Friday’s agenda was a few of the hiking trails in the park, and a little bit of geocaching along the way. It was supposed to be in the mid-80s in the afternoon, so we got an early start.
Just past the campground loops is the Gopher Tortoise Management Area, and there are gopher tortoise nests everywhere!
The first trail is the Gopher Tortoise Loop,
and the location of several geocaches.
Nicolas found the first one easily, and we continued along the trail. Casey enjoyed going with us for a change!
Time for another geocache!
Another easy one! We were 2 for 2 – the beginning of a good day!
The gopher tortoise trail continued through the pines behind the campground, and looped around through a grassy area, home to many more gopher tortoises.
There were some dead trees around, as well as some pretty wildflowers.
Back out on the main road, we continued toward the Nature Center, and found another geocache. Nick and Bryce weren’t touching this one, though – the container was in a tree and covered with ants!
I must say – geocaching is a lot more fun now. When we first started, I used to look them up online, print out the description and clues, and we used an older, hand-held marine gps to try to find them. We were only successful about half the time – we always seemed to get fairly close, but could never get it zeroed in using the compass on the gps. When we did find them, I would get online later to log the find.
Now I have an app on my phone that locates all the geocaches around us wherever we are, gets us VERY close, and lets us log the find right there in the app. It’s great . . . and makes geocaching much more fun!
We reached the Nature Nook at the end of the road,
where several of the trails originated.
A school bus full of 4 and 5 year olds arrived just as we did, and they headed down the Little River Trail, so we went in the opposite direction . . . not that we have anything against kids, but we didn’t want to hike behind 50 of them!
As we made our toward the Birdwatch Trail, we were walking past areas that had been recently burned, even one area that was still smoldering!
We found out later that they had just burned this area the previous weekend.
There were quite a few gopher tortoise nests in the burned area – we were surprised that they would burn around them, but I guess the tortoises just retreated underground during the fire.
Bryce liked exploring the fallen trees!
The pines stood tall and majestic, reaching for the sky.
We continued along the trail, found a few shelters along the way, and eventually reached an area of boardwalk that looked pretty new.
We stopped at a shelter on the boardwalk and realized that we had forgotten to look for the next geocache, so Tom and I rested while the boys and the dog went back for it.
At the end of the boardwalk, we reached a section of trail that was uphill and full of tree roots. It didn’t last long, but we had to be careful.
The Birdwatch Trail and the Little River Trail come together at a pond, and the Yearling Trail picks up from there. We were taking the Little River Trail back to the parking lot, rather than continuing further into the woods.
The group of 4 and 5 year olds had made it to the end of the Little River Trail across the pond from us – which is pretty impressive for a group of young kids – but some of the parents looked awfully tired!
They were coming around the pond to continue along the Birdwatch Trail, so we stepped out of the way to let them pass before we continued on.
While we waited, Nicolas and Bryce looked for our next geocache.
Casey kept an eye on them to make sure they didn’t get too far out of sight!
They said that the geocache was on the other side of the pond, so when the trail was clear we went looking for it.
This was the toughest one of the day . . . all four of us were looking, and it took a while, but it was eventually Tom who made the find!
From there, we made our way back following the river,
and along a long stretch of boardwalk.
There were flowers blooming along the trail,
and several overlooks along the river,
where we could stop and let Casey take a break – at 70 in dog years, she is the oldest in the family!!
Bryce made the last 2 geocache finds,
and we made our way back to the Nature Center and the road to the campground.
All together, we figured we hiked about 6 miles – not a bad day, but Nick & Casey were on a mission to get back home! It was time for lunch!
We took the shortcut through the Gopher Tortoise Trail to the back of our campsite . . .
Home Sweet Home!