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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
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!
Solar Bear and Navigator