Saturday, February 25, 2012

Miscellany: St. Sebastian River Preserve State Park

Ever feel like you need to get away? Like the four walls of your office are closing in on you? You might want to take the off-ramp at Exit 156 and visit the St. Sebastian River Preserve State Park:

Admission and parking are free, all you need to bring is yourself. The Park is divided into four quadrants by I-95 and the C-54 and Fellsmere Canals: the northeast quadrant is riding-oriented (with a place for horse watering and an equestrian trailhead), the northwest features the remnants of several abandoned homesteads, and the southwest quadrant is home to the endangered Florida scrub jay. It's a "park" in the loosest sense of the word - you won't find any trashcans or water fountains on the trails.

I opted for the southeast quadarant, and made my way along the Blue Trail, a desolate ten-mile loop of "the real Florida."

It isn't a very scenic journey. No picturesque waterfalls, mountains, or rivers; the land is all scrubby flatwoods and sandhills, broken up by the occasional open farm. The trail itself isn't very pleasant, either - in most places, it's loose sand that sucks your energy and gets kicked up by occasionally blistering winds.

The north end of the Blue Trail is wide sky and farmland. A lot of the area used to be devoted to cattle; the trailhead is right next to the old cow pens of the Circle F Ranch.

Parts of the Blue Trail feel positively eerie. Because there isn't much to see, the place isn't very crowded, which is appealing if you want solitude. You'll see areas scorched by controlled burns - black trees and charred foliage like something out of Cormac McCarthy's "The Road."

About 8 miles in, I caught sight of a family of sandhill cranes, running away, almost at the edge of sight. I ran after, catching glimpses, until I finally lost them. Not sure why I did that; maybe it was because I hadn't seen a single soul for two hours.


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