Friday, January 3, 2014

Palm Bluff Conservation Area Hike

Palm Bluff Conservation Area is a bird watcher's paradise.
Those Woodstorks in that tree just took flight from a pond because my friend Walt and I were walking near them in the Palm Bluff Conservation Area in Volusia County
Palm Bluff  Conservation AreaTrailhead
It was a warm 77 degrees and rainy that day: winter days in Florida can be this way sometimes.  Hot and humid with threatening weather.  We hiked a little over seven miles through a mostly wooded area and only met one group of horse riders all day.   In addition to bird watchers and hikers, horseback riders are attracted to Palm Bluff for the quiet rides through Florida scrub land.  This land is being conserved by the St. Johns River Wildlife Management District.  It is just over 3 miles north of Osteen on county road 415, near Deltona, close to Orlando.
We also spooked a flock of bluebirds, watched carrion birds circle overhead and listened to cat bird calls as we walked along a power line easement that cuts through the conservation area.  The paperwork had said this area is supposedly fine for watching birds and it was right.  Woods-wise, there was a lot of forestry work going on clearing trash trees and general logging near the entrance.   None of the forest work was being done today and a few areas would be closed to hikers when they are working.  Once we reached the first power line cut on the north side of the Red loop, there was no more of the forest work. 
Palm Bluff Trail Map
We followed the Red Loop Trail, the largest loop marked on the trail map above with "R's".  The trail followed dual-lane roads and then cut through the woods on single track, and was well marked with bright red diamonds on the trees.  As we neared the first crossing of Deep Creek we came to a log cabin that looked like someone’s hunting lodge.  It was well kept and offered shade to the horse riders resting on the porch.  I could just sit here and listen to the creek bubble and the wind blowing in the trees all day, it was that nice and peaceful.  
Palm Bluff Log Cabin
We continued on and crossed Deep Creek on a small board using our walking sticks (the water was low), keeping our feet dry. The creek had cut deep here and we climbed the bank on the other side, then turned South along the Red Trail single track, skipping the 2.1 mile Yellow Loop for this trip.  This part of the trail was more quiet with patches of scrub land to the east, and oak hammock and palms to the west. It got darker, and a little cooler as the clouds closed in. 
That's me on the Red Trail Loop, just after the stream crossing and before the rain.
We stopped for a break to eat our apples under a tree past the bridge of the second river crossing, and the sky opened up.  We donned our raincoats and continued along in the rain.  Palm Bluff is still partially farm land, with a few cows meandering about.  There are farms to the west and south that we could see through the trees.  We passed through a group of cattle along the power line cut, making jokes about calling them wildlife.  Right then the earth to our left exploded in white birds.   
We stopped and watched the Woodstorks alight into a tall cypress tree to our right.  It is interesting how they all landed in the tree facing the same direction.  The rain had stopped and the sun was back out, and it was warm again.  
We followed the trail further, then we heard the rain coming.  It quit raining right as we donned our jackets again.  I know, very funny.  
Red Trail Loop through long-leaf pines
By now my shorts and shoes had dried from the earlier rainfall.  This side of the park was mostly longleaf pine, a much more commercially usable wood product than the slash and white pines we first walked through.  Walt told me about how the first few years of the longleaf pine's life is spent driving a deep taproot, then it shoots up, above the forest fire flames.  I talked about the 5-inch thick bark I have seen on fallen longleaf pine trees, a sure defense against the fire this tree needs for survival.  Check the Link Here for more longleaf pine information.  After the second power line cut, we were back walking in the woods again.  It was now 71 degrees, somewhat cooler than it was when we started.  Birds sang, the breeze blew and the clouds passed overhead.  
Camping is allowed in the group campsite area near the entrance shown on the map.  I hope they add another campsite on the Yellow Loop trail for us lite packers, so we can have a long backpack walk in to it. After a nice walk, Walt and I made our way back to the trail head, satisfied with a fine hike.  We were even dry.

No comments:

Post a Comment