Thursday, September 27, 2012

Some Time Outside

This past Sunday morning, Sarah and I welcomed fall by walking a few miles on a trail in the Withlacoochee State Forest. It is Florida and still September, so the temperatures were not what I would call cool, but at least they were not hot.

Some of our hike was spent passing through dense hardwood forest:

But most of it was spent in a drier, more open forest of slash pine and turkey oak:

Thanks to a plethora of wildflowers, there was plenty of color to be seen:

Much to my delight, all of our walking was done on hills -- sand hills, to be geologically precise. They were not extremely high or steep, but were quite continuous. We spent a couple hours on the trail and there was not a single moment when we weren’t either on or surrounded by some level of vertical relief:

When it came to animals, we were treated to the sight of a red-bellied woodpecker hammering away on a pine branch. The other creatures stayed hidden but left their marks nonetheless:

I must say, it was a good way for a daddy and daughter to spend the morning!

The Croom Tract is the specific part of Withlacoochee where we were. Located in eastern Hernando County, Croom is arguably the creme dela creme of our area’s wilderness, and over the coming months I will write detailed reviews of some of the many hikes that can be taken within its broad borders. For the purposes of this post, however, I will just say that the route Sarah and I took on Sunday went north from the trailhead at Tucker Hill Fire Tower, and we stayed straight on the orange-blazed path rather than turning off on the blue-blazed A-B Connector.

To reach the fire tower, take exit 301 on I-75 and go east about one mile. Turn left on Croom Rital Road and continue past the entrance to Silver Lake Recreation Area, which you will see after four miles. Croom Rital eventually turns back to the west, changes its name to Croom Road, and goes from being a paved road to a dirt road before arriving at the tower several miles after the Silver Lake entrance.

There is plenty of parking at the tower, along with restrooms and a picnic table, along with an unmanned pay station where you are expected to deposit a $2-per-person fee for visiting the forest. Trust me, it is worth it.

Happy Trails!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Ready To Go

Though it is not yet cool, our weather has started to become different than it was at the height of summer. Early mornings have recently been pleasant, and several days ago temperatures were in the sixties when I left for work, so I am ready to resume hiking and blogging about hiking.

My preferred method of satisfying my outdoors appetite during the dog days is to head to the mountains, but obviously I can not do that every weekend, and therefore I often resort to riding my bike. At least pedaling creates your own wind to take some of the bite out of the Florida heat.

Biking in these parts is good on many of the same forest paths that are good for hiking…

And is also good on country roads...

Before I take to reviewing a new slew of hiking options in the Tampa Bay area, I feel like dedicating this post to those rural roads, since they are just as overlooked and underappreciated as our hiking trails. And come to think of it, they are good for a certain kind of hiking because there is nothing stopping you from walking down their shoulders while chewing on a piece of grass (to borrow a line from that old song “Ventura Highway”).

I am not here to recommend any specific roads. I just want to point out that they are all over our region. If you want to experience one, all you need to do is drive out into the country and find what’s there. You will see all kinds of landscapes, from the flat tomato fields of southern Hillsborough to the rolling hills of northern Pasco. You will find that man’s marks are integrated into the landscape rather than imposed upon it:

You will see large animals both wild…

And domestic…

Even if you don’t get out of your car, rolling down the windows (or taking down the top if you drive a convertible) will have you feeling the wind in your hair and feeling eager to spend more time outside in the coming months.

My first trail review of the new hiking season will be coming soon. Until then: Happy Trails!