Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.

Henry David Thoreau

Hikes at Hillsborough River

Friday and Saturday                                                                                Most Recent Posts:
January 13 and 14, 2017                                        Our First Week at Hillsborough Ends Finally and on a High Note
Hillsborough River State Park                                                                 David’s Happy Birthday
Thonotosassa, FL




Hillsborough River has several of my favorite kind of hikes -  accessible without driving.  On Friday we walk from our site up the river to cross over the Suspension Bridge and hike both the Baynard and Seminole Trails.

We walk by the lower bridge and what was once apparently a place to swim in the river.  There are actually two spots or perhaps 3 along this riverside path that have steps right down into the water.  Swimming is no longer allowed.  Makes me wonder why it was ever allowed or why it was banned since I doubt the alligators have changed their habits.

I do love the CCC suspension bridge from which we can look down on the 2nd set of rapids which was the site of yesterday’s excitement.





We cross the suspension bridge and first do the Baynard Trail named after the park’s first superintendent in the 1930’s.


From the map, which I’ve made HUGE so it can be read, you can see that Baynard is a 1.1 mile loop hike which starts along the river and ends at the connection to the “Florida Trail” which I’ll talk about later..  The Baynard is a nice easy hike through the “jungle” with several boardwalks over now dry “wetlands” and some really BIG trees. 






We finish the Baynard and begin the 3.4 mile “Florida Trail”, on the left of the map.  This

trail used to be blazed orange so when I initially came to Hillsborough River our first year of fulltiming, I thought this was part of THE Florida Trail which runs south to north 1400 miles through the entire state and is blazed orange.  I mean who wouldn’t think that given the name and the blaze.

But then I walked this trail and there was no spur going off to THE Florida Trail.  Since that time apparently others thought the same thing and the park has changed the blaze to yellow though it didn’t look like they’d changed the name.  I suggested to David that they call it Our Florida Trail.  Later when we looked at the park map, we saw this trail was named The Seminole Trail.  I guess they will get around some day to changing the name on the map of the board by the trail.  When they do, I hope they don’t put up a map that is not as nice and big as this one.

Anyway……….the Seminole Trail also runs along the river so we could see places we’d paddled yesterday. 

This palm tree must have been blown down or had some other difficulty but it is carrying on.  Now you just walk under it as it reaches for the sun or, as we and obviously lots of others did based on the smoothness of the trunk,  you hop on or sit for a spell.


It’s a fun trail in other ways too.  David steps inside this hollowed out trunk.  You’d think this tree was dead since it only has part of the bark at the base.  But you’d be wrong.  Up above are branches with leaves.  An amazing tribute to life.

David finds this little wide feather which he thinks must have come from the breast of a bigger bird like an owl. 








We are having a lovely quiet walk through this beautiful woods along the gorgeous river when we hear what we call the bang, bang canoeists.   They are horsing around and yelling at each other as they purposefully bang into each other in their noisy aluminum canoes.  Whatever wildlife the kayakers who meet them at this bend hoped to see are long gone by now.




I don’t believe I’ve ever seen anyone paddling backwards in a canoe.  Wonder if the guy on the phone is calling for instructions?



We slow down to let them go on ahead and enjoy the views of the river until their voices can no longer be heard.




Crossing this bridge we recognize it having seen it from the water yesterday.







Some people say the ibis should be Florida’s state bird since there are so many of them.



Alligator in the water? 



Sure looks like it.   The closest view shows it to be a piece of wood.  I just have to laugh out loud at Mother Nature.  An amazing natural mimic.




There are big trees in this park.  It doesn’t appear that the area has ever been clear cut.
David looks rather like an ant.



But this tree is beyond big.  I’m dwarfed.  It looks venerable and old.  When I sit down on one of its toes I am so sorry that it is no longer alive.  It’s so old and gnarled.







But then we walk around to the other side and crane our necks up and sure enough, there are several limbs coming out of the top of this tree.  Really amazing.  I wonder how old it must be.  Seems it deserves a sign of recognition and information.



On we go enjoying every step, marveling at the beauty here.




I imagine that at other times of the year, this trail is much wetter.  Today we find only one little pond and no water around the numerous knees.  I’d love to see it more swamp like but then that would probably be during mosquito season.




Often, we could hear birds twittering in the trees and see them flitting back and forth but the only one big enough for a picture was this pileated woodpecker.  Once they start pounding and calling you can’t mistake them for anything else.  The pileated is the largest woodpecker in North America unless the Ivory Billed isn’t extinct. 



On Saturday, the third and last trail we walk turns into a surprise. We bike over to Parking Lot #5 about 1/2 a mile or so. We’re hiking the wetlands trail.

It starts out as a dirt road. We don’t see any wetlands.  Or at least no wet land.


The woods at Hillsborough River are full of beautiful live oak trees but we both agree this one is the most impressive that we’ve seen.   It’s arms reach to the ground out of view of the picture below.   If I backed up any more, you wouldn’t even be able to see David.   What a canopy this tree has.   He’s carved out his own piece of the sky.



Same tree, different angle.  You can see an branch on the ground on the left and one that has broken off on the right.



We stay quite a while exclaiming over the tree and find that there are numerous small birds flitting all over in its branches.  We watch and try to grab pictures but this is the only one even vaguely identifiable.  I’m saying black and white warbler.  Pretty sure lots of the birds I was seeing were warblers. 


On the side of the trail/road opposite the great tree are a line of electric poles.  They go down the road the entire way.   When we reached the woods on both sides of the road they had turned off but neither of us noticed where they went or another road coming in from either side.  We didn’t realize this until we started looking at the pictures.  But on top of one of the wires next to an insulator was a fabulous kestral.



I was lucky to get this shot as he decided to change locations.


So far we haven’t gotten very far down the road with all there has been to experience including this beautiful queen butterfly.





About a mile and a half or so down the road we come to a gate which tells us we are leaving Hillsborough River and entering   Dead River Wilderness Park.



The trail narrows somewhat and the environment changes.


We are now walking along the river.



We recognize some spots from our paddle yesterday.  We had seen the “leaving Hillsborough River State Park” sign as we floated by but there was no indication of why the banks continued to be wilderness.  We just very grateful that they were.


Beautiful water views and an accomodating bench to enjoy them.







This tree seems almost a gateway to the rest of the trail.  As I walk through, I spot the bright orange balls and point them out to David.




There they are, wayyyy up there.



The tree has serious protection to keep the thief from climbing or shaking the oranges down.



He tries throwing some sticks at the branch and jiggling a vine to try to make the oranges swing.


He continues his attempts past the point of my interest so I walk on down the trail.
I walk on an on with no end of the trail in sight, no signs, no nothing.  It’s hard in this sort of circumstance to not want to go on beyond every curve in the trail.  But the afternoon is getting away and I have to turn around. 


I meet David on the way back. He’s had success and later gives me this picture of his treasure which he says tasted better than anything we’ve found this winter in Florida. Not sure why the oranges are not up to their usual deliciousness but that’s our experience so far this year.





He points out a snoozing black snake along the edge of the trail before we reach the orange tree again.






A closer picture shows he’s not sleeping.





We reach the orange tree and he has extoled the virtues of this orange to the point that I want to taste one myself.  He tries the “throw a stick at it approach” again but these oranges are much more stubborn.

Finally he knocks one to the ground and after working pretty hard to get the peel off, I concur that it is delicious and nothing like the sourness of wild oranges he’s gotten in the past.   He keeps at it and snags another for himself.   True trail food.



Back in the state park on the road in we find more interesting birds on the wires.  This time 3 or 4 bluebirds.  They look tiny so far away up in the air.  Thank goodness for my camera zoom lens.




The blue bird is easy to identify even from such a distance.  We had an entire trail of blue bird boxes at the farm.  But this little fellow not so easy.  Oh birders out there. Now that Judy has retired as the bird lady of blogland, I need someone to tell me if this is a phoebe.


It’s been another great hike of over 5 miles when we reach the bikes and peddle back for dinner.  Tomorrow is our last day at Hillsborough State Park and David has some chores he wants to take care of.  We also need a grocery run before we leave on Monday to head south to Oscar Scherer.


  1. Hillsborough has such beautiful scenery that just begs you to take pictures!

    I may have already mentioned it to you, but a book you would love is called "The Secret Life of Trees". I waited forever on the list at my library because I ordered it when it just came out, but it may be easier to get now. I could only read a chapter because of my eyesight, but I thought of you right away and know you would love it.

  2. What a lovely hike. I think I've seen movies that were filmed there. ;-) That log in the water looked like an alligator with a snake on it to me - my two least favorite subjects of your pictures. I cannot believe David's tenacity with the oranges, but it sounds like it was worth it. Safe travels.

  3. What an exceptional hike!! I felt like I was right there with you!! The log had me....I actually thought I saw an allegator!! My favorite is that enormous live oak. That tree is just beautiful!! Yes, we need Judy!! I looked the bird up and it resembles the Eastern Phoebe but it's really hard to tell from the picture. Maybe someone with more experience will chime in!!

  4. I guess "stump critters" can be found in forest and water. Love that marvelous moss covered Ent along with its cousin the old oak. So nice to be able to graze along the trail and see so much. I believe you walk at my pace. Nice shirt David.

  5. Awesome tree trunks!! I always find those strange shapes fascinating. Now that is persistence!! I can't believe David got three oranges down. They are hard to pick when you can reach them. Glad they were sweet:)

  6. Great hikes and wildlife photos!! We have never gotten a sweet orange in the wild...way to go David:o))

  7. Pileated woodpeckers have quite a range. We see them here as well.

  8. Are you sure that piece of wood wasn't a gator? They can be pretty sneaky and are masters of camouflage just waiting for a snack. Good thing you're so savvy on what gators look like so you're not their lunch. :cD

  9. I really love the look and color of an Eastern Mountain Bluebird. Yum on the wild oranges!

  10. I was just lucky to find that tasty wild orange tree, but then we were having pretty good luck on this hike, so I was inspired.

  11. Great hike! I would've enjoyed those wild oranges too, I'm sure!! What a beautiful blue bird! Amazing trees!

  12. Your photos of the kestrel are fabulous! I don't think we've ever managed to get a good one—and definitely not in flight. We've still not been to Hillsborough SP, but it's on our list. I also love staying in parks where we can bike to the trails from our site. p.s. Eric agrees with you; it's an Eastern Phoebe. You are becoming quite the bird expert!

  13. I concur that the bird is a Phoebe. What a great hike!

  14. That is a great place to hike:) I admit that I spend a lot of time hiking watching for snakes. Not worried about the non venomous ones but it only takes one to ruin the hike. I swam in a lot of creeks and rivers as a kid without a thought about water quality. Perhaps the no swimming has more to do with that than the gators.

  15. The Hillsborough State Park has many memories for me and Dolly. I worked in Winter Haven in the early 70's and we used to go over there with our canoe and just loved it. So quiet back in there with the snakes and alligators.

    We were just in our young 20s back then with our whole lives ahead of us.

    Beautiful photos. Still looks much the same as it does in my memories.

  16. If not for the birds or the gators a Florida Hike could be boring. So glad God's creation are constantly keeping you entertained in flat land.

  17. If not for the birds, the gators and other wildlife any Florida hike would have been boring. Thankfully you are the kind who enjoys their company and take great photos so I can enjoy them as well.


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