Green Swamp Wilderness Preserve protects 560,000 acres that serve as the headwaters of four major central Florida rivers and replenishes the Florida aquifer, which rises close to the surface in this area. Hiking trails crisscross the preserve. The place is large and not as developed as many of the springs, which permits a solitude that is rare to find in a two hour drive from Tampa.
We stopped at two places, Withlacoochee River Park, and Colt Creek State Park. The latter was well suited for horses, and not so much for people, but the former was just perfect for us. We ended up on a trail that wasn’t listed on the park map, which caused some confusion as I tried to match us to intersections that we never reached. I’ve started looking at handheld GPSs again.
Up until this trip, we’d seen more frogs in Washington than Florida, but tiny frogs were everywhere at Withlacoochee River Park. They must have just come out of the river. We had to walk carefully to try to avoid them as they haphazardly hopped away, making it much more difficult to observe the scenery.
This was also the first time that we saw sandhill cranes. They are larger than herons, and were unperturbed by the traffic going by as they stood along the side of the road. This pair in the park seemed more cautious.
Common tickseed, waving to the Native American flute music wafting across the entire park. Miles away from our car, we could still hear it.
Some butterflies land more often than others. Zebra swallowtail are on the flitty side, although not as bad as the yellow butterflies. But then on the way back, this old one stopped on the path for us.
You start the Florida trail at the canoe launch.
Leaving the river, there are some marshy spots marked by the cypress trees, but we were never in mud. The main path was well cleared and marked by orange blazes on the tree trunks, often on beautiful arching oaks.
And then you round one bend or another, and you find palm, or prairie, or grassy open pine lands.
And then we passed by a clearing that bordered a smelly chicken farm, and guessed (correctly) that we were out of the park boundaries, although still on public land encompassed in Green Swamp. Giving up on the idea of the loop trail, we backtracked back to the flute music and the canoe launch.