Wednesday, January 30, 2013


The last thing I expected to see was a tall, steep-sided rise giving a Wyomingish appearance to a spot barely outside of Tampa. But there it was:

Later, when looking at it from the opposite direction on the return leg of our hike, I saw something that made the Western resemblance even stronger: A trio of riderless horses walking along its ridge. Although two of them promptly vanished down the other side when my sister called out to them, I managed to capture a photo of the third before he too walked out of sight. Unfortunately, given the distance from which I shot and the fact I was shooting with a cell phone camera, in the next view it’s not real easy to make him out (just to the left of the high point) and it’s hard to tell he’s an equine:

I am not na├»ve enough to believe I was looking at a natural feature created by tectonics. The rise is almost certainly the remains of an abandoned landfill that Nature has since beautified with growing grass -- which is fine by me, since it is now part of Nature’s canvas no matter how it came to exist.

At the end of the day, however, that rise is a microscopic cell compared to the total acreage of Lower Hillsborough Wilderness Preserve. We were walking on a 10-mile trail network located south of Cow House Creek in the preserve’s western reaches; for a point of reference, back in December 2011 I wrote about another trail network that is also in the western reaches but north of Cow House Creek.

The fact that these 10 miles of trail pass by the rise does not change the fact that they are, as a whole, just as level as the network I previously wrote about. For much of their distance they pass through lush oak hammocks like this one:

In many places the hammocks are draped by very old vines:

This network is best described as a single trail that happens to fork in a few places and circles back on itself so as to contain its own loops. It travels generally from west to east, or parallel to the preserve’s southern boundary, though its westernmost expanse consists of a loop that is elongated from south to north. The west flank of that loop travels atop a grassy berm overlooking the Tampa Bypass Canal, a 14-mile waterway which connects the Hillsborough River to McKay Bay and serves the defined purposes of diverting floodwaters from the river and providing drinking water to the city of Tampa. Incidentally, the canal has also proven to be a fine canoeing and fishing spot popular with humans and waterfowl alike.

I previously wrote that some sections of Lower Hillsborough Wilderness Preserve have their own names and signage. Well, this trail network counts as one of those sections because the sign at the trailhead identifies it as Jefferson Equestrian Area. The name does not mean that it is for horses only, however. Instead it means that horses are allowed on the trail as well as hikers, which is not the case in most of the preserve.

There is only one point from which to access Jefferson, and it is located off Fowler Avenue just east of I-75. Turn north from Fowler onto Jefferson Road, which passes between Terrace Community Middle School and the Big Top Flea Market and ends at the trailhead after a distance of about one block. You will be pleasantly surprised to find that this location has a gateway to such fine wilderness.

Go here for a printable copy of the trail map. Happy Trails!

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