On the afternoon of Sept 18th I went to camp overnight at O’Leno State Park and check out the trails. I was greeted by a very kind ranger that informed me of the status of the trails and set me up in a great spot in the Magnolia camping area. This area is far better to camp in than the Dogwood Campground as is more level and much closer to the better trails.
After setting up camp I decided to take a late afternoon hike on the River Trail. This is the shorter of the many trails they have out at O’Leno. I walked around the old town site of Keno for a bit then crossed the suspension bridge and headed down the trail. I guess because it was Thursday the park was just not even close to capacity and I saw no one on the trails. There had been rains a few days before so there was a lot of fresh animal sign! The water was still very high from the recent hurricane that had come through. Many of the sinkholes had a lot of water and there were many turtles and wadding birds to be seen.
As I was coming to the end of the river trail I was greeted, at very close rage, by a beautiful Red Shouldered Hawk. He sure was kind to stay for a photo, and then went on his way. I made my way back to camp as it was getting dark and relaxed as the sun set over the forest. At dusk many woodpeckers came out as well as a few squirrels in the trees above my camp. About 11 pm a lively armadillo walked past the tent and later a fairly large raccoon was looking for crumbs of food on the picnic table at my campsite.
I woke with the sun….trying to rush to the trails. I am glad I was running late for just as I was starting to walk up the road to the trails a beautiful Whitetail doe crossed the road in 2 leaps and started grazing 30-40 yards away form me! I was told later that day by the ranger she has two fawns that she had been bringing out there for about a week every morning about that time. Feeling quite gleeful I hit the trails. I wanted to take Parener’s Branch the longest trail there (3.69 miles) but ran into a detour where one of the bridges had been washed out due to all the flooding. So I backtracked to the Bicycle Connector (.63 miles across) to take Parener’s Branch in the other direction…..well I cane to another washed out bridge. But I saw so much wildlife and animal sign it just did not matter! There was Bobcat, Turkey and Deer all over these trails and rabbits, armadillo, raccoon and opossum to! Again, I was greeted by a beautiful Red Shouldered Hawk very high in a Longleaf Pine Tree. He saw me long before I saw him and only through his calls was I able to pinpoint him for more photos. I could not stop taking photos on the trail that morning, everything was so beautiful! The sun glistening on the grasses and trees, the mist coming from the sinks and ponds and swamps was just all breathtaking. Later that morning, after I broke down camp, I headed out to the Limestone Trail for one last hike. This is a nice short trail (.61 miles) halfway back to the entrance of the park. Not long after I started on the trail I spooked a small herd of deer grazing just at the line of the forest and all I saw were white tails bouncing away. Not long after that I heard a grunt in the forest that was either a disturbed deer or hog not too far away. I arrived at the old quarry site and was surrounded by green ferns. The sun flittering through the forest cover made this area look magical! I must have been the only one on that trail so far that day as I was the one walking through many spider webs across the trail, yuck… Then it was back to the car and off to my next adventure. I hope that you enjoy the pictures I took on this trip; this is one park I will visit again! More trails to take and explore to! On past the Parener’s Trail is the 1.87 mile Sweetwater Trail and after that the 4.25 mile loop of the River Rise Trail. Anyone wanting to explore this wonderful park with “Not a Clue Adventures” only needs to call and make a reservation!