The Walking Posts

The posts labeled with the little “Truckin’ ” man are from my Walking Journal, which I've been keeping since January 1, 2012. What began as a simple New Year's Resolution to exercise more quickly morphed into a hiking addiction. Below are some running totals.

  MILES TIME CALORIES
February 2018 13.70 6h 29m 1984
Year-to-Date 79.57 33h 39m 10822
February Avg. 22.61 9h 38m 2452

Gap Point & East Slough Trails

Posted By on January 22, 2018

Gap Point & East Slough Trails

7.57 miles; St. George’s Island, FL

These trails are in St. George Island State Park, which is a lovely park on the far northern end of a very long barrier island off the Florida Panhandle. They were hard walking since the entire island basically consists of very fine sugar sand, but worth the slog. The day was misty and the views were hauntingly beautiful.

Start of the East Slough Trail

Start of the East Slough Trail

This hike put paid to my assertion that, and I quote, “I DON’T BACKTRACK.” Um, it was basically all backtracking. Each part of this trail dead-ended, requiring me to turn around and [grrr] backtrack. Hey, sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do, ammirite?

Dunes on the East Slough Trail

Dunes on the East Slough Trail

The East Slough Trail was the shorter of the two named trails. It was maybe a mile and a quarter, with the final quarter mile being ADA compliant, i.e., a flat boardwalk that a wheelchair could navigate. The boardwalk ended in an observation platform that looked out over the… slough? Sigh, okay Mr. Google, take it from here:

Alrighty then. Short and sweet. The observation platform looked out over the swamp.

The East Slough

The East Slough

It was suitably moody and swamp-like.

Gap Point

Gap Point

The Gap Point Trail dead-ended at Gap Point and a primitive campsite. And when I say primitive, I mean primitive. No tent platform, no shelter, no outhouse.

Basic, Very Basic

Basic, Very Basic

Just a picnic table, a bench, and a fire ring. But boy was it beautiful. The park ranger, who I’d met when I parked at the trail head, said there was a bald eagle’s nest here, but I never saw it.

Funny Sand Bumps

Funny Sand Bumps

Close-up of Bump

Close-up of Bump

It was low tide when I got to the Gap Point campsite, and there were thousands of these funny little bumps. They looked as though there must be some creature under there, but I didn’t find anything. And for once my Google-Fu has failed me. I have no idea what they are. I’d be happy to hear from someone who can enlighten me…

Lots of Birds

Lots of Birds

I also would have loved to be on this trail with some birders. There were tons of birds everywhere. The guy in the above photo is, I think, a mockingbird, and I saw cardinals and catbirds, but there were lots more I couldn’t identify.

You can find out more about St. George’s Island State Park at the state of Florida website. As always, click the image above for details about this hike and to download the gps track.

High Bluff Coastal Trail

Posted By on January 16, 2018

High Bluff Coastal Trail

8.97 miles; Carrabelle, FL

Wow, was I psyched when I found this trail. An almost 9-mile trail through many different kinds of habitat in a state forest? Sign me up. I had the impression this was a big trail until I Googled up a map of the state forest itself…

The Tate's Hell State Forest

The Tate’s Hell State Forest

Seems like a drop in the bucket, doesn’t it? Still, 9 miles is 9 miles.

First Sign I See

First Sign I See

So this was the first thing I noticed on the West Trailhead Kiosk. Uh, oh, okay. Bears. Sweet. And my friend who grew up in Northern Florida reminded me that alligators are a thing up here. Did I mention the Florida Panther? They got those, too. Hoo boy. Worst problem I had hiking in Rhode Island was weird naked guys.

Scat

Scat

So as you might imagine, I spent a lot of time scrutinizing scat and prints. Here is some old-ish coyote scat. Not far from here there was some VERY FRESH coyote scat. So fresh it was still steaming. I did not hang around to take a photo of the fresh stuff. Saw some bear poop, too, but it was also pretty old. That’s what I told myself. “Old.” I thought. “Ancient.”

Not Sure... Some Kind of Cat?

Not Sure… Some Kind of Fox?

Oppossum

Opossum

I saw plenty of tracks, like the ones above. And tons of canid tracks, but I have no idea if they were dogs or coyotes. Don’t think there are wolves in northern Florida. I don’t think. Now I’m afraid to check.

Watch for the Blue and Orange Blazes

Watch for the Blue and Orange Blazes

This trail is extremely well-blazed. I never felt as if I wasn’t sure where to go. Nice job, Florida Trail personages.

Swirly Contrails

Swirly Contrails

Saw quite a few of these swirly contrails, and they puzzled me until I remembered that Tyndall Air Force Base isn’t more than 50 miles from here, where they train F-22 pilots. Now I’m not saying that’s where the trails came from, but that’s my uninformed guess.

Baby Sundew

Baby Sundew

Towards the end of this trail I started seeing these weird little red rosettes. They are pretty small… maybe 1-1/2″ to 2″ across. I had no idea what they were till I got home and performed a little Google-Fu. They’re sundews—carnivorous plants. How cool is that?

You can find out more about the High Bluff Coastal Trail on the Florida Hikes website. Find out more about Tate’s Hell State Forest (including the legend behind the name) from this State of Florida website. As always, click the image above for details about this hike and to download the gps track.

Cape San Blas Beach and Bike Path

Posted By on January 10, 2018

Cape San Blas Beach and Bike Path

5 miles; Port St. Joe, FL

Today I decided to take a stroll along the beach to the “elbow” of Cape San Blas, then a slightly precarious beach walk through a lot of dead fall, and finish up with a rather boring return along a bike path. But it was right outside my door, so kind of hard to complain…

This walk is literally right out my door, and along a long stretch of beach. Eventually you come to the “elbow” part of Cape San Blas, where it takes a turn northward. There’s a pretty little cape here that points due south into the Gulf of Mexico (next stop, Cuba). There were lots and lots of birds out here. I am not a “birder,” but I think I saw Laughing Gulls, a Tricolored Heron, a Bald Eagle, and about a dozen different kinds of cute little shore birds, some of whom preferred to be on one leg, to the point where they apparently would rather hop one-legged away from me than actually use both legs. Funny as heck to watch. And I resolve to be better about bird i.d. in the future…

Beyond the Cape

Beyond the Cape

Once past the Cape and pointed north, the going got a lot more “interesting,” as in the apocryphal Chinese curse, “May you live in interesting times.” There was a lot erosion through here, and a very skinny beach, which mean climbing over A LOT of deadfall, the alternative being get very wet. I would not want to do this walk if the tide were any higher than it was. Which was about 1/2-way between low and full.

Everybody's An Artist

Everybody’s An Artist

There was a lot of clambering. This is, by the way, a great word. Here’s the definition:

climb, move, or get in or out of something in an awkward and laborious way, typically using both hands and feet

It fails to mention “fall on one’s butt in a very undignified way.”

Some of the Deadfall

Some of the Deadfall

The downed trees through here were actually quite beautiful in a macabre sort of way. Starkly black against the sky and the sea.

I did eventually make my [dry] way to a small parking area on Cape San Blas Road, and across the road to the 8-mile long bike path that parallels it.

Bike Path

Bike Path

This particular stretch of the bike path goes by a mysterious-looking, satellite-dish-festooned Air Force facility which is part of Eglin Air Force Base. So, nothing to see here, keep moving.

DYC Wildflower

DYC Wildflower

Okay, there were a few wildflowers, like the above “dyc” (darned yellow composite) wildflower.

I’m not going to post a map of this hike, simply because it comes a little too close to home for comfort. As I mentioned, it is literally right outside my door. But feel free to visit the Cape San Blas tourist info site.

 

Saint Joseph Bay Buffer Preserve, Deal Tract

Posted By on January 10, 2018

Saint Joseph Bay Buffer Preserve, Deal Tract

1.4 miles; Port St. Joe, FL

I saw some information on this preserve on line and thought it might make an interesting little walk. I was rather disappointed, but the environment is still so different and intriguing that I can’t claim to be bored by it

Two things in that write-up caught my eye about this spot: 1) “There is a concrete walkway at the end of the trail, which leads out into the bay and provides panoramic views of the St. Joseph Bay.” Um, nope. The so-called “Deal Dock” has been removed. And 2) “the Hammock Spur Trail ends near the shore at an ancient shell midden, nestled in the middle of the hammock.” Well, uh, turns out there’s pretty much nothing to see here, either. There was also mention of a fire tower… well, the only thing left of that is the concrete pad it sat on.

Large patch of deer moss

Large patch of deer moss

Deer moss close-up

Deer moss close-up

These large patches of what I at first thought was Reindeer Moss were the first thing I noticed along this trail. Turns out, I was close…

In parts of Florida you will see grey-green, cloud-like clusters of deer moss on the ground. Deer moss is a very slow growing lichen and large mats may take decades to develop. Fire kills this lichen, so if you see large carpets of Cladina, it is an indication that the area has not been burned for a long time.

And I guess they’re both Cladina species.

St. Joseph's Bay

St. Joseph’s Bay

There were some nice views from the end of the main trail out to where the Deal Dock used to be. [Now I sound like a Rhode Islander giving directions: “Take a left at where the Almac’s used to be…”]

Hammock Spur Trail

Hammock Spur Trail

This is the other trail that leads to the shell midden.

Spanish Moss

Spanish Moss

Just past that first photo, the trail enters thick woods, with all this Spanish Moss hanging from the trees. It was all a little creepy and mysterious. Beautiful, too. But it ended in a kind of circular campsite area and, uh, okay. Shell midden. I’ll have to take their word for that.

You can find out more about the St. Joseph Bay Buffer Preserve from the state website. As always, click the image above for details about this hike and to download the gps track.

Wright Lake Loop Trail

Posted By on January 7, 2018

Wright Lake Loop Trail

4.87 miles; Sumatra, FL

My first actual hike in Florida, and in 2018, was in the Apalachicola National Forest. Kind of monotonous and very very flat. Compared to the weather in Southern Connecticut, it’s just nice to see green instead of snow!

Wildflower

Wildflower

Wildflower

Wildflower

Wildflower

Wildflower

Wildflower

Wildflower

Wildflower

Wildflower

Wildflower

Wildflower

And there were lots and lots of wildflowers blooming. In January! Such a treat. Of course I have no idea what any of them are… Liatris? Lupines? Asters?

Saw Palmetto

Saw Palmetto

Most of what I walked through was pine flatlands that had been through a recent burn. It was just very tall pine trees (longleaf pines?) They were all charred to about 10 feet up, and the undergrowth looked like ground cover. Except for the saw palmettos, which were everywhere.

The Balance Beam Bridge

The Balance Beam Bridge

This bridge is one of the main features of this trail… the balance beam bridge. Long, narrow, and over an alligator-infested swamp. Just kidding about the alligators. I’m pretty sure. Fortunately there’s a cable hand-rail.

Replanted Pines

Replanted Pines

I will never get used to the sight of these apparently replanted pine forests. Weird.

 

Red-Cockaded Woodpecker Nest Sites

Red-Cockaded Woodpecker Nest Sites

See the broad white stripes on those trees? They mark nest sites for the endangered red cockaded woodpecker. According to the National Geographic website:

The Apalachicola National Forest has the world’s biggest population of endangered red-cockaded woodpeckers; broad white bands painted around the trunks of longleaf pine trees indicate nest clusters.

Bridge... closed?

Bridge… closed?

This bridge was almost at the end of the trail. It’s a loop trail. I was afraid I’d have to go all the way back, so I decided I’d try the bridge in spite of the sign. Turned out, there was nothing particular that I would have considered dire enough to close the bridge… it was a little bit rickety, a little bit slippery, but closed? Nah.

You can find out more about the Wright Lake Loop Trail from the website of the Apalachicola National Forest. And as always, click on the above image for details and to download the gps track.

Pratt & Wickaboxet

Posted By on December 26, 2017

Pratt & Wickaboxet

3.55 miles; West Greenwich, RI

I guess I’m not quite done with 2017 after all. My friend Ann had never hiked Pratt and was itching to see it, so we did a car-spot, putting 1 car at Tillinghast and then starting from Saddle Rock Road. The day’s weather was a high of 24º and there was 2” of snow on the ground. Still, it was good to touch base with Ann and it was a nice, bright, sunny day for a hike.

Better Travelled

Better Travelled

The first 3/4 mile of this hike is on the Pratt Conservation Area, part of the West Greenwich Land Trust. The only tracks we saw on the white-blazed trail were those of an ambitious fox. It wasn’t till we got to the intersection with the blue-blazed Wickaboxet Trail that we saw any sign of humans.

Christmas-y

Christmas-y

It was a beautiful day for Christmas-y scenery, even though it was officially Boxing Day.

Track (click for details)

Track (click for details)

You can find out more about the Pratt Conservation Area from the West Greenwich Land Trust’s website, according to which, there is a “Land of the Cairns.” I’ve hiked this trail at least 4 or 5 times and never noticed them till today. There is something to be said, I guess, for hiking in the middle of winter with no leaves on the trees. You can find out more about the Wickaboxet Trail and the entire Tillinghast Trail system from the Nature Conservancy’s website. There’s a nice map there, but it doesn’t show the intersection of the Pratt and Wickaboxet Trails. Here’s the Auntie map of the entire area: tillinghast-wickaboxet-pratt.pdf. And believe it or not, there is still more to this trail system that hasn’t yet made it onto the map. There’s a trail that goes out to Hazard Road, and another red-blazed loop called the Bates Loop. If you’re looking for mileage, I’d guess you can get up to 12 miles total out of here.

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