Tuesday, December 20, 2011

LHW: Hole in the Fence

There is nothing like an early morning hike to clear your mind and get your blood flowing. Especially if you start before daybreak and witness the sky’s transition from black to pink to blue:

Early morning is also prime time for spotting wildlife because nocturnal and diurnal animals are both up, the former going about their final rounds while the latter go about their first. After taking the above photograph last Saturday, I headed deeper into the forest and within moments realized I was in the middle of a deer herd. Crashing sounds erupted as deer fled in every direction. Their telltale white tails were held up like warning flags, making them easy to spot even though it was dim under the trees.

Having accessed the Main Trail from the so-called Hole in the Fence Trailhead, I was walking along a section of it that is farther west than those I wrote about in my November 29th and December 6th posts. This particular section intersects with numerous side trails, not all of which are named, and some of those intersect with each other at points farther afield. This results in what outdoortravel.com describes by saying: “This is an extensive, crisscrossing trail network. Keep in mind, you will probably get marginally lost at least once.”

Not to worry, though. If you stick to the Main Trail you will be fine; and if you want to venture off of it but aren’t comfortable with your navigating skills, simply follow the directions in this post. There will be lots of good sights no matter what:

Less than a tenth of a mile after starting your hike you will see a side path on the right with a sign that reads: “Hikers Only – Fishing Trail.” It leads 0.2 miles to the Tampa Bypass Canal, where you can cast a line for tilapia or largemouth bass.

0.6 miles from the trailhead, shortly after passing a signboard on your right, you will come to an intersection with a trail that is unsigned. To the left, it travels through a flat field into the woods on the other side. To the right, it travels up onto an undulating bluff that looks like a Florida mountain biker’s dream come true.

If you take the “mountain biker’s route” you will find that it goes up and down for several quick successions along the top of the bluff, one of which is pictured here:

At one point I stepped off the trail on the mountain biker’s route, went part of the way down the bluff, and took this picture looking back up at Sarah:

The mountain biker’s route is not particularly long, intersecting first with the Misery Trail and then with the Gator Bait Trail. Turn left on the Gator Bait and it takes you on a jaunt through low-lying murky woods before meeting back up with the Main Trail at a junction where one sign points back in the direction you came from and says “To Misery – To Gator Bait.” Meanwhile, another sign points to the beginning of the Indian Trail. The whole side trip totals 0.8 miles.

If you choose to skip the side trip and remain on the Main Trail, you will come to this same junction 0.65 miles after passing the one where the mountain biker’s route began. Along the way you will pass through the second-growth forest pictured below, where I once saw a trio of deer run toward a field you can just barely make out in the background. When I set out toward that field hoping to see more deer, I crossed another trail whose name and destination I do not know.

But getting back to the junction mentioned above, it is hard not to notice that the Indian Trail’s sign claims it is “very difficult.” That claim was made with mountain bikers in mind, and is warranted because the trail has plenty of tight curves and also has lots of roots that would present a technical challenge on a bike:

For my money, however, what really sticks out about the Indian Trail is the beauty through which it travels. Clocking in at just under one mile, its entire course ranks as the single prettiest stretch of trail I have seen in Lower Hillsborough Wilderness Preserve:

The Indian Trail ends at what I originally presumed was the Main Trail. However, after turning left thinking it would take me back to where I began the Indian, I came to a sign that told me I was not on the Main Trail but rather on a shared section of the Grandpa and Palmetto Trails. Following my nose, I kept turning left and stuck with the Grandpa when it and the Palmetto diverged, because I remembered having seen a junction with the Grandpa earlier in the day. It is an attractive path and in many places resembles a tunnel through palmettos:

After three-quarters of a mile the Grandpa finally intersects the Main Trail at signpost 10. From there, a left turn on the Main leads 1.3 miles back to Hole in the Fence Trailhead, while a right turn takes you approximately 2.7 miles to Morris Bridge Park. Alternately, you can shave about 0.4 miles off your return to Hole in the Fence by going straight and remaining on the Grandpa until it intersects the Main Trail at another point further west.

You should know this about your return to Hole in the Fence: Shortly after going back past the intersection with the mountain biker’s route, the Main Trail forks and the signpost clearly indicates that you may go either direction and both are considered parts of the Main Trail (I assume the forks re-converge later on). However, a subsequent sign along the left fork reads “one way do not enter.” Feel free to ignore that sign and stay on the left fork – it is the one you came in on, is the wider of the two, and people are always going both ways on it.

To reach Hole in the Fence, turn east onto Fletcher Avenue from I-75. It is on the right, less than a mile from the interstate, and you can’t miss it because it has a big sign proclaiming that it is for hikers and bikers.

Happy Trails!


  1. Florida has some truly beautiful trails...we have the Cross Florida Greenway (a couple of sections) and we have enjoyed that a lot over the years. There's a six-mile paved loop in east Ocala which is great for jogging, biking, roller-blading, etc.

    Thanks for sharing these photos of a gorgeous area!

  2. After reading some nice stuff in your article I really feel speechless, because it is quit pretty article.

  3. I read this and thought the whole thing was wonderful - UNTIL the part where you tell people to stay left on the returning stretch. Two things - the one way designation is for safety. Some people are better on their bikes than others and going against the grain puts you both at risk.

    But, perhaps just as importantly, is that the path to the right is so beautiful. About midway through, you come up on what me and my friends call the magic meadow. It draws you off the main path and invites you to wander it.

    That aside, wonderful piece! I know all the spots you talked about and you transported me there in my mind. Great job!