Monday, December 5, 2011

The Yearling Trail

Palmettos in the Juniper Prairie Wilderness

And we're off!

It's officially December in Central Florida, meaning slightly cooler temperatures and the start of our hiking season! Hurray! To kick things off my parents and I headed out to the Yearling Trail for a historic hike. The Yearling Trail is thus named because of the homesteads that the trail loops around. Author Marjorie Kinnan Rawling wrote her classic The Yearling based upon the Long family which homesteaded the area in the early 1900's. Calvin and Mary Long played host to Rawlings during her visits to the area, and Calvin shared his story of raising a fawn as a child. His tale inspired The Yearling which went on to win a Pulitzer Prize.  
Forest Service Map
The Yearling Trail is composed of two loops. The outer loop is 5.5 miles and the inner loop is 3.5 miles long. Maybe I am out of shape but the hike around the outer loop (which we decided to tackle) seemed longer than just 5.5 miles. This is partly due to the fact that the first mile of the trail is thick and sandy which makes for slow going. If you look on the map above you can see a stretch of trail leading from the trail head in a nearly straight line toward the loops. This section of trail is out in the open providing absolutely no tree cover. It's sandy and dry as well and there is evidence of a fire that swept through years ago. Burnt remnants of trees remain along the trail.

We were off to a good start with spirits high and binoculars at the ready! My parents hike with poles which they find very helpful in preventing tripping over roots and things. If they were to hit the trail with out their poles they would be quite literally hitting the trail...stumbling into it face first. I admit the poles are useful and when hiking in Yosemite over the summer I pretty much used them like crutches. On our Yearling hike I had Breezy's leash secured to my belt and didn't want to complicate matters with poles.
We were nearly to the trees when we hit the first fork in the trail. We wandered down this fork for about a quarter of a mile before deciding that something felt off and turned back around. If you refer back to the map above you can see that we accidentally turned down the Old Type Line Road. This trail opens onto a dirt road where it was obvious someone had been camping not too long ago. We turned back and shortly after reconnecting with the trail, found a marker post which indicated where the correct turn was.

The correct turn is marked with a post and from there on the trail is marked with yellow spray paint blazes on the trees. Keep a sharp eye out for these blazes as the forest floor is entirely covered in pine straw and makes the trail look just like everything else. It was clear that we were the first people on the trail today seeing as the spider webs were still stretching across the trail.

In the clip above I mentioned the Rainbow People, which you may or may not be familiar with. Rainbow People are somewhat remnants of hippies and an American brand of gypsies. They are an anti-establishment group that is all about disorganization and freedom and so on. It all sounds very edgy and exciting but in all honesty they are cause for concern in our area. They migrate in mass during the winter months to camp out randomly in the Ocala National Forest. They have done this for years and as an unfortunate result we tend to see a spike in crime during this time. They are known for nudity, drug use, and theft. Typically they don't arrive here until January/February, but with a quick drive through the forest it's obvious they are already here. The Yearling Trail's trail head is located on Highway 19. Driving down it on the way in we passed a man who was stumbling down the roadside erratically and had obviously vomited down the front of his shirt. On the way back there was a police officer posted along the roadside. We were a bit concerned that we would run into a group of Rainbow People while out in the forest, and were happy to see that no one had been down this trail yet that day.

Can you see the trail?

Aren't they cute?
On down the trail things got thick. In some areas that trail became very narrow and was surrounded heavily by plant growth. Breezy led the way, smashing and weaving through the palmettos and scrub. 
We came upon all of the historic markers noted on the map. Unfortunately, in true Forgotten Compass style, I accidentally left home with out a copy of the map and we had to guess what each marker was indicating. There is a map on a kiosk near the trail head, but out on the trail itself the markers are simply posts with numbers. To know what you are looking at you will need to bring the map along with you.

The Cattle Dip
For example, the cattle dip. This is one of the first markers you will come across on Jody's Trace. This is where the ranchers would treat the cows for parasites. On down the trail we came across the sinkhole and a homestead site. There is nothing to note the homestead site besides the marker. The sinkhole on the other hand is unmistakable.

The bottom of this sinkhole used to be the water source for the settlers of this area. It is at this point in the trail that we had a decision to make. Here you can choose to take the short cut and head back to the main trail and the cemetery or you can choose to hike on and loop over the Florida trail and Pat's Island. We decided to continue down the trail towards Pat's Island.
Bear Scat next to my boot for comparison
By continuing up the trail you eventually bump into the Florida Trail. We greeted it like an old friend, happy to see the orange blazes. This junction is an obvious one and very well marked. We took a left on the Florida Trail to continue or loop. 
As we continued on our hike we began to climb a small rise to the top of what is known as Pat's Island. This is the area that Patrick Smith settled and was later inhabited by the Long family. It was referred to as an island because it was slightly higher ground surrounded by a sea of palmettos. This area is marked with several oak trees which really stand out in the scrub and pine forest. There are also historic markers in place as well which you will only be able to appreciate with the trail map in your hand.

It was about this time that we all began to feel the trail's length. Surprisingly to me it was Breezy, my little trooper, that was fairing the least well. Breezy kept getting sand spurs stuck in her paws which I had to frequently stop and pick out. If she is going to hike much more this winter she is going to need some doggy shoes. I began to let her drink directly from my water bottle and I switched over to sharing my mothers bottle. We were all short on water and getting a bit tired. Breezy began to lag behind a bit. Sometimes I forget that she is nearly seven years old and spends most of her time on the couch. I think from now on it'll be shorter hikes for my girl. With shoes of course.  

Breezy the trail dog
At this point we pretty much had a straight shot back to the trail head. On the way we passed several more markers and the Long Cemetery. Of all of the historic marked sites, this is one of the only ones that you can clearly tell what it is. The headstones are well marked and the graves are being maintained by someone.

Long Cemetery
On our journey I activated my tracking device so I could see where we were on a satellite view. Unfortunately it was somewhat over cast and shady in the trees so many of signals did not register. You can see below that the very first signal that went up was when we were way out on the Florida Trail section of the hike. Point number 2 is the Pats Island area, and if you look closely you can see the cemetery marked on the map as well. All in all this hike seemed long to me, but it probably had to do with being out of shape, out of water, and concerned for my dog's feet. If you go be sure to bring your map, your bug spray, sunscreen for the open prairie, and of course lots of water. Enjoy!


Kelly Burns said...

Your blogs have been really great lately Jess. I am learning so much!

mike knox said...

Jessica: I enjoyed your post. I've been thinking about trying the Yearling Trail myself soon. You may be interested in reading about a kayak trip I did last year on nearby Juniper Springs:
I'm planning a backpacking trip sometime this winter on the Fla Trail, south from Rodman Dam.

Sonia said...

Nice blog! Love hiking too...never heard of the Yearling Trail..that is so cool. My son lives north of Tallahassee in Bainbridge Ga, not far from there. I am originally from Fort Walton Florida. Have a wonderful holiday season!
Miss Bloomers

Saun said...

You have a nice blog totally enjoyed this. Thanks for sharing and visiting my blog.I'll be back

Craig said...

Fantastic. All the details made your post really fun !

KB said...

Love this post. Thanks for sharing with Weekend Walkabout. Hope to see you back again on Sunday.

Ann said...

I see you with your back pack. Are you on a mission to trek the whole USA and canada?

When you get to Ontario, make sure you go and take a photo at the southern tip of Canada, and most importanly, find out the name for me.

Thanks for visiting

Katya kate said...

Wow I felt like I'm travelling, I mean walking with you guys! I enjoyed all the videos! your dog is so cute, I'm beginning to love her! Wow, that was a long trail, I would get lost lol. I'm a new GFC follower :)

Ebie said...

Jessica, thanks for sharing your trails with us here in Southern CA. Hiking and photography has taken me to many undiscovered places.

Yes, that's right, hooray for hiking!

Carole Meisenhelter said...

interesting post; you sure get around; out there (and up there too I see). Well done!

Sandy said...

Hi Jessica... thanks for stopping by my blog... From one outdoors person to another, your blog is very well done and it looks like your into hiking and adventures! My family has been outdoors in our souls for years. I have a son that lives in Juneau and jumps out of choppers to rescue stranded folks who love to hike..They keep getting lost or hurt up in those snowy mountains.... He say's "Why do these people keep doing that, can't they just take
I've been in and out of Florida since childhood and keep coming back because the snow is just too cold...
I'll be back to see your next adventure...
Thanks again and Happy Holidays

Leovi said...

Beautiful photos, I also love hiking and I practice some Sundays.

Marlee said...

The only place I have ever hiked is in the Smoky Mountains. Would love to check out the Yearling Trail! Thanks for sharing and for visiting me at my blog. Merry Holidays!

Gypsy Lala said...

I love your header photo, wonderful scenery and pretty and sweet lady, I have no time to read further on your blog, will come back in the weekend for other posts...

JO said...

I couldn't go hiking even if I wanted to... my heart just can't take the hike!

And yes, Legoland is worth it! You should go. You're lucky you just live in the area.

Thanks for visiting my blog!

TheChieftess said...

Thanks for stopping by Mammoth Lakes DP and commenting!!! And after reading your bio...I'm thinking you'd LOVE the Galapagos!!! Have fun on your next adventure!!!

sreej said...

You have a great blog. Will surely go through the entire blog whenever I get time.

Pieces of Sunshine said...

You certainly live an adventurous life and have gained so much life experience.

Lakeshore Cottage Living said...

Um, your header picture is amazing.

Thanks for stopping by my blog and commenting on my mantel.

Merry Christmas!


LV said...

Thank you for taking me along on this trail adventure. I would never hold up to all that. I am tired just reading about it. You doing things with your family is wonderful. I appreciated you taking time out to visit and leave a nice comment. I enjoy the comments most. I am joining your other friends as follower.

❀~Myrna~❀ said...

That was a real adventure! Great videos & pics !

Rohit Sareen said...

Hey Jessica,

Firstly tx for dropping by and following. i dont follow back necessarily but just the header blew me! im glad to have come across u coz u seem such an avid traveler ur self. travel and photos come as a passion to me as well. im already hooked with ur travel snippets.

hopefully, im gona spend sumtime over the weekend going thru ur archives!

My Third Eye

HOOTIN' ANNI said...

Love this trek you have taken us on....and eventually stopping by an old cemetery. I always like finding these ancient grave sites.

Oh, and PS...beautiful dog!!

Friday Fragments

kbguy (福生) said...

Very interesting places. And very different from where I came from. I follow you.

kathy johns said...

My husband and I just got back from that same hike an hour ago. I decided to look up info and came across this site. We had fun and enjoyed the historical aspect of the trail. The yellow trail needs some trimming, but easy going most of the way. We plan to go back.