What a beautiful fall morning welcomed us as we headed off on our hike at Myakka River State Park. As we arrived to the park, we were greeted by a flock of wild turkeys. It was a joy to see them scurrying around the forest alongside the road. We arrived to the trailhead early in the day and soon we were on our way. There would only be three of us for the hike and we would be walking to one of the furthest primitive sites on this trail.
The trails at Myakka River State Park are generally easy to traverse, so we were very surprised to see all the damage to the trails caused by feral hogs that have more than invaded this area. This made hiking quite difficult in the oak hammock as we started off our day. It was not long before we came across a small yellow striped rat snake warming itself in this dappled sunlight. Though it was late in the year and the cool evenings would have been reason for many critters to take to their winter dens, we did see a wide variety of spiders, and other insects along the trail. Paul was quite a character to have on the hiking trail with us and he kept us quite entertained. Wildflowers were still blooming out on the open prairie; we were stunned by the bright yellows and purples that greeted us. It seemed to take a very long time to reach the Oak Grove campsite as we were on the prairie for hours. Being in such wide open spaces can really be difficult on bright sunny days. We do not suggest this hike be done in the summertime.
After taking multiple breaks we eventually arrived again at the oak hammocks on the far side of the park. We knew we are getting close to our campsite. Out on the prairie we saw very little damage from the feral hogs in this area, but as we came back to the oak hammocks and so did the evidence of hog population in this area. It was pleasantly cooler in this area in soon we were viewing a young doe nibbling leaves just off the trail. She did not seem bothered by our presence and after about 10 minutes we left her as we found her, continuing down the trail. Upon arriving at the campsite we quickly set up and began the task of collecting water and cooking dinner. Ellie collected firewood and soon we had a wonderful fire going. The sun dropped quickly over the prairie and we enjoyed the hours we spent around the fire telling stories and reliving the day’s experience. In the evening while we slept we heard the calls of coyotes, the hogs out along the prairie roads dueling over territory, the board owls calling to each other, and as the clouds drifted away our tents will illuminated by moonlight.
After a chilly evening we enjoyed a welcome hot cup of coffee and a quick breakfast we were on the trail again. We decided to avoid the marked trail and take the old railroad grade further down and pick up the trail near power line road. We had spent enough time the day before fighting through the overgrown trail and the loose footing cause but many hogs. It was not long after we started hiking that we saw a truck coming up the road. We were greeted by members the Florida Trail Association. These volunteers had arrived to do trail maintenance and soon all the overgrown trail that we have fought to traverse would soon be cut back and made easier for future hikers.
Though we had had little rain there were still many portions of the trail and road that were under water and we did get our feet wet on this hike. As the day had gotten so much warmer stepping into the puddles was actually refreshing. We saw many animal tracks along the trails and roads. Myakka is full of wildlife. We saw sign of bobcat, coyote, deer and hogs. The variety of bird life in this area is astonishing. We saw wood storks, hawks, turkey vultures, meadowlark, and many others.
Myakka Trail includes 38.9 miles of loop trails there many backcountry roads that crisscross the park as well as the old railroad grade. There is a selection of horse trails for equestrian enthusiasts. Many trails can accommodate the day hikers or bicyclist. Backpackers will love the many varieties of trails available to hike. The trails are well marked and maintained throughout the year. If hiking in late/fall early winter you may find high grasses prior to annual maintenance by the FTA. You must also always be wary of snakes when the grass is a high. Insects can be a problem if the weather has been wet, you should always be well prepared. When hiking this trail always carry water map compass and wear appropriate sturdy footwear.
If you’re interested in a guided hike along these trails please visit http://www.notaclueadventures.com to schedule private or group trip.
For more information on Myakka River State Park please visit: http://www.myakkariver.org/index.php
For more photos of this trip please visit: http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10150544422216982.475146.123289366981&type=1