REI

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Wekiwa Springs State Park - Tramway to Bicycle Trail - 7/1/2017

Wekiwa Springs State Park - Tramway to Bicycle Trail - 7/1/2017




Wekiwa Springs State Park is our "go to" place to hike, whenever we don't have time to drive far or wish to be closer to home. We've hiked this area on numerous occasions, but this time we took a route we've never explored before. We parked at the Sand Lake Parking area (turn left when you enter the park and go about 1-2 miles, you'll see the parking lot on the right at the end of the road). If you need to use the restroom, go now or you will have to pretend to be a bear in the woods. There are restrooms in a separate building a short walk from the parking lot. Once we got all our gear on, got Jolene in her carrier, we headed towards the equestrian trail (opposite of the parking lot). On this hike we decided to not take the normal route. We hiked up the Tramway then turned left onto the bicycle path in order to loop back to the parking area. This makes the hike about seven miles round-trip. About a hundred yards into the equestrian trail it forks. Normally, we take the right and continue on, but this time we took a left to get to the Tramway. The Tramway is a very wide path cut into the woods. Many decades ago it was a railroad, but now it's mostly used for maintenance vehicles. While hiking we ran into our good friend Jack. He's on the committee for the park and is a guide. If you ever run into him on the trails or in the parking lot make sure to stop him and get a copy of his custom trail map. It's much easier to read than the one issued by the park. (A copy of his map is at the bottom of this blog)Jack hiked with us to about halfway up the Tramway. It was really nice talking with him about the history of the park and the animals he's seen recently. Jack gave us some insider information about the park. Apparently, there is a huge building which was once a private residence but has now been converted into a place for camping groups. There are also quite a few residents who live at the park in the park owned homes. When we parted ways and said goodbye and kept hiking up the Tramway. Not long after we separated front Jack, there was a big commotion in the brush to our right. The first thought in my mind was, "Oh Lord, it's a bear!" But much to my surprise and delight out bounded three white tail deer. They sprang onto the Tramway and and ran ahead of us a bit. They seemed to be having a wonderful family outing. We kind of spoiled it, because when they spotted us, they took off without a backwards glance. Shortly after, we saw another animal heading off in the same direction as the dear. We could not figure out if it was either a large fox or a Florida coyote. Towards the end of the Tramway we turned left onto the single person wide hiking/biking trial, which loops back to the parking area. As we walked, the trail would open up into sweeping fields of swaying grasses with little to no trees and then almost immediately turn right back into a shadowy forest. It's amazing how the lush foliage changes so dramatically. There were lots of gopher turtle hovels all along the trails and the roads driving in. Some are hard to spot being small, but others are rather large and obvious. Be careful, gopher turtle holes sometimes contain rattle snakes and the turtles are an endangered species. Although they look sweet and cuddly, look but don't mess with them. There were lots of small flowers out as well, which was shocking because it had been so hot lately, that I didn't think I'd see any this time of year.About halfway down the trail we came across a primitive campsite. And then we came up to something that every Floridian knows: a sinkhole. They pop up all over Florida, especially in Central Florida. This one looked old because there were trees growing deep down inside of it. There was a barricade at the top preventing you from going into it, but it was really old and half broken. It was about this time that I started to feel weak and nauseous. My feet were starting to feel heavy and I felt like no matter how much water I drank the thirst wouldn't go away. For those of you who are not familiar with Florida in July, let me explain. It's easily 95-99 degrees outside, no wind, the humidity was super high (unbearable) and there were very little clouds in the sky. We were constantly being beaten down by the heat of the sun. The summer heat settles on you like a thick, woolen jacket. High humidity makes it hard to breathe like your underwater and I still had a mile and a half to get to the truck. I realize that I was suffering from heat exhaustion. We had prepared for this, but apparently not well enough. I made sure to wear thin clothing, carry a two liter camel pack filled with water plus an extra three bottles of water, lots of snacks, and this doesn't even include everything we had for our daughter. I took a break when we got under some shade and sipped water so that I could cool down and get back to the truck. I knew if it got worse that we'd be calling for help. There was no way I was going to push myself and get in an emergency situation. Unfortunately,  the only real concern on my mind at the time wasn't myself but my daughter. Even though she was perfectly fine, I was extremely worried that she'd be getting heat exhaustion too. After all she's only thirteen months old so it could happen very easily. After about thirty minutes we made it back to the fork in the road and I knew the truck was only a football field away. So once we could see the truck in sight I told Jeff to rush to the truck, turn it on, get the A/C running and get Jolene into the truck. As soon as I got back to the truck I sat inside, cooled down, ate a half of a sandwich and drank some water. After just a few minutes I started to feel better, but my energy was completely drained. By the time I got home I was so tired that I went straight to bed for the rest of the day. So what did we learn from this? Get to the park extra early during the summer (we started at 9:30 and got back at noon which was way too late). Bring extra water (which we did) and Gatorade, loads of snacks, and make sure to not push yourself past the point of no return. If I had started feeling this way earlier we would have turned around sooner. Heat exhaustion is dangerous to mess with.  People die from it everyday here in Florida. So make sure to be well prepared and equipped to be able to make it through your hike.But, all in all it was a wonderful hike, we saw many animals, talked to wonderful people, and just had a great time! I'm so excited about doing this hike again, and getting out there earlier to hopefully catch even more animals! And not die.


Please enjoy the photos from the hike below, and a link to the video taken from this hike.





















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UNTIL NEXT TIME, KEEP ON HIKING!



Written by: Crystal Osborn
Edited By: Lisa Baker