REI

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Wekiwa Springs State Park - Hiking thru the aftermath of a Controlled Burn - 7/29/17

Wekiwa Springs State Park - Hiking thru the aftermath of a Controlled Burn - 7/29/17


We've been hiking a lot at Wekiwa Springs State Park in Apopka, FL lately. Mostly because it's been so hot outside, and we have a pass to get into the park early so we can start hiking earlier. This week we managed to get to the park at a little past 7 am. This made hiking so much easier, being it was well before the heat of the day. The only bad thing about being up and out this early was the nats and "no see ems". I felt like our ears and noses were being attacked by a hoard of those little monsters.

We started off the hike with a plan to hike towards the Tramway but to turn onto the red/white bike path. That path curves up and intersects back onto the Tramway to take back to the parking lot (approx 7 miles). However, on our hike in we passed by a woman (who we run into again towards the end, she was Ultra Running). She told us that there were signs ahead saying the path was closed because of a recent controlled burn. We decided to go as far as we could and then figure out which path we could take to get back onto the Tramway.

Hiking along, it was beautiful. There really is something magical seeing the sun come up thru the trees, hear the birds singing, and seeing wildlife, like deer, out and about on the trails before all the people come out to scare them off. You know you're at peace when both your husband and 14-month old daughter are being completely silent and just taking in the surroundings. I don't get this quiet time too often so taking in these small moments mean the world to me (and my sanity lol).

Along the way, we ran into yet another runner. This woman we've run into a few times on previous hikes. She's a tri-athlete and runs with her adorable dog. We love being able to stop and pet the doggy, and Jolene gets a kick out of the wet snout and doggy kisses! She told us that the controlled burn happened earlier in the week and that the blocked path was just as a precaution. She had just ran thru the blocked path and it was perfectly safe and fine. After saying our good byes we were off again towards the controlled burn part of the path!

We really enjoyed this path for how different it is to the other trails at the park. It's very narrow (single person width) and goes from open field to forest and back. Such a variety in such a short distance. Along the way, there are primitive camp sites you can only get to by hiking or horse. It's really neat and may be a good place for us to practice in the future when we decided to overnight stay on a hike.

Not too far up the path, we came to a set of orange cones with a sign saying the trail was closed for the controlled burn. We stopped here and took a break. Jolene was beyond ready to get out of the carrier at this point and run around. Having a toddler now that's completely mobile and full of energy we have to let her run around every now and again. So, while she was running everywhere, picking up flowers and leaves, as well as driving her daddy crazy, I went on the closed path to see how bad it was. The burn was 5 days earlier so there was no fire, but some spots were still smoldering and had a light smoke. But nothing too bad, so we made the decision to go ahead and hike thru it to continue on our desired path. After a few minutes of bribing with treats we got Jolene to get back into the carrier. Any parent knows that at a certain age the only way to get them to do anything in a timely fashion usually involves a lot of asking, pleading and snacks. So after we got her to get back into the carrier we were off onto the path.

It was interesting to walk thru a freshly burned area. Everything was black and brown. It literally looked like a different world. When you looked off into the distance every once in a while you'd still see parts of logs on the ground smoldering with small amounts of smoke coming up from them. We've had A LOT of forest fires in Central Florida this summer, some of which destroyed trails, homes, and parks. Seeing them maintain this park and it's trails with controlled burns definitely makes me feel more at ease. I don't know what I'd do if something happened to my favorite hiking spot. The beginning of the burn area was only trees and small brush that were burnt but as you walked further down the path there were fields of Palm Frons Plants that had been completely burned. The crazy thing about this destruction site was this time next year all the plants will have grown back stronger than before and it'll be more beautiful than ever before. I'd say it was about 10 minutes of walking thru the controlled burn area before we got back to the Tramway where the burn area ended. 

On our way back we ran back into the woman running at the beginning of our hike. She is an Ultra Runner. If you don't know what an Ultra Runner is, it's a person who runs anything longer than a Marathon. She was training for a 100-mile race (to do all at once). She started walking with us for a bit and we found out that she had completed the hike we plan on doing next year, From Key Largo to Key West. The hike is called The Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail, is 106 miles in length, and goes from the top of Key Largo to mile marker 0 in Key West. We plan on hiking this in 5 days, but she completed the entire thing in just over 28 hours! Yes, I said HOURS!!!!!! And to top it off she did this while in her 50's! She was such an inspiration to keep pushing, and go for it!

After a few minutes she was off running again, and we were on track to head back to the truck. At this point, we were just pushing hard to get to the truck because up ahead there was thunder and dark storm clouds. So the talking stopped and our pace picked up. Luckily it didn't rain until we were completely packed up into the truck and headed out of the park.

Thanks for taking the time to read about this week's adventure and please enjoy the photos below from the hike. And, go to the end of the page to get a link to the Youtube page or a video from this hike and others we've done. 











































To see a video from this hike please go to: 

https://youtu.be/R0TUICzWnbM


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