This is Hike #26 in the book 50 Hikes in Central Florida, completed on March 6, 2022.
Although I hiked Doris Leeper Spruce Creek Preserve for the second time in January, this was my first new hike from the book in 2022. The weather was beautiful all day, but the hike itself was one of the least interesting, so far. The entire perimeter trail was a double-track for horses and hikers. The highlight here is definitely the trees.
I set off at exactly 12:00 noon. Almost immediately I got away from the correct route, passing Marker 1 to the right, which I considered straight, because the book said to turn left at Marker 2. When I reached Marker 33, I turned around and went left at Marker 1. The next junction was marked with a B, but I turned left anyway because it seemed like the right place. It was. The wide, sandy trail entered the sunshine which was to be the case for most of the hike.
I walked north along North-South Trail. Here I saw the first of many impressive oak trees.
Just past Marker 6 there was blue blue sign with a 1. It wasn’t mentioned in the book, but it was in the right place to make a left turn, so I did. This was the Lake Loop trail to Lake Hart.
The little Lake Hart Spur trail was supposed to take me to an observation point on the edge of Lake Hart. However, the trail was flooded and I could not walk to the shore. I was forced to turn around. The book showed a second viewpoint of the lake later, so I wasn’t terribly disappointed.
Rejoining the Lake Loop, I came across a man who wasn’t sure where the trail went next. I explained how to go the way I had come to his connecting trail back. I also let him take a photo of the trail map on my phone. I continued east on the Lake Loop.
This trail running parallel to the lake passed most of the large oak trees in the park. Soon I arrived at the next turnoff to go to the lake’s edge. Here was evidence of a fairly recent controlled burn.
My second chance to view Lake Hart was thwarted because the boardwalk out to the lake’s edge was closed! So the one non-tree point-of-interest was not to be seen.
I continued around the Lake Look through burned pine forest. Here were several amazing oak trees. As I rested at the Florida Train connector, I saw the same man approaching; so I know he found his way around the loop and was headed to his trailhead.
Unless one of these trees was the namesake split oak, I might have missed it. When I reached the junction of the eastern half of the North-South Trail loop and looked over the map, I realized I had passed the spot. So I had also missed the one tree-related point-of-interest! I spent a few moments reading the kiosk at the Swamp Trail junction before heading south along the North-South Trail, passing one more large oak.
This trail soon left the pine forest and became mostly open plain. The sun was out and the temperature was rising, although it wasn’t yet very hot. Which was good, because there would not be much shade for the remaining few miles.
I walked the sandy double-track trail for several miles with no real interesting sights. The 50 Hikes book said that this area of the park was the best for viewing wild turkeys, gopher tortoises, and sandhill cranes, but I saw none of those. Yet another disappointment.
Around Marker 27 I reentered a pine flatwood that provided some shade. The trail floor changed from thick sand to a bed of pine needles which made for a much more pleasant walk. At Marker 31 I emerged into the sunlight for the final walk to the trailhead. The day had finally become very warm (84°F), so I was glad to be nearly finished.
Finally, around Marker 32 I could see the parking lot in the distance. I walked the last half mile, past the final post, Marker 33, hot and tired and ready to be finished and get my reward beer.
Although the book said that this loop hike was 6.4 miles, I actually hiked slightly over 7 miles because of the extra distance (intended and not) down side trails off the main route. I finished at exactly 2:45 pm.
On my drive back home I was going to pass near Titusville, so that meant one thing: a stop at Playalinda Brewing’s Hardware Store location. I ordered some pretzel bites and a tall, cold pint of their Rocket Ranch Pilsner. Here’s to the start of my fourth year of hiking the 50 Hikes in Central Florida trails!