This is Hike #20 in the book 50 Hikes in Central Florida, completed on March 28, 2021.
This was my first hike in 2021. Spring Hammock Preserve is a place I am very familiar with, having visited many times as a kid. The suggested route was only 3 miles on a flat trail. But I laced up my new waterproof Merrell hiking boots in case I encountered any wet places (I didn’t).
I set off down the road looking for a short parallel side-trail to the right. It didn’t seem to exist now, so I continued down the road to the trailhead instead.
The hike began a little after 1:00 pm on the Osprey trail, which was a wide and sandy trail where I encountered many other hikers.
I passed the Robin Trail on the right, intending to take that trail on the way back.
Just before the large pavilion, I took a left on a wooden boardwalk to explore a short side trail, as suggested in the book. The trail followed a small stream. Not far down this trail I heard a sudden rustling just ahead, so I had disturbed some animal. I wondered if it was an alligator. I never found out, but the possibility of it wasn’t unreasonable—as I would soon find out.
I hiked a short way down this trail until it was blocked by a fallen tree and seemed to be unmaintained beyond. I returned to the Osprey Trail and continued east.
Soon I arrived at the main point-of-interest on this trail: Question Pond (see photo, at top). This spring-fed pond usually has a hazy light-greenish-blue appearance. On this day it had another interesting feature: an alligator.
I watched the alligator for a bit and then continued down Osprey Trail. After a while I came to a broken boardwalk displaying a “BOARDWALK CLOSED” sign. The book said this boardwalk may be rebuilt soon, but it hadn’t yet.
Not far after I reached the end of the trail, clearly marked so with a sign.
On the way back I noticed a tall tree that I had missed, distracted by the view of trail’s end ahead. It looked like a storybook tree that might be home to elves or a portal to another land.
When I returned to Question Pond, the alligator was still there, floating nearer to the center. Again, I stopped to watch and photograph it.
When I came to the intersection of Robin Trail, I turned left to walk a short loop back to my car.
The trail followed the ridge next to a creek and ended at a railroad trestle. I climbed up the hill to have a look down the tracks.
I left the railroad tracks and walked back the way I came, looking for the side trail that would take me back to the start. I think I found the correct trail, but I missed an intersection somewhere along this section because I exited the woods in the wrong place, further to the west (next to the Environmental Center) that the map showed in the book. But my route was not significantly different.
Because I had plans to meet up with a friend later, I didn’t immediately stop for my traditional post-hike beer. Instead, I drove home, showered and changed, and drove to Beachside Brew Pub for beer and darts. I brought my copy of 50 Hikes so I could explain my ongoing challenge.