Seminole State Forest: Off-Road Round 2
fbrogers — Mon, 07/20/2009 - 11:53
A week later and I'm at it again. A week later and I'm still not up until noon. Hey, I have a real job too ;) Unfortauntely, noon isn't a great time to venture out in Florida; some of the reasons are obvious (heat, humidity, crowds) and some are... well, sometimes I forget what the skys look like in July at noon:
Heading west from Sanford on Highway 46.
After a quick bite at Firehouse to let the worst of the front come down, we headed to the south entrance to the Seminole State Forest on 46. It was still drizzling, but nothing that would prevent us from trekking to as many springs as we could. Unfortunately, something else would. I dropped $5 in the self-pay entry container and we drove into the forest.
The South Entrance: Locked
Every gate was locked. South Entrance was locked, North Entrance was locked, and even two gates we found on the side dirt roads were locked. Each had a combination padlock connecting the chain, but we couldn't get any of them open (I jogged the numbers one up and down from whatever combination was listed, but no luck). The springs were too far into the forest to walk (especially in the rain) and no matter where we went, no one could tell us how to get behind the fences. We even called the Seminole State Forest line, but of course they're only open Monday-Thursday.
Of course, we ended up finding a way to break in. A local told us of an entrance on Tanner Ln. that ended very close to a trailer where a couple of rangers lived (inside the forest); perhaps we could hop the fence and ask them for permission/access.
The gate at the end of Tanner.
We hopped the gate and headed to the trailer Two well-kept cars were parked outside, but no one answered our knocks. We were about to give up when I noticed that the fence adjacent the gate ended about 20 feet down the line, where trees blocked the way. However, the first 6 or so feet of no-fence was only blocked by small saplings and branches. The optical illusion was convincing, but we thought we could manage. After moving some limbs out of the way, we charged over the twigs and into the forest.
The Seminole State Forest is traversed by gravel access roads that are intersected by hiking and horse trails (which also seem to accomodate vehicles nicely, even if they aren't allowed). For the longest time we just romped around on the trails, using the GPS and the map-view on the iPhone to try to find our way to Droty Spring. The trek was amazing; perhaps it was the rainy atmosphere or the isolation, but everything seemed very picturesque in a low-key way.
Driving down one of the horse trails, breaking the law.
We soon figured out (by some intuition and by reading the description of Droty on this site) that Droty wasn't really accessible from the main park; rather, it was inside the park but accessible from the bordering road. The internet was spotty at best but I managed to pull up the coordinates of our next target, Moccasin Springs, to use with the more-reliable GPS. Off we went.
Panorama of Moccasin Springs.
Underwhelming is a good word to use here. It was clearly marked and thankfully cleared, but the spring was muddied heavily with dark water, looking like any other backwater creek in Florida. It's also fairly surreal to go from civilization, break into a forest, drive through unpaved grass trails, locate a spring via GPS, and end up at a picnic table and a grill. From civilization back to civilization. Makes me feel like this spring-locating isn't all that wild :P
The only other spring we were able to locate was Sharks Tooth Spring; we looked for the Blue and Green Algae Boils, but I'm fairly certain they were covered with the recent rains (they are in the flood plain). Some of the other springs, like Blueberry, Cedar, Blackwater, Snail, and Boulder, will have to wait for later. We passed it the first time; the small area that leads back to this tiny spring is well-hidden and unkept (except for the picnic area beside it). Pushing aside braches and dodging large spider webs, all while searching diligently for those pesky snakes, we found the spring.
The mouth of Sharks Tooth Spring.
Bugs were biting heavily so I took the shots and we jumped back into the jeep. We decided to call it quits on the springs after finding that the few remaining ones would require backtracking, so instead we drove aimlessly around the forest, having some pure fun :)
We at one point encountered a family having a picnic deep in the woods (using one of the grills even!). We drove past with a wave, but soon rolled up onto a very simple bridge over one of the creeks; the bridge had no railings or guards and was a deep black-and-grey pitted block of concrete. Sly pulled to a stop and I jumped out with my camera and ran back to the family, asking permission to take some photos. There are more on my Flickr account, but here's a good sample:
We got another stroke of luck after the shots; I asked the family how they got back behind the gates and the father told me he'd acquired a permit. He explained that the permit was free but only offered Monday-Thursday, and with the permit he was given the combination to a gate at the end of this road. After some small talk I was offered the code to help us get out. Delighted for the information, I hopped back into the Jeep and off we went.
Before we left, we found a very picturesque section of the road just before the exit:
Clouds are still heavy, just not much rain.
I took a million or so pictures to stitch together for some panoramas before we took off again. Turns out we wound up at the same gate we first encountered. This time, we had a way to open it.
Gate is OPEN :D
Fun day, if a little bit wet and we only found two springs :) I'm sure we'll come back when the weather and heat are better.