Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Croom: More Hog Island

The last weekend of February felt like Spring, but the first weekend of March did not. Back-to-back cold fronts plunged temperatures far below normal for a full week, and more than once my front porch delighted me with greetings like this:

Invigorated by the chill, I put Parker in my car, pointed us back in the direction of Hog Island Recreation Area, and proceeded to enjoy the low temps every bit as much as the prior weekend’s warmth. The forest’s bright green foliage stood out on photographs, which is one never-gets-old benefit we get from cloudy skies letting only a small amount of light get through:

Soon after starting our hike we came to the following spot, beyond which the path forks with the yellow-blazed Hog Island Nature Trail (HINT) going left and the orange-blazed River Trail going right:

I went left for the simple reason that I had gone right the time before. I was eager to see what the HINT’s two-mile loop has to offer, and almost immediately it turned up this:

Taking you northeastward then west, it is not long before the trail crosses the recreation area’s dirt road. We saw an armadillo scurrying around shortly before the crossing and four does bounding through the woods shortly after it. Interestingly, the armadillo made much more noise than all of the deer combined.

A double-blaze is the universally recognized signal that a trail’s route is about to turn. If you walk the HINT counter-clockwise like I did, you will find that it forks immediately after the first double-blaze you encounter, and that it seems as if you should take the right fork (which actually goes straight) because it is so much wider. Ignore that instinct, however, and instead follow the blazes down the narrow, nondescript fork on the left. Eventually it takes you to the Withlacoochee River, which looked especially handsome when we trod down to its bank:

The trail passes several old sinkholes that now hold water and are ringed by botany. It feels wrong to call sinkholes attractive so soon after one right here in our area caused a tragic death that generated international news – but there is no denying that they do look attractive after being reclaimed by the forest:

It is important to pay close attention to the blazes while walking the HINT, for there are several places where its path is not particularly distinct from the rest of the forest floor. And there is a place where one 90-degree turn is followed very quickly by another.

Although this trail is usually called a loop, it should be noted that it is really a horseshoe. When you reach the spot where it ends, you will find yourself needing to walk a short ways down the dirt road to return to the spot where your hike began. It’s probably best to start from the trailhead at the canoe launch, which means going in the opposite direction than I did. That will allow you to pick up a key that tells you what is identified by the 27 numbered signposts along the way:

For directions to the trailhead I used, please visit the post to which I linked in the first sentence of this one. To reach my recommended trailhead at the canoe launch, just keep driving past the one I used and it will soon be obvious on your right. Happy Trails!