Visiting Florida's state parks and beyond in our Roadtrek. This is how we saw it all. Hopefully, the posts will give you some useful information. Questions and comments are welcome.

Friday, September 30, 2016

A Weekend at Florida's Silver Springs State Park


Located on the east edge of Ocala, the campground has a separate entrance from the main entrance which is at the spring head forming the Silver River. The campground area has 7 great hiking and/or biking trails and 6 equestrian trails. There is a separate staging area for the equestrian trails east of the main entrance.


The campground has 59 campsites in 2 double loops.  The sites are all level gravel with partial to full shade. Most have good distance and/or ample foliage between sites.  All sites have 50/30/20 amp svc and water. Thirteen sites have sewage. There are 24 pull-throughs. All have grills, fire pits and picnic table.  Very nice campsites.  Didn't see a bad one there.

The loops are paved.  Each double loop has its own updated bathhouse.

No RV?  The park has ten 2 bedroom cabins to enjoy the area.


And, a day use playground & picnic area near the museum.


The 7 trails could be described as easy hiking. They are a combination of narrow and winding paths, and straight and fairly open paths.  There are no great elevation changes on any of the trails and most are packed sand covered in leaves and pine straw.  Very pretty hiking.  Signage is good along the trails, describing the flora and fauna as you go.  Remember, this is black bear country.

The Swamp trail, 1.9 mile loopThis leg of the trail is narrow, winding, shady and in sections, has roots.


The other leg of the loop joins the end of the Sinkhole Trail and ends up at the playground and picnic area. A much wider trail at this point.

The Swamp Trail "ends" at a boardwalk to the river.  This begins the swamp part. 


Deep, wet, pretty swamp along the boardwalk.

At the end of the boardwalk is an overlook of the Silver River.  No swimming or fishing, but rent a kayak at the spring head, or,

 take a tour boat from the day visitor area at the spring head.  That area used to be a theme park.  In the acquisition the state retained the gardens, glass bottom boat tours and amphitheater.


The River Trail is very service road-like and limerock based.  You can bring your own kayak/canoe to a small boat ramp at trail's end....the Silver River.

Walk the road section and a grassy loop near the river and you've covered about 1.3 miles.  Easy hike, but you may encounter a family of hogs, a gator, and other varmints.

 The 5-mile bike trailhead starts from the River Trail. Recent rains have created some pretty serious standing water in places, but all-in-all a good bike workout.  Need a mountain or fat-tire bike.

The Sandhill trail loop officially starts near the Ranger Station, but nearer the playground it meets up with the Sinkhole Trail and the Spring Trail.  The Sandhill trail is a 1.7 mile loop, The Spring Trail is a hike/bike trail leading to the spring head and old theme park.  2.24 miles....one way.

Along the Old Field Loop is...a field.  The trail is windy and narrow, but along the way the trail opens up into these small sunlit fields. A lot of small varmints are scurrying about, foraging, and in the trees, raptors awaiting the right meal to come a scurrying.

The Sinkhole trail is a 2.2 mile loop that circles a large old sink hole.  The large amount of growth in the sinkhole indicates it occurred many years ago.  It is not particularly deep, but very wide across.  The trail is mostly narrow, windy and shady.  If you so choose, you can find narrow, cluttered trails into the sinkhole.  The sinkhole is not dangerous. It's what you might meet along the trail or down in. 
Things seen along the way:

Cypress knees in the swamp.

A lot of fish hang around the boat ramp.  No fishing allowed, though.

There was a lot of debris in the river this trip.  There are 6 turtles and a small gator on this floating mass of grass and branches.  All you can see of the gator are two beady eyes below the white float.

I think this yellow-bellied turtle was in the same position on the last visit.  A lot  more moss on his back this time.  The water had no debris in it and was crystal clear.

Lazy gator laying on the floating grass below the turtle.

As you wander down the trails, the green trees and palmettos are accented by a splattering of color:




Twin Spot Skipper

Gulf Fritillary

Fresh deer tracks after a morning rain.

And, my tree art of the trip.  Just how did this get bent thusly?

But wait, there's more...

Near the picnic area is a replica of an old Florida Cracker town, circa early 1900.  It includes a church, typical house, blacksmith shop, and other out buildings of the time.  Check with the rangers for the tour schedule.

Adjacent is a replica of a Seminole Indian village. A meeting hutch, cooking hutch and dining hutch.

Also, adjacent to the picnic area is a nice museum.  Inside there is exhibits of Florida's geology, archeology and anthropology in one wing,

and exhibits of the different historical periods of Florida. According to one of the museum volunteers a new wing is to be built housing a huge recently received collection of artifacts.

Outside is one of the original glass-bottomed boats that took tourists on a river cruise.  Cruises can still be taken originating at the spring head off Hwy 40.

Proving that you can still get something for a penny, inside the museum is a replica of the stage coach that once serviced the area.  For a penny, one cent, The replica comes alive.  Horses gallop, wheels turn, the driver cracks the whip.  One penny, folks.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Daytrip to Florida's Fort Mose Historic Landmark


 While at Anastasia State Park we took part of a day to visit another part of that park.  Fort Mose (pronounced Mozay).  We are not history people, but this park is a great history lesson about the relationships between the local Native Americans (four different tribes), Spanish settlers and Africans (4 distinct cultures) enslaved by the British who, with the help of the Yamasee, escaped from the Atlantic coast of the Carolinas and Georgia.  Very well presented. 


About two miles north up US 1 from Castillo de San Marcos in St. Augustine, at the city gates, is the entrance to this park.  I say this because there is just a small sign on the highway.

The visitor center houses a museum with dioramas, interactive displays, and photos and artifacts of the fort and area circa mid-1700s.  Also, there is a theater with a 15 minute video about Fort Mose and the origin of its people.

The interactive displays are done in a most interesting way.  No pushing buttons or headsets.  Stand in the circle before the display you are interested in and the speaker above starts its "lecture".  The visitor is observing a wall display that shows different words and phrases in English, Spanish and the local Native American language.  The speaker above narrates. To her right is metal art of the Black Militia formed by the escaped African slaves and fought alongside the Spanish and Native Americans to ward off the invading British from Georgia defending Fort Mose and the village.  Again, note the circle and speaker.


Behind the center is a small area under a hammock where park rangers and community volunteers perform demonstrations of the militia activities in character. During the month of February a living history event, Flight to Freedom, is performed.  When park events are not active the area can be used by groups for events.

A pavilion is available for group picnics.

A marsh boat and pole exhibit.


So, where is the fort today? (Board the boardwalk.)

Underneath the marsh between the center and Baya Creek and Robinson Creek.  Discovered by archeologists the remains of the first Fort Mose lies under that clump of trees near the horizon.  It was destroyed when the British from a Georgia outpost invaded the area.  But, the locals defended well and sent the British back to Georgia.  The trail leads to the Fort Mose I area.  You can hike or bike it.

Well beyond this clump of trees, lies the remains of the rebuilt Fort Mose.  Again, we have to take the word of the archeologists and the rangers.  Now it is but a marsh. A birders paradise, Roseate Spoonbills, Ibis, Wood Storks and in autumn, migrating Bald Eagles inhabit the marsh and adjacent hammock.

We were also blessed with this Little Blue Heron's appearance on the 700 foot boardwalk into the marsh.


Later he moved to the reeds.

This has to be the brightest green lizard I've ever seen.

A second short boardwalk allows kayakers to dock at the park behind the center.  The marsh waters are full of oysters beds.  

Along the path between the Visitor Center and the boardwalk into the marsh are 8 information posts, each with a factoid about Fort Mose and its residents.  Nicely done with a cast replica of an item relative to the text.

Views from the boardwalk


Into the hammock. Sounded like many birds in there.

OK, where is the owner of the flip-flop?  No gators in sight, either.

Tree art for the day.