This is Hike #43 in the book 50 Hikes in Central Florida, completed on May 17, 2020.
Since March I have been eager to continue my hikes from the 50 Hikes book. State parks finally re-opened, so I picked an easy hike nearby to begin. After refreshing my knowledge of the two hikes in Tiger Bay State Forest, I headed out after lunch. The day was party overcast and a warm 82°F.
The first of two hikes was on the old Pershing Highway. This brick and pebbled concrete trail lies on the remains of an old road built in 1920 (the pebbled edges added later) to connect DeLand and Daytona Beach. I signed in and set off.
The trail had five “audio posts” that provided short narratives about the history of the trail and surrounding environment. I had read about the trail beforehand so I didn’t take the time to listen—but they are a good idea.
Once past the trailhead gate, the first section of the trail saw the best of the old roadway. The brickwork was intact and the edges straight. It took a slight left turn almost immediately.
The area was pretty, but not especially scenic; the walk was interesting more for its historical reasons. The old highway ran mostly parallel to the current highway, International Speedway Boulevard, so traffic could be heard during the entire walk. I never could see any cars through the thick Spring undergrowth. The distance was indicated with marker posts every quarter-mile.
I passed a couple on bicycles who were traveling in the opposite direction, the only people I saw on the trail. Shortly past the 1/2-mile marker there was a small bridge, but on this day there was no water running under it. Just beyond, the trail curved to the right.
I continued on. Not far past the 3/4-mile marker, the grass and weeds increased significantly through the bricks. It was almost as if someone had weeded the trail to this point then abruptly quit. When the road took a big turn to the right, I knew I was near the end.
After the bend I reached the the 1-mile marker and then the end of the road and trail.
Near the end was new bench and a kiosk. Six photos and their captions told about the construction of the road, begun with the pouring of limerock in 1918. This highway was part of a triangle connecting DeLand to Daytona Beach and New Smyrna Beach.
The brick road ended abruptly with the pebbled edges extending slightly farther into the underbrush. I walked the left-side edge as far as I could until it, too, ended.
Taking a brief rest, I took a photo from the road’s end (below) and I began the mile-plus walk back.
On the way back I picked up my pace, stopping fewer times to take photos. I did see one curved stretch I liked so I stopped. Here I spotted a large grasshopper crossing the trail which I managed to photograph before it disappeared into the underbrush.
At this point it was a sunny mid-afternoon and I could feel the heat from the brick road during the last straight stretch. Not much father to go.
I exited the trail just as another man was beginning and we said our Hellos. The entire hike had taken just under an hour to complete.
After a quick rest to post photos and take a long drink from my bottle of water (I didn’t carry any on the trail), I started the car and drove to the next location in Tiger Bay State Forest.
When I arrived, the fee box was closed with a sign saying that the park was free to use today. I parked and walked the short distance to the Buncombe Hill Trail. I signed in, then started the hike at Marker 1 (Indian Lake, a sinkhole lake).
This trail is a 2.1 mile loop with lime-green blazes and numbered markers (for different ecosystems). Almost immediately I passed Marker 2 (scrub community) and reached Marker 3 (transition zone to an oak hammock).
This was a pretty, shaded section of trail with a smooth floor of leaves. Many of the trees showed signs of a fairly recent (controlled) burn. I passed Marker 4 which indicated the area of slash pine plantings. The trees appeared in rows because they were planted in 1994 when this area was a timber farm.
At a double-track trail I saw two large dogs roaming free, their owner reading a book on a bench. They didn’t bark or approach, but simply watched me walk by. At the 1-mile point of the hike I reached the northernmost part of the loop at the Buncombe Hill Turpentine Camp and Marker 5. The trail crossed and recrossed the wide, sandy Rima Ridge Road and headed south. Here was more evidence of a recent burn.
I reached Marker 6 indicating an area where the Eastern Gall Rust fungus grows on the sand pines, according to the brochure. From there it was a sunny half-mile hike to complete the loop.
The book suggested that the boardwalk on Indian Lake was part of the hike, so I walked out on the brand-new-looking red pier jutting into the water. The lake surface was glassy, reflecting the white clouds between the lily-pads.
When I returned to my car, I found that another MINI had parked next to me. It was a rare Solid Gold MINI Cooper with a South Carolina plate. I did not meet the owner, unfortunately.
After my hike and a shower I headed up to the rooftop terrace to enjoy my traditional post-hike beer, this time a refreshing Leinenkugel’s Summer Shandy.