|The Yearling Trailhead sign, across SR 19 from Silver Glen Springs.|
They made a film about The Yearling, shot on location at Pat's Island about 10 years after the book was published. You can read more about the story here.
Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings visited the Long family living on Pat's Island and wrote from the stories they told, fictionalizing the people's names while covering their everyday lives. The story about the fawn happened at least 50 years before that time. She was a great listener, capturing the details and phrases of a time long past. Her book Cross Creek is also a very good read about old Florida.
The Ocala National Forest created the hiking trails in the Juniper Springs Wilderness area that illustrate the Pulitzer Prize winning story. Markers along the trails are set where homesteads used to be and where cemeteries, dip tanks and sinkholes still are. You can find a map here.
Pat's Island is a hill above the Florida scrub that is covered with pine trees and is cooler and wetter than the scrub around it. Much like an Island surrounded by water, Pat's Island is surrounded by the poorer and dryer scrub lands around it.
|Blank archaeology sign, the far trees in the background are Pat's Island|
|Jody's Trace trail sign, turn right|
|Disappearing trail, must watch the yellow blazes closely|
The trail passed through shade and sun, going through several burn areas, some with tall widow makers all around you. Once dead, these sentinels stand strong for a decade or so, then are silently toppled by wind. Do watch and be careful. I did feel the sense of stillness around me a few times, surrounded by stark sentinels on all sides, dead oak trees and dead pine trees where the fires once burned too hot. But then I moved along into shade with birdsong and the wind sounds through pine needles keeping my thoughts company.
|Widow-maker propped over trail by a very thin sapling|
|Look closely between the trees to see a red headed woodpecker knock-knocking|
|Once a field|
|Trail sign, left to cemetery, turn right to Florida Trail|
|This sinkhole used to supply drinking water to about a dozen people who lived here, now it is dry|
|Trail sign at the Florida Trail, turn left|
|Florida Trail clean campsite|
I pushed on another half hour along the Florida Trail going up and down the rolling terrain to the next trail marker and turned left (east). This was a high point, with the land falling off Pat's Island down to the scrub below. An old cistern was sunk in the ground here and it is surrounded by a low fence. The map shows this was the site of Reuben and Sara Long's home. If that is correct, what a view they had!
|Return trail sign, turn left|
|Fence surrounds sunken cistern at the Long's home site|
|The view goes on forever and this photo just cannot show it the way I saw it|
On the trail again, vultures circled far above on the air currents, looking for food. About halfway back to the first trail junction, there is the Long Family cemetery to the right of the trail. There are several headstones, most of them are marked and the fenced plot was kept clean. Reuben & Sara Long are buried here, along with many of their children. Someone takes care of this site and that did my heart good. The short trail to the north connects with the sinkhole.
|Along the trail|
|A sign at the cemetery gate|
|Reuben Long, a Confederate soldier passed in 1915|
|Sara Long, Reuben's wife passed in 1909|
|Many family members are buried here and the cemetery was kept very clean, return to the trail and turn right to return to your car|
I passed another post marking the Cora Long home that used to be there. Again, there was nothing to betray the fact to the casual hiker.
I came to a post with the numeral 11 on it, but only had 10 posts marked on my map. At the trailhead kiosk, marker 11 shows an old cedar tree, which was not at the post with the 11 on it. Maybe it was burned in a fire or I just missed it. Cedar trees growing naturally in Florida usually mark where an outcropping of limestone is 30 feet or less below the ground.
|More of Pat's Island forest|
|Cactus in the scrub along the trail back to the car|
If you are driving, from Orlando, go east on I-4 to Deland and exit on state road 44 and follow that west to town. Go right (north) on highway 17, and stay left on 17 when 92 splits off to the right to Daytona Beach. Follow 17 north through the country to Pearson, where you turn left (west) onto State Road 40. Cross the St. John river at Astor and follow to highway 19. Turn right at the light (north) and follow about 7 miles to the Yearling Trail sign on the left. Park here at the trailhead for a fine walk. Silver Glen Springs is directly across the road.
Cellular service in the Ocala National Forest is sparse at best. Do carry your 10 essentials, wear a hat and carry a couple quarts/liters of water and make sure you leave written instructions of where you are behind with a friend or a loved one.