Sunday Walk To Fern Hammock Springs @ Fort McCoy, FL

This cluster of vents is located at the back of Juniper Springs Recreation Area. Always best to visit when the park opens. The morning silence gives way to Cardinals, turtles and hikers.

More information check out;

http://www.flsprings.com/content/fern-hammock-springs

Top 5 Most Viewed Nature Blogs @ GarzaFX.com

Over the past year, I had published over 200 entries talking about food to film to fancy; however, nature related posts had made up a good chunk of reoccurring traffic from the Internet. These specific locations I had enjoyed showcasing either because of their remoteness or calming affect upon my person. Here were the Top 5 Most Viewed Nature Blogs @ GarzaFX.com

  1. Cape Canaveral Seashore National Park – New Smyrna Beach, Florida20131001-194755.jpg
  2. Wildcat Lake Park @ Ocala National Forest, Florida20131115-222214.jpg
  3. Pope Still Hunt Camp, Apalachicola National Forest @ Crawfordville, Florida20131103-170549.jpg
  4. Salt Springs Recreation Area in the Ocala National Forest @ Salt Springs, FloridaSalt Springs Recreation Area in the Ocala National Forest @ Salt Springs, Florida @ GarzaFX.com
  5. Hawk Mountain, Georgia on the Appalachian Trail @ Chattahoochee National Forest20140101-195156.jpg

Juniper Creek Canoe Run in the Ocala National Forest @ Marion, Florida

Closing out a day on a road trip for Veteran’s Day, I was curious about a sign for Juniper Creek Canoe Run. On the way back from Salt Springs on SR 19, I had looked for an excuse to pull over for the restroom. The brown signage on the left side of the road for the creek was that excuse. What was the connecton to Juniper Springs Recreation area? I had remembered Juniper Run at the recreation area. From that visit, the Run was unimpressive for a possible canoe excursion. That portion of the waterway within Juniper Springs Recreation area had become shallow and unmanageable. This canoe launch area had shown a much wider and deeper view of the creek, worthy of a second look. The view was postcard perfect with glistening water, powder blue skies and the ever present chirping of birds. From reading around the web, Juniper Creek Canoe Run had provided trips of a few hours plus, a possibility of shuttle ride back to the launching area. With the colder weather heading for Central Florida, I had pondered the possibility of canoeing through this portion of the Ocala National Forest again.

Located at Latitude :  29.183745   Longitude : -81.688533, just off Florida State Road 19.

Read More:
Juniper Run (US Forest Service)
Juniper Springs, Ocala National Forest, FL  (GarzaFX)
Salt Springs Recreation Area in the Ocala National Forest @ Salt Springs, Florida (GarzaFX)

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Salt Springs Recreation Area in the Ocala National Forest @ Salt Springs, Florida

Going to Salt Springs Recreation Area in Ocala National Forest, the adventure had begun with a friend’s email for ideas on travel for Veteran’s Day. After agreeing to a sketch of locations the night before, I had fired up my car’s ignition heading out to locations familiar and unknown. Of the many springs in Central Florida, I had skirted with perimeter of this area before with the Salt Springs Observation Trail; however, I had yet to encounter one of the most photogenic spring heads in the state. After visiting Wildcat Lake Park, we had headed up US 40. After turning onto Florida Highway 19, about a mile up the road, an adult brown bear and her two cubs had decided to cross the road from the right. We had slowed down in attempting to capture photographic evidence of this passing encounter. In retrospect, probably better the bears had all darted back into the woods of Ocala National Forest. With the enticing smell of peanut butter from my center console plus cubs, wild bears had provided the potential for unpredictable behavior. After reaching the town of Salt Springs, I had noticed the signage for Salt Springs Observation Trail. On that trail, I had seen numerous trees with the bark ripped from their sides. The memories of this unkempt trail had reinforced my earlier thoughts on the bear encounter. These magnificent creatures, though cute, had demanded respect with distance, less encounter misfortune.

On the north side of the town, the entrance for Salt Springs Recreation Area had appeared on the right. Heading into the park, we had wondered if any Federal workers might be around because of the free admission on Veteran’s day. At the gate, a park ranger had greeted us reiterating policy of no pets and no alcohol handing us a parking permit. Driving forward, we both had wondered if they might know, ”How salty were the springs waters?” At the end of Salt Springs Observation Trail, the odor of brackish waters were quite overwhelming coming off the downstream waterway.

After parking, we had scouted the enclosed swimming area with multiple boils. The first color that had popped out looking into the springs heads, a golden yellow tint of some of the rocks. Thereafter, something unexpected had transpired. Flying fish had shot into the air, making quite a ruckus with splashing sounds. Ironically, while trying to document this activity, the fish had stopped their activity, almost on cue. Following this inactivity, they had jumped out of the waters, always seeming to avoid our two cameras. Finally, after some patience, I had caught at least two glimpses on my iPhone.

After switching gears, we had entered the waters of Salt Springs. My buddy had decided to try on his new fins, snorkel, booties and mask. I had opted for picking up more swim time with my goggles. In the waters, the flying fish had appeared to be large mullet with no predator in pursuit. They moved around the underwater vegetation and spring openings with ease. Swimming to the multiple boils, each had a distinct depth, shape and current. The shallow yellow tinted rocks had provided quick and easy access to each boil, even for a novice swimmer. For a holiday, the park had remained fairly devoid of any foot traffic, less an elderly couple. After moving through the perimeter of the enclosed swimming area, we had opted to leave early, making time for our final destination of Silver Glen Springs. At the end of our excursion, we had answered the question regarding the briny nature of the spring head. The waters that day, despite the name, had provided a faint salty aftertaste.

If you hadn’t visited this tranquil Florida backdrop, get out there!

Salt Springs Recreation Area
Address: 13851 Florida 19,
Salt Springs, FL 32134
Phone:(352) 685-2048

Read more:

Salt Springs (USDA Forest Service)
Salt Springs Observation Trail in Ocala National Forest @ Salt Springs, Florida (GarzaFX)
Silver Glen Springs, Ocala National Forest, FL (GarzaFX)

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Wildcat Lake Park @ Ocala National Forest, Florida

Heading out on State Road 40, I had passed this park a few times going to various destinations (Silver Glen Springs, Alexander Springs and Juniper Springs) in the Ocala National Forest. Heading out to Salt Springs this past Veterans’ Day, I had finally taken a stop to check out Wildcat Lake Park. After parking, I had explored the boat launch area. There, I had an unobstructed view of the wide open body of water of Wildcat Lake from a wooden pier. In the distance, one fisherman, on his boat, had waited patiently for fish to bite. For being around 9 am in the morning, on a holiday, there was very little activity, less the one visitor. Wildcat Lake had embodied the serenity and peace of rural Florida.

After taking some photos and video off the pier, I had walked up past the on-premise restrooms to check out the swimming area. Moving to the waters’ edge, the swimming area had seemed shallow and fit only for small children. Though, I had wondered how wise that might be with an alligator sign up the hill. In these shallow waters, I had seen quite a few tiny fish darting around avoiding the camera’s gaze. With the uncooperative stars, I had decided to get back in my vehicle to complete an impromptu journey to another portion of Ocala National Forest.

If you had looked for a place to picnic or fish with a great open view, take a stop. It was a good pit stop for us before heading out to Salt Springs and Silver Glen Springs.

Park fee is $3. Hours: dusk to dawn. Wildcat Lake Park had lacked an address; however, is located up US 40. The physical location is Latitude :   29.1704370217539    Longitude : -81.6276197855908.

For reference, on Veteran’s day, most national parks had offered free admission (i.e. Wildcat, Salt Springs, Silver Glen, etc..)

Read More:
Wildcat Lake Park (US Forest Service)

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Alexander Springs – Ocala National Forest – Florida

Driving back through Ocala National Forest a few times this year, my eyes had fallen onto a sign for Alexander Springs. After a hitting few other springs this past weekend, I had decided to try following this sign onto a dirt road. After redirecting myself back onto a highway, I had found the entrance to Alexander Springs Recreation Area traveling down on  County Road 445. After arriving, I had scoped out the park taking a brief swim in the springs waters. What had intrigued me, the hiking options. Going onto the Timucuan Trail, the loop had gone into woods behind the main creek area. Some portions of the trail had been saturated with rain water coverting the dirt into thick mud. Mud aside, the only excitement had come from a few mosquitoes and seeing the tail end of a fleeing rattlesnake. Towards the end of this loop, the ground had been replaced by a wooden boardwalk. The boardwalk had provided riverside access with two overlooks for the creek. Another reason for the pit stop had been to get a feel for the location for possible scuba lessons. One item that had caught my eye, the proximity to the Florida trail. The Florida Trail had pretty much run into Alexander Springs recreation area. The park had seemed like a good detour, if hiking thru.

Though carrying Florida State Park’s annual pass holder, this federally run park had still wanted their cut of my money! Be sure that you had stored an extra $10 somewhere for admission. Additionally, you had an option to buy a Ocala National Park annual pass for $60 at the gate. For reference that pass had covered Juniper Springs, Salt Springs, Silver Glen Springs, and Salt Springs to start. If you had been considering hiking in central Florida, might be worth a stop to swim.

Read More:
Alexander Springs (www.floridasprings.org)
Ocala National Forest – Alexander Springs – USDA Forest Service (www.fs.usda.gov)
Florida Trail (Wikipedia)
Timucuan Trail (www.fs.usda.gov)

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