On this hike, the Florida Springs Institute combined with St. Johns Riverkeeper for a day hike through Seminole State Forest. Led by Jane Durocher of Riverkeeper, Heather Obara of FSI, and Ranger Ralph Risch we hopped from a conversation with a scrub jay to three small unknown (to most of us) springs.
The first stop was a mile or so along the appropriately named Sand Road, where Ralph called a nesting pair of scrub jays to welcome us to the forest. He kept this excellent show in motion for 20 minutes by tossing peanuts along the side of the road. Since this bird requires a scrub habitat for its survival, controlled burns are routinely conducted. In the second picture displayed below you can see smoke from such activity. Most of us had never seen this magnificent bird before.
The next stop was Sharkstooth Spring, aptly named for the abundance of sharks teeth found in the small run.
Unfortunately, this charming spring had been seriously damaged by unlawful digging. Ralph expressed his indignation and frustration that a self-appointed fossil expert had not only chopped his way into the side of the bank, but saw no reason not to do so. For this outrage the guy was fined only $55.00.
Ralph indicated a special affection for our next stop, Helene (pronounced Helen) Springs. Not only is the spring lovely, but he discovered it and named it after his wife. (Smart man.) This spring has a distinctive rotten eggs aroma and bacteria that feed on the Sulphur producing a grey algae looking slime.
The third stop was Moccasin Spring, which was a bit larger than the others, but still lovely. While Ralph had warned us about snakes, the only injuries were a few fire ant bites.
Finally, we enjoyed lunch at picnic tables along Blackwater Creek. Unlike the other stops this waterway can actually be canoed. However, you had better be prepared for narrow runs and lots of hazards along the way.
All in all, we had an excellent day in a forest most of us had never heard of before. Thank you Jane, Heather, and Ralph for a fun time in the forest.
Here is a map of the trails in the forest.
For more information on Seminole State Forest click here.