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[ft-l] After the Big 360,



It's time to sample other trails in this great state of ours.

Today (Friday), Sandy and I headed over to Volusia County to sample two 
trails that weren't under water.  We had to pass on Hontoon Island and Blue 
Springs unless we wanted to swim those trails!  We settled on the Buncombe 
Hill Interpretive Trail at Tiger Bay State Forest and the Wild Persimmon 
Trail at DeLeon Springs State Recreation Area.

Buncombe Hill Trail

This trail was a new one for us.  Tiger Bay State Forest is located on Hwy 92 
between Deland and Daytona comprising of over 23,000 acres, 52% of which was 
burned during the summer of 1998.  The Buncombe Hill Trail was untouched, 
however.  It is a two mile interpretive loop trail.  At the parking area are 
picnic tables and grills under a pretty oak canopy.  At the end of the 
parking lot is a boat ramp to Indian Lake, an undeveloped 66 acre treat.  
Though we only hiked, I sure would have enjoyed combining the hiking trip 
with some canoeing and a picnic.

The trail was enjoyable and included 22 stations keyed to the brochure and 
map.  We wandered through a slash pine plantation as well as an old 
turpentine camp, with abundant potsherds evident along the trail.  No 
evidence of the old trees.  Apparently, they were logged.  Later we wandered 
past an 80 year old homesite, pieces of glass and china spread over a couple 
hundred yards.  The entire hike was high and dry.

Wild Persimmon Trail

High and dry this wasn't!  But a little water doesn't scare us.  Now that 
rattler was a different story!

This hike was Plan C.  We were hoping to do Hontoon Island or Blue Springs, 
but the trails were flooded, according to the park ranger.  The Wild 
Persimmon Trail we had hiked previously and enjoyed, so we decided to do it 
again.  It is about 4.4 miles, shorter than the advertised 5.2.  The first 
couple of miles is hydric hammock.  This alone should have clued us to the 
trail's condition after the tropical storm, but hey, we're hikers, not 
hydrologists!  Near the start of the trail stands Methuselah, a huge ancient 
cypress, always humbling to behold.  A little further stood three of the most 
magnificent long leaf pines I've seen, all well over a hundred feet tall and 
almost three feet in diameter.  OK, I admit it.  I'm one of those reviled 
tree huggers.  To me, they are the stunning backdrop to Nature's cathedrals.  
Where and when better to worship than on a hike in the woods?

Further up the trail a series of boardwalks attempted to carry the hiker over 
the low spots.  No such luck.  This trail is very wet right now, over a foot 
deep in many places.  But we came to hike, and if that meant wading, well, 
then so be it. A red-cockaded woodpecker showed a flash of black and white 
wings amidst the trees.  Our friends the mosquitoes and spiders were out, so 
we had to walk lively to stay ahead of the cloud of bloodsuckers behind each 
of us, yet display the agility of Zorro in slashing away the webs festooning 
the trail.  While busy in this urgent occupation, Sandy stepped down 6 inches 
from a timber rattler directly on the trail.  Only its rattle gave away its 
location, its camouflage being so effective.  Fortunately, it was busy dining 
on a lizard it had just captured, a very lucky thing for us!  It was 
surprising how thick this rattler was since it was not much longer than a 
foot.

The trail emerges from the hydric hammock to a dryer region where the 
persimmon trees are.  I couldn't resist harvesting three of the diminutive 
fruit.  Though not quite ripe, they made for an interesting wild persimmon 
milkshake tonight!  Further along the trail in an area that was once a 
campsite, we saw a turkey, who flew off down the trail when it noticed us 
coming.  The trail then loops back into the hydric hammock and reconnects 
with the trail we hiked in on.  So we repeated the wading at least comforted 
by the fact that the spider webs were gone. 

After the hike, we checked out the Springs.  Spring Garden Creek, which 
drains into the St. Johns, was very high.  Personally, I'm happy to see all 
this water, and the green plants bursting with succulence.  So much better 
than the drought conditions.  Next to the Springs, for those of you who 
haven't been there, is the Old Spanish Sugar Mill and Griddle House.  This is 
a real treat at breakfast where you buy a pitcher of batter and cook pancakes 
yourself on the griddle built into each table.  Try it some time.

We hope you have hiking in your weekend plans!

Happy trails,

Solar Bear and Navigator