Ascent of Kelly Park High Point on 2016-01-10

Climber: William Musser

Other People:Solo Ascent
Only Party on Mountain
Date:Sunday, January 10, 2016
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Car
Peak:Kelly Park High Point
    Elevation:85 ft / 25 m

Ascent Trip Report

For a local hang out, catch this park and its amazing flora and fauna on a winter day before all the crazy locals choke it out with billions of tubers and squawking kids and the experience goes from annoying to amazing. I don't know why I have not found time to do this hike trip far more often. If you plan your day well you can experience the original Kelly Springs County Park, Wekiva State Park, and the State Forever Trust Addition all in one long enjoyable loop. I would rate this trip a 2 in the summer (providing you could even get in) but in winter with hardly anybody there and the trails completely to yourself, I give it a 4. Here is how to do it and what I saw today:

First pay the $3 entrance fee for one passenger and come early before anyone else. Park. I walked down the sharp hill and down the steps and checked out the meandering spring run, boardwalks, and retaining walls all before the tubers and snorkelers arrived. Then, I jogged up the stairs and past the concessionary and around and down the second set of steps that takes you to the actual springhead. For the first time ever, I had this unusual feature to myself. What makes this feature so unusual is how the Floridan Aquifer rushes out of the clayey hillside where the limestone rock and clay interface is buried under the sandy woods. Normally our FL springs boil up out of a karst depression or a "sink" but this one flushes right out of the side of clayey hill. It is very interesting to see. And there is a lot of limestone there in the spring run.

I then began hiking the wonderfully maintained hiking trails to the east of the river (having crossed the bridge to the East ) but then I swung South on the yellow loop trail and ended up back at the guard gate so I decided to go tackle the "highpoint" of the park first and then explore more. You follow the yellow blaze loop towards the fence line and back to the paved entrance road Baptist Camp Road and cross in front of the fire station and hike back to the right. There you will find the entrance to three well marked trails on the Florida Forever Trust lands. At the entrance I was greeted by a huge group of ginormous turkeys. I have never seen wild turkeys so acclimated to man. I walked right past them literally within 20 feet.

I followed the red trail and it breaks off into a blue and another called the oak something but you head west as much as you can you will eventually hit the back fence line the highpoint as I have described before is along the back West fence line. Gopher Tortoise everywhere!

I have always wanted to see the actual hill peak which is in the woods behind the state park lands so when I saw a break in the fence, I jumped it and walked back up to the hill at elevation 108 feet. This land if full of deer and quite lovely. I found an enormous sinkhole in the ground that someone has been hiking to the bottom and back and I can not resist a steep down climb so I explored that and another and found the "peak" and then back south to the FL Forever Tract. I jumped the fence and explored for the first time every single trail in this tract. I explored the marsh grassy areas in the middle of the tract that shows up as a lake but at this time of year it is well maintained grassy depression. Then I hiked from marsh to mesic hammock taking the red trail along the fence getting barked at but the dog that is always there and then all the way north to the xeric scrub lands and the back border. I explored a little wet weather prairie and stumbled into a geocache hidden by pine cones and sticks. That is the second time hiking in obscure places in FL state lands I have stumbled onto a hidden geocache.

On the way back, I hiked for the first time the maintenance roadway that borders Baptist Camp Road and ran into another large group of turkeys this time far less tame than the ones at the first station and they bolted on me. I crossed the paved road in front of the firs station again and regained the yellow loop trail of the Kelly Park lands. This time heading to the left )or north towards Camp Joy. This portion of the trail system is littered with sinkhole and some are shallow (only 15 feet deep) and others are strangely deep. I explore each one. There is one near the campground you will approach and there is always kids running down into it. It is deep. I would guess 30 feet and very steep. Only about half the people checking it out will attempt to climb down in it because it is so steep. If it were not for so many of these very steep terrain features one would not be able to place so much gain on the legs during the hike to make it worthy of a training hike. This is FL after all!

Passing back through some lovely wire grass and longleaf pine woods you descend back to the Rock Spring Run and I like to touch the water at the third tubers pull out where the river is at its lowest elevation of this long hike. I make this my theoretical TH start. Following the yellow trail south and back to the main spring area I cross the bigger main bridge and head east towards Wekiva State Park. I found a place where the barb wire fence is pushed down (probably by black bears) and I hear hikers in this far back country of WSP. I have never seen hikers that far back in WSP even though the trails are well maintained back here and I see that by the cypress, sweet gum, and blackgum swamp are very well marked. I find a cypress trail that marks the junction of 3 WSP trails one red, one white, and one green. I know the green trail from the part of the state park that I hike regularly with my dog but I have never hiked this far back before from the WSP entrance side so I decide to hike and investigate this area.

Soon I recognize that I am behind the huge indoor plant warehouse structure that you see from Rock Springs Road. I know where I am. I follow many variations of the state park jeep trails until I understand the area back here and now I know how to complete a spring to spring hike. I will return sometime this year and hike from Wekiva Spring to Rock Spring from park to park. How cool. But then I hike back to dirt trail road that borders the two parks and jump the fence and wind may way back to them main springhead of Rock Springs and jog up and down the stairs a few time and then work my way back to the car. Done.

In all the pedometer confirms that my 2 hour and 20 minute hike was 7 miles and obtained 540 feet of total gain.
A very pleasant and scenic day indeed. Still, few people at the srping. Joy.

Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:530 ft / 161 m
    Total Elevation Loss:470 ft / 143 m
    Round-Trip Distance:7 mi / 11.3 km
    Grade/Class:1 and some 2 in sink
    Quality:4 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Road Hike, Maintained Trail, Unmaintained Trail, Bushwhack
    Weather:Pleasant, Calm, Partly Cloudy
Crazy winter 80F nice
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:70 ft / 21 m
        Gain Breakdown:Net: 60 ft / 18 m; Extra: 10 ft / 3m
    Loss on way in:10 ft / 3 m
    Distance:1.4 mi / 2.2 km
    Route:Varies see TR
    Start Trailhead:Made TH at lowest water edge of spring at third la  25 ft / 7 m
Descent Statistics
    Loss on way out:460 ft / 140 m
    Gain on way out:460 ft / 140 m
    Distance:5.6 mi / 9 km

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