Nature Walks – Three ‘n One
Three hikes in one day — not golf! Today I took off to the old riverfront town of Palatka and Ravine Gardens State Park. The park is situated in a ravine… and was originally built as a showpiece garden. The gardens are a bit over-grown these days, but some of the original plantings, including acres of azaleas, camellias, Dawn Redwoods and other sub-tropicals still thrive in the lush, well-watered park. Trails lace the park, circling around with the Springs Trail, the Azalea Trail and a short Nature Trail. A road / trail follows the spring-fed creek downhill until the waters are lost in a jungle of over-grown wild and planted vegetation. There is also a circular drive that goes around most of the ravine. The trails come to about 2.5 miles in all and I did most of them today, except for a section of the Springs Trail that is currently being rebuilt. It was also a very humid (100%) and warmish day which made the slightly upsy downsy trail challenging at times. To top things off, there are also two long suspension bridges, much to the delight of children.
Upon completing my excursion of the Gardens, I next drove to Dunns Creek State Park, a relatively new addition to the system, located just outside the little village of Sisco, on State Route 17. This park is not heavily developed and there is no entrance fee. A small parking area and picnic pavilion greet the visitor. The highlight of this park is the loop trail to Blue Pond, about 2 miles long. The trail, really a road, goes through oak hammock and circles around the pond and then returns. Not very complicated… but a nice walk.
When I finished this second walk, I next drove to Shell Bluff Park, a small Flagler County Park, located off of SR 100. There are two roads in this park, one to a boat ramp on Crescent Lake and the other to a pond and picnic area. The trail, such as it is, is a well-constructed .6 mile loop complete with several kiosks with the trail map and some nice bridges over an ink-colored creek.
I’ve nearly completed hiking all the close-by destinations, but there are a few that I intend to explore soon. I also want to drive through a portion of Ocala National Forest, the largest forest lands located in Central Florida. This state, with its flat terrain, is so very different than the mountains that I spent a couple of decades hiking through, the Cascades, Olympics, the Blue Mountains and the Eagle Cap (Wallowa Mountains). Still, it is good to get out and to soak up the quiet of the woods, to listen to bird calls and witness the antics of a surprised squirrel.
And this was a nice way to start off the New Year, doing some more exploring and enjoying Nature.
Blessings to all,
All Rights Reserved, Eliza Ayres, http://www.bluedragonjournal.com