For the second time in my life, I have found myself shacked up in a far-off town that just so happens to have a state park within fifteen minutes of my recliner. With that knowledge and a healthy dose of Florida sunshine blinding in through the windows, I begrudgingly put on my adventure pants and kicked the footrest down on my chair and headed out the door to get some fresh air.
On our maiden excursion into Silver Springs State Park, I found that the whole place has so much to offer that there is no way I’ll be able to cover the entire thing in one post [hence the Part I]. While the park periodically hosts events, offers water sports, and glass bottom boat tours, today I’ll be focusing on a few of the hiking trails as it gave me a good introduction to the park and will serve as a good starting point.
If you are reading this outside of the state of Florida and haven’t ever been [plus if you’ve missed the post where I’ve said the following], Florida is covered in pine trees. I know, I know. Back when I started my FLA adventure, I was expecting sunshine, palms, and oranges. While that stuff certainly is abundant, the park system slogan says it all… the Real Florida.
Note: I won’t bore you with hiking essentials, as the I didn’t go on an overnight excursion in the deep back country. What I will recommend is to make sure you bring plenty of water. I myself had my trusty Bill Miller Texas Tea Bucket full of ice cold sink water, but feel free to bring how ever much you need, so long as you make sure to keep your empties with you and not on the ground. Next would be bug spray. After my experience in the Keys with the chiggers, I don’t get off the beaten path without it. Other than that, make sure you have a camera as the trails offer pretty views and the occasional critter. Yes, I had my camera packed in my favorite fanny pack.
Anywho, I started out on one of the longer hiking trails and put one foot in front of the other at a breezy pace. There is no set order in which you need to tackle the many trails that Silver Springs offers, so I just started walking.
As you should know, I’m from South Texas and spent a good bit of time in the desert in the West. That being said, I’ve never been in a forest and don’t know what constitutes one by the official rangeland and ecology standards [despite that being one of my favorite classes]. But when you start walking the beat through the dense, tall pines and breath in that fresh air, it sure does feel like a forest. One of my favorite things about walkabouts is that moment when a normally stopped up nose clears up and you can breathe deeply and really take in the woods around you. Maybe that means I have some allergens I need to take care of, but that’s another story for a different day.
If you’re a nature buff and you enjoy looking at the relationships plants and animals have with each other in a given area, this is the place for you. In the pine heavy portion, those trees shoot out higher than anything else around and have the numerical advantage. What’s neat is that you can see how the other trees are adapting. The oaks are much less linear as their branches snake and curve around, positioning for every little bit of sunlight they can get. Where the trails have been cut, the oaks have taken over the cleared area and give some parts a nice tunnel effect. And because it is Florida, there are palms covering the ground, all bunched together and most not taller than eight or ten feet.
While walking along, if you aren’t paying close attention, you’ll be surprised to find the world around you change in an instant. Twenty some-odd yards ago, you were in the thicket of pines. But now the oaks have taken charge. Here, the visibility gets cut down to minimal, as the oaks are far more sporadic in their cover than the straight pines. Additionally, new shrubs and all-around brushes have packed themselves in tightly. This area is dense and the trail winds a little more than it did before, almost giving off the feel of a maze. Over the course of a 4+mile loop, the trees trade off like that, and really makes this hike a unique one.
As far as critters go, there are an abundance of birds and lizards, the latter of which have the uncanny ability to sound like freight trains moving through the piles of leaves and twigs. If you’re lucky, you might catch a glimpse of the gopher tortoise, but make sure you leave them be as they are a protected species. Side note: Just because something isn’t a protected species doesn’t mean you can go all willy-nilly and try to halter break an elk or something.
With that, I’ll put some pictures down at the bottom because there’s only so much I can write to paint a picture when an actual picture does it better. For Part II, I’ll be coming back here in the future to test out the aquatic trails and see what the water side has to offer. Until then, happy trails.