The weather finally got nice this weekend and so I hit the trail hiking both Saturday and Sunday. My first hike was solo with the dog in a place called the Ocklawaha Prairie Restoration Area. This restoration area is located outside of Ocala, Fl. and encompasses 6,077 acres.
When I first read about the hikes available in this area I was interested in the hikes near the levee system, but on my first trip out I failed to realize that there are actually two trailheads, a northern and a southern. The levee system is located at the northern section, and I (having done little research before my hike) simply headed to the trailhead I was familiar with, which is at the southern end.
The southern portion of the Ocklawaha Prairie Restoration Area is comprised of a forest called the Chernobyl Memorial Forest, thusly named in recognition of the 1986 nuclear plant disaster in the Ukraine. So why a memorial forest? After the disaster, many Ukrainians who had formally lived in forested areas, were forced to move to urban areas. The survivors of the disaster liked the idea of a forested place set aside in memory of all that was lost. The Chernobyl Committee sought out a place for this forest and Florida was chosen. Thus the Chernobyl Memorial Forest here in north-central Florida. Back in 1996 (ten years after the disaster) the St.John's Water Management District plants over 150,000 young long leaf pine saplings, which have now grown into a towering forest.
Once out of the car and ready to go, I went and checked out the information stand at the trailhead. It was a beautiful Saturday afternoon and there was no one else out on the trail. After taking a quick look at the trail map (and snapping a picture of it with my digital camera for reference) I headed off on the Chornobyl (that's how it's spelled on the map) trail, which is marked with red blazes through out it's 3.8 mile loop.
|Red Diamond Blazes|
|Huge Pine Cones!|
|Breezy leading the way!|
|Tracks in numerical order. Look how pronounced the trail was. How could I have felt so lost?!|
All's well that ends well I guess! This hike would have been somewhat boring had I not felt lost through out it. It's probably a better trail for horseback riding or biking. I can see how the side trails would be fun to explore....if I had maps on my GPS, but I wouldn't try it without them, as it is a very large area to get lost in, with few distinguishing landmarks to use to help find your way. In my next post: a more successful hike at the northern trailhead of the Ocklawaha Prairie Restoration Area with a short video too :) Till next time!