Wekiwa Springs State Park – Fall Festival and Volksmarch Trail – October 16, 2010
Excited by the cooler weather that miraculously crept down to Florida, one of my guides-Ellie and I headed over to Wekiwa Springs State Park for a day of hiking and camping before the Fall Festival that was to be held the next day. It was a bit of a drive from Tampa to Apopka, but was well worth it!
We arrived around 1 pm and set up camp. Right next to the spot where Ellie decided to place her tent she noticed a very small black snake poking around in the pine straw. It successfully spooked a small lizard from the straw up onto small sapling about 4 inches of the ground and in a fraction on a second was enjoying that lizard for dinner. We watched the little snake for a few more minutes amazed at the event that just had taken place right in front of us and then finished setting up camp.
Soon we were off on our hike. We chose the Volksmarch trail over the main hiking trails as the day was speeding by so quickly. We do want to go back and hike the 16+ mile main trail very soon!
The Volksmarch Trail is just over 5 miles and would take us from the campground and we would add another 2 miles heading down around the springs. At the trail head we were able to see a Gopher Tortoise getting a bite to eat on the road side. Two critter sightings before we hit the trial – this was going to be a great hike! At the trail head the wildflowers were blooming everywhere!
The pine scrub that had burned off a few years back had left the perfect environment for fall wildflowers. Summers Farewell and Blazing Star were all in bloom there were many other varieties mixed in making me wonder how the prairies out west must have looked like to the new settlers.
This trail is very well maintained by the Florida Trail Association and the Wekiwa Trust volunteers. Soon we were winding through a mixture of old oaks and pine. Songbirds fluttered about and we saw many woodpeckers. Up near Lake Prevatt we took a short diversion off the trail to view the lake itself. We found this lake to be in a very natural state, undisturbed by pesky humans that seem to want to live at the edge of every lake they can find in Florida. Along the shores edge we saw many animal track including bobcat, coyote, deer, raccoon and bear. We followed the bear tracks in to opposite direction it had traveled along the shore about 100 yards and turned back. The lake was peaceful and I could have spent more time on its shores but we had to return before sunset.
We saw many butterflies, fungus, spiders and turkey feathers along the trail. Whitetail deer were in rut (mating season) and there were scrapes and rubs all along the trail where the bucks were marking their “territory”. As the sun continued to cool more songbirds came out to forage and sing their pleasant songs as we traveled through their forest. I was taking a short video as we walked down the trail and we walked right up on a very large bobcat! It was magnificent! My camera was not at the correct settings to get good video of this beautiful feline in the seconds that we had seen it. Ellie, having much experience with them through her taxidermy business, figured it was approximately 20 pounds and it did appear very healthy. If I had seen nothing else that day I would have been more than satisfied with this hike! So much to see and so close to a populated area, I was amazed. The Wekiva River corridor continued to surprise me. Just weekend before I had paddled part of the river and saw many turkey, wading birds, alligators and other animal sign as well. These places must be protected!
We hiked past the cutoff to the campground to the springs along the Wet to Dry trail and along the boardwalk. There we had a wonderful conversation with a local park officer and learned many things about the park. We shared our sightings and learned that the deer, turkey and bear often come right up to the concession area when the park is not so busy in the fall. We had just missed the alligators “growling” at each other and we spoke about the abundant friendly squirrels at the spring. We did not see any squirrels out on the trail at all.
It was time to head back to camp and get settled in for the evening and soon we had a warm campfire burning, it was getting chilly and we welcomed the fall temperatures! It got down to nearly 40 degrees that night, a bit chilly this early in the year but it made for perfect sleeping! In the morning after hot coffee and a bite to eat we set up a booth featuring the principles of “Leave No Trace” and spent the day speaking with many wonderful families. A flock of turkeys mad many visits through the booths that day. Walking by us just like they were attending the festival! It was quite a site to see!
It was great meeting so many wonderful people and the weather had been just wonderful. I can’t wait to visit this state park again and see what other surprises it has in store for us!
For more information please visit:
State Park Website: http://www.floridastateparks.org/wekiwasprings/aboutthepark.cfm
Our Website: http://www.notaclueadventures.com