Sunday, July 9, 2017
Black Bear Wilderness Area - Sanford, FL - 7/9/17
This was our second time hiking this location, and it did not disappoint. We love this trail, it's mostly shaded, which makes it great for summer hiking. The trail is a little more moderate in the way it is changing in terrain at every turn. At one moment you're hiking on a flat nature trail and then all of a sudden you're using your arms to help pull up over massive mounds and tree roots. Every time we hike this trail it remind us in a way of hiking up north. There are constantly small obstacles that for us makes it very interesting, but could easily scare the crap out of someone else. At this time of year, with all the rain that has come recently, there were patches of extremely tall grass we had to walk thru. Now, walking thru tall grass in Florida is never something you take lightly. The entire time I was walking thru the grass (which by the way was up to my shoulders at one point) I kept thinking "please God do not let me get bit by a snake or step on an alligator". Alligators could definitely be hiding in the grass because we were very close to the St John's River which is basically the "Red Light District" for gators. It's a wonderful 7-mile loop, but you can also just complete the 2-mile (in and back) trail which is mostly on a well-maintained boardwalk.
This time we actually took the trail backward. In that when you hit the part of the boardwalk where you can continue straight or turn left, we turned left. One thing that we learned the first time hiking this trail was that it gets very difficult towards the end and if you do the trail in the opposite direction shown on the map your legs will not be burned out so quickly.
Previously we saw many animals on the trail, but this time we only saw one snake and lots of bees!!!! I am not sure what kind of bees/hornet/wasp they were but they were very scary to walk thru. The insect was about 2 inches in length, red and black body with the stinger having three very distinct yellow and black stripes on it. The reason I noticed this coloration is because we spent almost ten minutes staring at them blocking the path and trying to figure out how to get around them before we saw a runner just run right thru them like nothing. I immediately felt like an idiot that I didn't know the insect and knew to just walk thru them and I'd be ok. So we sucked up our embarrassed pride and just kept on hiking down the path.
Up ahead there are a few small boardwalks that go over very small waterways and wetland, as well as a maintenance road that leads to the city water facility. Right before the road, the grass is extremely high, and the ground was wet. So make sure to watch out for snakes, it was their PRIME habitat. After the road crossing is where it becomes my favorite part to hike. The trail is literally elevated and has water ways on both sides. This goes on for miles until you hit the river. There are trees that grow right in the middle of the trail you have to almost literally climb around, hills, roots, and other obstacles that make this a more difficult hike. I love having obstacles to get thru while hiking, it makes it not boring. And our daughter Jolene just thinks it's a huge amusement ride, lol.
A little over halfway in there is a Primitive Campsite off to the right. It has a fire pit and a small covered pavilion with benches attached to each side. We took this time to stop there, since there were no campers, and eat a snack. Jolene got to get out of the carrier and run around for a bit, but we kept a close eye on her so she didn't wander off too far. We also, took this time to redcoat ourselves and Jolene with lots of bug spray. After about 15-20 minutes of a break, we loaded Jolene back up and started the hike back to the parking area.
After walking a mile on the nature path, which runs right next to the St John's River, you run right into the boardwalk which is actually the end point of the original trail here. Only in the past few years has the 7 mile loop opened, before it was a one mile hike to the river and back. This area of the boardwalk is very nice, maintained amazingly well, and decently wide. Up ahead you cross another service road and then it's back onto the nature trail again, and once again thru some insanely overgrown brush!
The last part of the trail is rarely simple. It mixes back and forth from the nature trail style to boardwalks. And evenly you end up at the part of the boardwalk where you turned to start the loop.
Black Bear Wilderness Area is definitely on our list of favorite hike. It's so different in comparison to other hikes we normally do here in Central Florida, and is a real hidden gem. Please enjoy the photos below from our hike, and a link to a video from this hike is at the bottom of the blog.
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