Ascent of Spring Hammock Preserve High Point on 2015-08-15

Climber: William Musser

Other People:Solo Ascent
Date:Saturday, August 15, 2015
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Car
Peak:Spring Hammock Preserve High Point
    Elevation:60 ft / 18 m

Ascent Trip Report

Needed something different to do to train. Bored with all local hikes so tried this. First of all all three parks are all part of the Spring Hammock Preserve which extends from Lake Jesup all the way west to SR 427 past Big Tree Park in Seminole County. Most of the land is flat and swampy but the high ground is on a hill on the southwest side that climbs up US 17 Highway into xeric scrub lands but there are no trails in that area. In general, there was plenty of wildlife and interesting plants to see along the trails and unfortunately the HP is the worst part of the journey but it was the goal to coerce me into trying this long hike.

I parked at the ballfields at Soldier Creek Park along SR 419. I then hiked down the Cross Seminole Trail past the environmental center and checked out the FL Trail and some other nearby trails. I saw a gopher tortoise along the way. I then hiked east then turned south down the paved bike path till reaching Soldier Creek. There is a narrow and scantly used trail along the creek. The creek is dredged in this area so it flows fast and was full of fish. I saw a large bowfin from the shore. I encountered a small alligator on the shore and I moved past the area quickly because I did not want to meet his mama. I hiked east down past several closed boardwalks shown on the map of the preserve and finally the trail intersects and unpaved road down by Lake Jesup. The well written up boardwalk to the east was also closed. I headed north and the road eventually swung back west where I saw my first human.

Along this "road" also called Osprey Trail I took each of the side trails. On the hydric hammock loop and saw many endangered needle palms, and an armadillo, charged me unexpectedly and startled me as he bumped my foot and rushed under the dilapidated boardwalk. This "trail" is not well maintained and the boards were slippery with algae and often twisted and lifted by the roots. Caution in here.

I took Osprey Trail and paved bike lane again and crossed SR 419 and stayed on the paved bike lane headed west. Eventually, the bike lane becomes a large raised structure that crosses US Highway 17. On the other side, I could not find a trail to the south to the highest ground which is along the busy Highway 17. I thus, hiked along the FDOT right-of-way south (urban hiking) until I found the high ground near the intersection of a paved road with a fence. This area by the power easement was a dump. Yuck!... The things I do just to claim the highest ground. Ironically, if the state would simply cut a trail up through this hillier xeric sandy terrain, it would be a nice change up from all the hiking down in the hydric hammock lands.

Having enough of the urban hike portion, I returned back to the cross Seminole County Florida Bike Trail and hiked west to Big Tree Park.I had visited this park many times before to enjoy seeing the huge bald cypress tree but I had been afraid to go back since the drug addict killed the tree; but today was the day. Along the hike I enjoyed seeing a lot of native Yellow Popular which you do not see much of in Central Florida. I also saw green ash, water hickory, blue beech, and elm. The remains of the Senator was finally seen. It made my heart sick. I remember appreciating the 18 foot diameter behemoth many years ago. Now, it just the charred remains left behind a black fence. If only they had put the fence up early, the drug addict would not have killed it. The tree has survived 3,500 years of natural issues, had its top blown out by a hurricane in the 1920s; survived forest, and loggers, had been visited by 2 US Presidents and yet, in 2012, a young woman 26 years old, crawled into the hollowed out part of the tree to do drugs, lit up a fire and set the tree on fire.

From others - "On February 28, 2012, The Division of Forestry said they arrested Sara Barnes in relation to the fire of The Senator. Barnes said she regularly went to the tree site to do drugs and lit a fire that night so that she could see, but that it got out of control. Officials said that they found images of the fire being started on Barnes' laptop and on her cellphone. When an arrest warrant was served at her home she was also charged with possession of methamphetamine."

So much for survival of the fittest. Now the largest Bald Cypress, and what was the 5th oldest tree in the world is no longer for anyone to enjoy. A waste. It angers me to think about the senselessness of people that do this sort of thing. She plea bargained and did no time for this! Nice. A link to the story if you are curious.

I enjoyed the remaining large tree that is much smaller only a 10 foot diameter and 2,000 years old and then hiked back to the car. 8 miles in total.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:205 ft / 61 m
    Total Elevation Loss:193 ft / 58 m
    Round-Trip Distance:8 mi / 12.9 km
    Quality:3 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Road Hike, Maintained Trail, Unmaintained Trail, Stream Ford
    Weather:Drizzle, Hot, Calm
90F humid
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:117 ft / 35 m
        Gain Breakdown:Net: 57 ft / 18 m; Extra: 60 ft / 18m
    Loss on way in:60 ft / 18 m
    Distance:5 mi / 8.1 km
    Route:Osprey Tr to Cross Seminole Bike Tr to FL Trail to
    Start Trailhead:Lake Jesup  3 ft / 0 m
Descent Statistics
    Loss on way out:133 ft / 40 m
        Loss Breakdown:Net: 45 ft / 14 m; Extra: 88 ft / 26m
    Gain on way out:88 ft / 26 m
    Distance:3 mi / 4.8 km
    Route:US Hwy 17 to Cross Seminole to SR 427 back to Cros
    End Trailhead:Parking  15 ft / 4 m

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