50 Hikes: #46 Lyonia Preserve

50 Hikes: #46 Lyonia Preserve

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.

50 Hikes: #46 Lyonia Preserve

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.

50 Hikes: #46 Lyonia Preserve

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.

50 Hikes: #46 Lyonia Preserve

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.

50 Hikes: #46 Lyonia Preserve

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.

50 Hikes: #46 Lyonia Preserve

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.

50 Hikes: #46 Lyonia Preserve Route Details

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.

Post-Hike Beer

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.

50 Hikes: #46 Lyonia Preserve Post-Hike Beer

50 Hikes: #5 Hidden Waters Preserve

50 Hikes: #5 Hidden Waters Preserve

This is Hike #5 in the book 50 Hikes in Central Florida, completed on March 10, 2019.

I had already completed two hikes and arrived at my final park by 3:30pm. Hidden Waters Preserve is a small nature area surrounded by residential neighborhoods. The “hidden waters” is a marshy lake at the bottom of a huge sinkhole. The recommended hike was a 1-mile loop trail encircling the lake. More notable was the 105-foot elevation change from the trailhead down to the water’s edge.

After an accidental turn down a side trail which went out to the boundary of the preserve, I returned to the main trail that plummeted down to the loop trail. Here I turned left to follow the Ravine Trail, climbing up the bank clockwise around the lake.

50 Hikes: #5 Hidden Waters Preserve

At the top of the hill the trail approached the boundary of the preserve with houses visible across the street. The book suggested turning right to follow the cascading stream down to the lake. Along the way was a boardwalk overlook looking down into the ravine. At the bottom, the water tumbled and streamed into the lake.

50 Hikes: #5 Hidden Waters Preserve
50 Hikes: #5 Hidden Waters Preserve

The trail followed the perimeter of the lake with a short side trail that approached the water for some closer views.

50 Hikes: #5 Hidden Waters Preserve

After a short break, I continued around the lake. Just before rejoining the main trail to climb back out, there were more clear views of the lake. So I snapped one last photo (see photo, at top) before turning left to make the 105-foot climb up to the trailhead and parking lot.

50 Hikes: #5 Hidden Waters Preserve Route Details

This was the last of three hikes on this day. My first hike was at #6 Flat Island Preserve. My second hike was at #4 Trout Lake Nature Center. The total distance hiked for the day was 6.5 miles.

Post-Hike Beer

On the drive back I headed to downtown DeLand and a stop at Persimmon Hollow for a cold lager (maybe two). While there, I perused the 50 Hikes book to find my next hike.

50 Hikes: #4 Trout Lake Nature Center

50 Hikes: #4 Trout Lake Nature Center

This is Hike #4 in the book 50 Hikes in Central Florida, completed on March 10, 2019.

After a short drive from Flat Island Preserve, I reached the Trout Lake Nature Center. I wanted to hike this park and still have time to visit the Environmental Education Center before it closed at 4:00pm. The recommended route was only 1.4 miles. I signed in at the Center.

Not long after setting off from the trailhead on Lazy Oak Trail, I arrived at the Bobcat Walk, the first of several wooden walkways during the day. This part can sometimes be flooded, but at the time I was there it was very dry.

50 Hikes: #4 Trout Lake Nature Center

Like the earlier hike, this loop trail had a side trail, a large boardwalk that ended at Trout Lake. From the boardwalk you could observe bees pollinating colorful flowers in purple (see photo, at top), yellow, and white cotton-like shoots. The end of the boardwalk had a covered deck extending over the lake. From the lakeside deck I watched a cormorant swallow a fish, then dive underwater several times in search for more.

50 Hikes: #4 Trout Lake Nature Center

From the boardwalk I turned right to continue the loop on Armadillo Trail which passed behind the Environmental Education Center. At the Adventure Trail there was another walkway, this one with a swinging bridge over a muddy stream. After a few up-and-down jumps I continued on.

50 Hikes: #4 Trout Lake Nature Center

The trail continued on the ground until I reach the final landmark, the Grandfather Oak. The tree was a huge live oak with hanging wind-chimes and a picnic table sitting in its shade.

50 Hikes: #4 Trout Lake Nature Center

From the tree I walked to the main road and followed it a short distance before taking one last side trail (Gunkel Trail) off to the right to complete the recommended route.

50 Hikes: #4 Trout Lake Nature Center Route Details

After my hike I visited the Environmental Education Center. There were a few outdoor and indoor exhibits showing examples of natural wildlife. The building also contained a small library of nature books. After a short visit I made a nice donation and headed out to drive the short distance to my next hike.

50 Hikes: #4 Trout Lake Nature Center

This was the second of three hikes on this day. My first hike was at #6 Flat Island Preserve. My last hike was at #5 Hidden Waters Preserve.

50 Hikes: #6 Flat Island Preserve

50 Hikes: #6 Flat Island Preserve

This is Hike #6 in the book 50 Hikes in Central Florida, completed on March 10, 2019.

My second hiking trip from the book was actually three hikes of three parks in Lake County, near Leesburg and Eustis. I began with the longest and farthest hike from home at Flat Island Preserve, arriving just before noon. The recommended route was 3.7 miles along an entry trail and a perimeter loop trail. The morning was cool and sunny.

The hike began on a winding, wooded trail which soon reached the beginning of the loop (marked with an B sign). I turned left to walk the loop clockwise.

50 Hikes: #6 Flat Island Preserve

About a quarter of the way around the loop was a side trail which went through a marsh (on a boardwalk) to a river with a canoe launch. This was the most scenic section of the hike. The end of the boardwalk overlooked stands of cypress trees (see photo, at top) and and an open, slowly flowing river.

50 Hikes: #6 Flat Island Preserve

After a short rest to enjoy the quiet and views, I returned up the boardwalk to rejoin the loop trail. I turned left to continue a pleasant hike clockwise, passing a campsite and signposts E, F, and D. Between F and D the trail was littered with hickory nuts.

50 Hikes: #6 Flat Island Preserve

From point D it was a short 0.8-mile hike around the rest of the loop and back out the main trail. At the trailhead I ate a quick lunch before motoring to the next park.

50 Hikes: #6 Flat Island Preserve Route Details

This was the first of three hikes on this day. My second hike was at #4 Trout Lake Nature Center. My last hike was at #5 Hidden Waters Preserve.

50 Hikes: #44 Ponce Preserve

50 Hikes: #44 Ponce Preserve

This is Hike #44 in the book 50 Hikes in Central Florida, completed on February 17, 2019.

This was my first hike from the book. Ponce Preserve is in Ponce Inlet, a short 20-minute drive from my place. I set off on a late Sunday afternoon knowing that the suggested trail was only 1.6 miles long. The site lies on a strip of land between the Halifax River and the Atlantic Ocean so the trail was sandy with broken shells. The perimeter loop trail circles the historic Green Mound with extensions over boardwalks to the ocean and river.

50 Hikes: #44 Ponce Preserve

Leaving the parking lot, I hiked across the peninsula then turned north walking parallel to Atlantic Avenue past the observation tower. After crossing the road for a quick look at the beach, I continued counter-clockwise around the Green Mound, stopping to read the historical marker. Although the book showed only one, there were two designated historic trees.

50 Hikes: #44 Ponce Preserve

I finished the perimeter loop and returned to the parking lot before crossing Peninsula Drive for the boardwalk trail to the river. Walking across the salt prairie, I observed sea birds flying over black and red mangrove. The boardwalk trail ended at a covered observation deck in the Halifax River where boats, Jet Skis, kayaks, and paddleboarders passed by at different speeds.

50 Hikes: #44 Ponce Preserve

After enjoying the river view, I returned to the parking lot by the entrance. Because the suggested hike was so short I hiked a few extra sections of trail which made my distance a bit more than the recommended 1.6-mile route.

50 Hikes: #44 Ponce Preserve Route Details

Post-Hike Beer

After my hike I stopped in McK’s Tavern for a cold pint of hefeweizen and fish & chips dinner.

50 Hikes: #44 Ponce Preserve Post-Hike Beer

50 Hikes in Central Florida

For years I have wanted to hike more of Florida trails, either by day-hikes or by taking longer multi-day hikes. While I don’t intend to through-hike the Florida Trail, I have thought of hiking much of the Florida Trail in sections.

So in mid-January 2019 I bought the book 50 Hikes in Central Florida by Sandra Friend and John Keatley. This practical guide gave me information on the best places within driving-distance and the numbered hikes will serve as a checklist while I systematically work my way through the list. I am not going in order and I have not set any time limit to complete all of the hikes. But I will try to hike one or two of them each month.

The area of Florida covered by the book stretches from Daytona Beach (where I live) in the northeast, down to Palm Bay on the east coast, over to Tampa Bay in the southwest of the area, and up to Ocala as the northwest corner.

The links below go to the article from my hike of that place, updated as I complete them.

Table of Contents

CENTRAL HIGHLANDS

  1. Rainbow Springs State Park, Dunnellon
  2. Holly Hammock Hiking Trail, Ross Prairie State Forest
  3. Silver Springs State Park, Silver Springs
  4. Trout Lake Nature Center, Eustis
  5. Hidden Waters Preserve, Eustis
  6. Flat Island Preserve, Leesburg
  7. Circle B Bar Reserve, Lakeland
  8. Lakeland Highlands Scrub, Lakeland

NATURE COAST

  1. Johnson Pond Trail, Withlacoochee State Forest
  2. Citrus Trail, Withlacoochee State Forest
  3. Fort Cooper State Park, Inverness
  4. Chinsegut WEA, Brooksville
  5. Croom River Trail Loop, Withlacoochee State Forest
  6. Withlacoochee River Park, Dade City
  7. Werner-Boyce Salt Springs State Park, Port Richey
  8. James E Grey Preserve, New Port Richey

ST JOHNS RIVER

  1. De Leon Springs State Park, De Leon Springs
  2. St. Francis Hiking Trail Ocala National Forest
  3. Black Bear Wilderness Area, Sanford
  4. Spring Hammock Preserve, Winter Springs
  5. Orlando Wetlands Park, Christmas

ORLANDO METRO

  1. Lake Proctor Wilderness Area, Geneva
  2. Geneva Wilderness Area, Geneva
  3. Hal Scott Regional Preserve, Bithlo
  4. Prairie Lakes Loop, Kenansville
  5. Split Oak Forest WEA, Narcoosee
  6. Tibet-Butler Preserve, Windermere
  7. Disney Wilderness Preserve, Poinciana

LAKE WALES RIDGE

  1. Crooked River Preserve, Clermont
  2. Catfish Creek Preserve State Park, Haines City
  3. Lake Kissimmee State Park, Lake Wales
  4. Tiger Creek Preserve, Babson Park
  5. Crooked Lake Prairie, Frostproof

TAMPA BAY

  1. Hillsborough River State Park
  2. Lettuce Lake Park, Tampa
  3. Brooker Creek Preserve, Tarpon Springs
  4. John C. Chesnut Sr. Park, Oldsmar
  5. Honeymoon Island State Park, Dunedin
  6. Eagle Lake Park, Largo
  7. Weedon Island Preserve, St. Petersburg
  8. Alafia Scrub Preserve, Riverview
  9. Little Manatee River Trail, Little Manatee River State Park

ATLANTIC COAST

  1. Tiger Bay State Forest, Daytona Beach
  2. Ponce Preserve, Ponce Inlet
  3. Doris Leeper Spruce Creek Preserve, New Smyrna Beach
  4. Lyonia Preserve, Deltona
  5. Merritt Island NWR, Titusville
  6. Enchanted Forest Sanctuary, Titusville
  7. Maritime Hammock Sanctuary, Melbourne Beach
  8. Turkey Creek Sanctuary, Palm Bay
50 Hikes in Central Florida