05 April 2011

Corbett and the Loop Trail

Sunday night Emily and Rosana left us to go back to work. Andy and I had the place to ourselves. Literally we couldn't find another camper in the park. After being mildly harassed by a wildlife officer that seemed unsure what we could be doing there we settled in for the night.

Here's a view of our campsite from the tent. On Monday morning we would find that only a can of cashews was disturbed in the night. The can was cut open with many teeth marks but the cashews seemed undisturbed. We figured that it had fallen victim to the River Otter that Andy spotted when he emerged from the tent. We watched the otters swim about the canal from the campfire area and then got ready for the big day ahead.

Andy and I decided that we would take a nice loop hike through a section of the Florida Trail (Ocean to Lake section) and then loop back through trails 5 and 4 before returning to our car. We estimated on the map that it would be about 5 miles and take us 2 hours. What we weren't prepared for was the flooded trail, the intense heat, the sun, and the lack of water.

Our first mistake was I forgot my water bottle so we decided that since we were about a quarter of a mile in that we would just share Andy's nalgene. Thing started off well with a well marked path and many distractions along the way. We found many tracks below from the wild boars that call Corbett home.

The Florida Trail section was really pretty and the orange blazes marked a clear path but we often walked on the road that ran adjacent. Our fear was that at some point the FT would keep going straight and we would miss our turn to the right. Oh I forgot to mention, we also forgot the map. How we did this, I have no clue but the map sat quietly in the car and we were on our own to remember the way.

We also found many scat markings. Some were clearly Bobcats or Raccoons. The scat below was particularly large and had an assortment of beetles making fast work of the remains. I haven't IDed the scat yet but if you know what it is please leave the answer in the comments.

We were elated when we found the junction of the FT and Trail 5. That almost sealed the deal that we could find our way back on the loop. Trail 5 wasn't very long and it ran the course of a canal. Along we way we saw Turkeys and some Alligators. Unilke the FT, which was VERY sandy and slow trudging, we made okay time on the Trail 5.

When we found Trail 4, it seemed like we were home again but as we progressed down the trail we had more and more difficult terrain to cover. The road become very muddy and at times it was flooded completely. At this point in the journey our water reserves were almost depleted and we didn't have much choice but to keep going back towards our car.

Like most hiking in Florida, you always must expect to get wet. But without the map, we were unsure of the distance we needed to cover so we were reluctant to get our feet totally submersed. We navigated the side paths and crawled around many vines and air plants to fine our way around the flooded areas.

Florida has some beautiful air plants and the Cardinal Airplant, Tillandsia fasciculata, is one of my favorites. It had the smallest little blue-purple flowers blooming and it was striking with the bright reds, oranges, and yellows peeping through the mostly monotone Cypress areas.

Before long I noticed footprints on the trail that looked like ours. The night before we had hiked a little of Trail 4 but when nothing looked familiar we had feared that maybe we had many more miles to cover. With such a relief we settled in for just a few more minutes before seeing the green grass that signified the trail head. It was a nice hike and even though we thought we were lost for most of it with little water, it was still an enjoyable trip. We even saw a few birds but not the coveted Red-cockaded Woodpeckers that had lured us on this hike. Maybe next time...and you better believe I'll bring more water AND a map!

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