on the St. Johns.  Here there isn't much to see except some very nice views. I've watched a few boats go by here on Fridays and expect things would be busy on the river over the weekend.
St. Francis landing
Walking back from the river follow the road 1/3 mile past the trail you will find the return path, off to the left.  Following this takes you through pine scrub and pine forest areas to get back to the trail head.  At one point, you follow a tram path which goes perfectly straight for a long way.  Eventually you arrive at a sign pointing to the right to take to the sulphur spring.  It is a nice loop and you can really smell the spring water.  Follow from there to the trail head and your car.
I first hiked this in February this year (2012) and it was cool and dry that day.  The next time I went with my friend Walt and we hiked the same route but added the dead river side trip (that's Walt in the bridge photo).  It is about 8 miles total and makes for a nice half-day relaxing walk in the woods.  Enjoy!
Return trip along the tram way
To hike to St. Francis, take I-4 North from Orlando to Hwy 44 at Deland.  Go west on 44 through Deland to the St. Johns River.  Take the first right onto County Road 42 and the first right onto River Forest Road at the hiking trail sign.  Do check out this fine site if you would like to know more:

Oh yes, if you are hungry, check out the first restaurant just south of the bridge on the east side of the river or drive on to Deland for a plethora of food places.
St. Johns River Bridge on Highway 44

Sunday, June 10, 2012

FL Hikes

I have found most of the trails that I hike listed in the book "Hikers Guide to the Sunshine State" by Sandra Friend.  She has documented hundreds, no thousands of miles of trails in Florida both in multiple books and online at  I like her style and the level of detail that she writes.  I have actually read her Hikers Guide from cover to cover and plan to hike many of the trails she listed, mostly as backpacking trips when the hot Florida weather cools down.
Many of the trails I hike, I already knew about from when we lived here before moving away to Colorado.  The Florida Trail has changed a bit (fewer road sections) but the national forest trails are still the same.  We have been back in Florida for nine years now and I still get out to bike and hike almost weekly.  Once I found Sandra's book online and purchased it, I have hiked several of the trails she describes.
When I write about that trail, I try not to "compete" with her on the details. No one knows the trails better, or can describe the plant life or trail history in Florida better than Sandra Friend.  I hope to meet her someday to tell her that in person.
Please check Sandra's web site or read one of her many books. Better than that, hike the trails!  The books make great gifts.
This spring we bought our daughter the 50 Walks in Central Florida book.  I expect she is using it for fun...
Sandra is now hiking the Appalachian Trail.  And she is still writing and posting stories when she gets a chance.  Good for her.  And great for us!