This is Hike #46 in the book 50 Hikes in Central Florida, completed on April 14, 2019.
My wonky left knee was bothering me before this hike, so I chose to make a short one. The book said the suggested hike in Lyonia Preserve was only 2.1 miles. It is a home for the Florida scrub-jay, the only species of bird endemic to Florida, so my goal was to spot (and photograph one). Another bonus was that there was an Environmental Center and the Deltona Regional Library at the trailhead.
I set off down the trail which passed behind the Environmental Center. At the first loop trail, I turned left onto the Rusty Lyonia Trail (orange blaze). Almost immediately I passed a den of Cub Scout Webelos coming the other direction. I worried there would be lots of others on this suburban trail, but they were the only people I passed.
After a short hike on a sandy trail in the scrub, I turned left again to continue on the Red Root Trail (red blaze). There were a few instances where I thought I should turn around because my knee might not handle the walk, but I pushed on. Quickly I reached the longest loop trail, the perimeter Blueberry Trail (blue blaze).
After a slight climb, I spotted my first Florida scrub-jay. Just to the right side of the trail about head-high I spotted a blue and grey bird in its nest. It didn’t move as I approached. I snapped a few photos and started to continue my walk when I spotted a second scrub-jay, apparently on the lookout. Again I was able to approach closely and get a few close-up photos (see photo, at top).
I continued up a slight slope and the scrub opened up where I could see across the preserve to the high point. The day (at this point) was mostly sunny, though not hot at this time of year.
I continued up, across the open preserve to reach the highest point and approximately the midpoint of the hike. Much of this section was spent observing small insects which would rest in the trail until I disturbed them and sent them leaping and sputtering to a point 15 to 20 feet further, only to repeat the process as I approached again.
At the “summit” there were only a few signs that I was in the middle of a residential area: such as power lines, one rooftop, and the sounds of airplanes and a melody playing from an ice cream truck. Soon I plunged down into thicker scrub and approached the prairie with a small pond in its center. On the way I saw several cactus plants with spines that looked like silver nails, much to my surprise.
I noticed the sky was getting cloudy when I reached the intersection of the Red Root Trail. However, my knee felt fine so decided to extend the hike a little by turning right and taking it across the middle of the preserve and back. I started down this cross-trail but only got a hundred feet before some light rain began to fall. I took a quick shot of the prairie to my left before turning around.
I continued on the Red Root Trail to complete its return. The rain stopped as quickly as it had started. Walking down this trail I saw several more scrub-jays, but this time they eluded my camera before I could get any closeups. At the bench I turned left onto the main trail.
Back at the Rusty Lyonia Trail, I turned left to complete that short loop back to the main trail and out to the trailhead. The rain began again just as I reached the shelter of the Environmental Center. My knee held out just fine.
I headed inside the Center where they had exhibits featuring manatees, birds, and native land animals. Glass aquariums contained live snakes, lizards, turtles, and fish.
I spent some time enjoying the up-close look at the animals. Then I walked next door to visit the library. I observed some of the bipedal creatures there before returning to my car for water and a snack.
Now becoming a tradition, I headed to downtown DeLand to Persimmon Hollow for a cold reward beer. Feeling good after my short hike, I searched the 50 Hikes book to find a longer route for my next hike.