We had really hoped to get out and go paddling today but two things have caused us to reconsider. First it was 36 degrees here last night and is only expected to warm into the 50’s today. Secondly this is spring break week locally and the concessionaire has more rentals for boats than he can handle. That means so much traffic on the river that it won’t be much of a natural experience. We just don’t seem to be able to get away from the spring break thing. All over Florida apparently the schools and colleges stagger their spring break through March and April. So unless you plan those two months knowing exactly which schools are off where, it seems difficult to avoid them. Of course going to a park without access to the ocean or springs might help. If you’ve done Florida in the winter, can you suggest where to go in March and April for some easy quiet days?
So what will we do? We’ll go hiking. Now that the two sides of the river are both part of the state park, there are a lot of trails to hike as you can see in the map above..
We’ll stay on the campground side since the attraction side will be the busiest. We’ve chosen what are known as the River Trails. These aren’t trails in the river for paddling. They are trails to the river. One is the Swamp Trail which looks red to me on the map below but they say is orange and the other is the River Trail which is light blue, not to be confused with the Blue Trail across the river or with Spring Trail which is a 3rd shade of blue. It’s also across the river.
Both trailheads are reached through this well advertised gateway near the museum.
Yup it’s the fork in the road. And as Yogi advised, we take it.
The swamp trail begins as a sandy, piney, smells great, trail.
I spot this on the ground. He blends in pretty well with last year’s fallen leaves and the spent pine needles.
A closer look later makes me think this is a Southern Cloudywing. A type of skipper.
We move from pines to hardwood hammock as we get closer to the water.
The swamp boardwalk looks relatively new.
If you’ve followed us for very long in Florida you know that I love swamps and love to paddle in them if there are enough open spots to do so.
Just off the side of the boardwalk we see this Florida Black Racer.
He’s got his head up looking at us as we look at him. He’s no threat in fact he’s one of the good guys who eats rodents.
The trail ends at the river which is looking lovely today. I manage to get its picture between paddlers and pontoon boats.
Looking down over the boardwalk into the clear water I can see fish even in the shadows. They are a lot clearer when they swim into the sunshine. I think these are all the same type of fish or maybe not since I don’t know my fish. So Nancy what am I looking at?
One last look down stream and we head back the way we came.
Another spotting in the leaves along the trail. Wow is she big and colorful. This is a female Eastern Pondhawk dragonfly.
The swamp trail is sort of a lolipop trail, a loop with a stick out to the river and back to the loop. We pass by the path we came down and continue around the loop and wish we hadn’t. It comes back out on the other side of the Education Center after mostly following a section of the sink hole trail which we’ll do at another time. Back at the Trail head we take the right fork this time
The river trail used to get a lot of use as it was the only place in the park to put in your kayak to paddle up to the spring head. The park also rented kayaks and kept them here. That was when the Springs was under private ownership. The boat racks here are now empty but look perfect for locking up your own kayak and coming down multiple days to paddle rather than drag it back and forth.
I suspect few people will use this boat ramp since now that the park owns the spring, there is a put in up there so you can drive your car pretty close, off load your boats, float down and paddle back up.
The path here is a nice wide path and only has soft sand in one or two places Still it’s a long way to tote without a cart with wheels.
We’re checking it out today for a paddle tomorrow. Even with the easier launch at the springs, I still prefer to launch here and paddle up and then float back. The trail, the boardwalk and the dock all look the same as they did 4 years ago just less used.
It was right here 4 years ago as we returned from a great paddle that we were trapped in our boats by a band of Rhesus Macques Monkeys that commandeered the dock for a while as we waited and watched. That post is here.
Some common moorhens are busy slurpping up the water vegetation.
They have added a new loop on the River Trail called the River Field Trail so we take that which turns out to be almost as long as the River Trail itself and is not so much river as field being pretty much a mowed path that makes a semi circle from near the end of the river trail to near the beginning.
This one unofficial path into the scrub was the only sighting of the river along the entire thing.
There isn’t a clear view of the river from the bench so I’m not sure why it’s here especially since there is no indication on the trail itself of its existance.
But if you do a little creative maneuvering in the scrub you can find some pretty windows out to the water. Don’t try this during mosquito season.
David’s feeling tired so he waits on the bench. Maybe that’s what it is good for. One person goes off exploring and the other patiently waits.
Back on the river trail I come upon this lovely phaon crescent butterfly,
The trail ends back at the River Trails sign. We picked up 12,347 steps along the way. It sure is nice to be in a park with so many choices of things to do without getting in our car.