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

Henry David Thoreau

A LONG hike to the River

Monday March 4, 2013
Site 20, Blue Spring State Park
Orange City, Florida


This morning it is 28 degrees when we wake and according to our indoor outdoor thermometer the low overnight has been 26.  I am in shock.  The weather folks had said it would be 34 over night so we didn’t unhook the water.  Luckily David sees the temperature at 5am and goes out and unhooks it.  But we won’t be sure there is no damage until the sun warms everything up and we can test it.


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We put some of our strawberries to good use in steel cut oatmeal and head out to walk the 9 mile Pine Island trail here in the park.   I detour to the spring run boardwalk on the way to the trail head to see how the manatee are doing.




Well they are quite fine thank you.  


No wonder, it’s 72 degrees where they are.  The sun has just begun to hit the water but still the folks from Save the Manatee who are doing the head count today are not quite so warm.  We eventually learn that they count 230.

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Yesterday in the comments, Karen asked where the Manatee hanging out at Blue Springs come from.  Apparently they live in the St. Johns river mostly but of course it flows into the Ocean just east of Jacksonville so they could come up from almost anywhere.  It does seem that many return year after year here to this refuge and are recognized by Wayne Hartley, the manatee expert seen doing this count who has been working with them for over 35 years.  He names them and knows them by name.


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You can see them in motion.   Watch manatee cam.

Save the Manatee is a great organization which has a manatee cam.  You can see it on their website.  I don’t believe it is “live” but they run tapes from the year before.  The manatee clearly have no fear of the camera.  Wonder what that nose will look like in the video!


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All this takes place on our way to the Pine Island Trail. 


The Blue Spring run empties into the St. Johns river about 1/2 mile from the spring head.  It is easy to walk right down to the river which is where the kayak launch is and where we will be kayaking as soon as the wind dies down.

But the Pine Island Trail takes you the long 4.5 mile way to the river and you end up  about a mile down stream from the boat dock.  At the trailhead we are educated about the local Black Bear who lives here.  Perhaps this giant sign is why we see not one other soul on the entire trail.


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The trail is 4.5 miles long and is not a loop trail.  The first mile is mostly a lovely stroll through a hardwood canopy.  And then we come to the sand for about the next two miles.  Not so interesting.  Although it looks like a perfect gopher tortoise habitat we see nary a sign of them.

In many spots the sides of the trail have been cleared of invasive species and the natives have not yet grown up to take over.  They call it “habitat restoration”.


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Eventually we come to an even nicer hardwood canopy and then to the pinelands which has evidence of fire also used to restore habitat.  David thinks there is also some evidence of the bears here.   Who else could sit on a picnic table and smash it??


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The last mile of the hike is the most beautiful and ends at the river.

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The St. Johns is the longest river in Florida at 310 miles and because the drop in elevation to its mouth is only 30 feet, it is a slow and lazy river.  Its rate of flow is only about 1/3 mph.  It is also one of the few rivers to run North.   This is the same river that flows by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings’ Cross Creek home.

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Can’t we take a short cut back?  Look it’s right over there.


We reach the river and look down stream and see the Blue Springs boat dock.  It’s about a mile away rather than the 4.5 miles we’ve just come.  So we set off along the river bank to see if we can just forge our own path into a short cut back knowing full well that there is probably some very good reason why this is not a loop trail, like a giant inlet for instance.


But this turns out to be the best part of the hike.  We see some of the biggest trees on our little off the trail hike.

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Lots of tree hugging going on.  These are BIG trees.  We are so excited.

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Can’t begin to get our arms around even a portion of these trees.
Notice the cypress knee being used as a coat rack in the foreground.

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We walk along the edge of the water and then we come to the problem.
There’s the boat dock all right. Just over there.  See those little orange boats on the far bank in the right picture??  But there is a lagoon between us and it.   Oh well, it was a fun walk through uncharted territory.

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With no other choice, we turn back.  And of course we see totally different beauty since no trail, or non trail, is ever the same going back. :-))

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This time we find the biggest tree of all. And what a personality.


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It reminds us of The Tree of Life in Disneyworld.   What do you see in its “carvings”.


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We find our trail and back to the campground we go.  Another 4.5 miles.


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When we get to the last leg of the hike, having seen no one on this quiet trail,  we are shocked by these segway folks.  This is the second park where we have seen people willing to pay upwards of $58-$85 for a one hour segway “hike”.  Amazes me.   But……….

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And what have the manatee been doing while I’ve been gone?

Even  though I did a 4.5 mile run this morning and a 10 mile hike with the addition of the off trail piece this afternoon, I still want to check in on the manatee before heading home for dinner.


As usual, they are having a wonderful time.

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We are too!


  1. Nice hike, and run! Looks like the days are getting nicer there even if they start out frosty :)

  2. You will sleep well tonight. I certainly would be exhausted! those manatee are certainly entertaining, I can see why you are enthralled with them.

  3. You have such a great talent for describing every detail of your hikes. I sure wish I was in the shape you and David are in. It must be nice to enjoy your walks without pain; why you don't even sound tired! It encourages me. Even if I can only get back to a couple of miles, I'll be very grateful, and fortunate. PT, today, and knock would and cross my fingers--no pain so far. Don't go again until Monday and then next Thursday so maybe spacing it is the key. We'll see! Well darn, I'm posting a blog in your comments! LOL Sorry about that.

  4. What a beautiful hike. Our tree still has your tree beaten by LOTS!!!! Just wish we could have hug it.


  5. You little tree hugger you! Makes me smile every time I see you do this. I've never seen a Manatee in "real time" But your pictures sure make me want to some day. I'm so thankful David is able to take these hikes with you. He sure looks good!!

  6. That's a lot of miles!!! But they sure were pretty miles:o)) Love all the manatees!!!

  7. You certainly burned some calories that day, didn't you?

    I wonder if the Tree of Life at Disney was inspired by some of those gnarly trees like you always seem to find?

    Love the double header of Manatee noses!

  8. Thanks for taking us along on your walk. You got some great pics.

  9. That is one big tree! Good thing when you hugged it, it didn't hug you back...that might have hurt a wee bit.

    I see a Brontosaurus dinosaur jumping over the crescent moon. Is my imagination a bit warped? ;c)

  10. coldness, just can't believe it would be so cold in Florida for heavens sake!!! Love all the Manatee pics...

  11. Wow -- how can Mr. Hartley differentiate between all those manatee to identify them by name? That's amazing!

  12. You were trailblazing! I bet that's frowned upon by some ;) I don't get segway people either. The trees - wow so old and large and unique! Excellent manatee pictures as always :) It is incredible that the counter can recall each one...by name. That is really something special.


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